How to Earn the Right to Perform Muscle-Ups in a Metabolic Environment

How to Earn the Right to Perform Muscle-Ups in a Metabolic Environment

So you finally got your first muscle-up and are excited because today’s training program at your gym is five rounds of 6 muscle-ups, 15 wall balls, and a 20-calorie Assault Bike. You finally don’t have to scale the workout!

Not. So Fast.

First of all, good job on your first muscle-up, but being able to do one or two muscle-ups with a resting heart rate is not even remotely the same as implementing the technical gymnastics skill in an aerobic or anaerobic setting. At least not if you want to keep yourself safe and preserve the intended stimulus of the training program and ultimately continue to progress your fitness.

In light of this, let’s talk about some principles that need to be applied to learning gymnastics skills—from muscle-ups to handstand walking and pistols—so that you can become proficient enough to perform these skills safely and effectively in a mixed modal metabolic conditioning piece.

 

Key Principle: Achieve functional volume before graduating to the next step

Huh? What does that mean?

In short, this means you need to be able to perform the required amount of volume (aka repetitions) of a particular skill before progressing along the continuum to the next level. 

Coaching Tip: Set out functional volume pre-requisites for your clients for each step of the way to help them understand this concept. For example, something like being able to do five muscle-ups a minute for 10 minutes before they’re allowed to perform muscle-ups in a metabolic environment.

So how do you do this exactly? How do you go from where you are now—maybe with the ability to do a muscle-up, but not that many of them—to a place where you have the proficiency to perform them in a metabolic workout?

You can also watch this free webinar we hosted to better understand skill progression for both athletes and gen pop clients, including common mistakes to avoid. 

As a general rule, these are the steps that need to be followed:

Step 1: Isolated Movement

Start out by building volume of the skill on its own. Rest as needed and build your ability to handle more sets and more reps of the movement until you reach the prerequisite functional volume.

The progress here might look something like this:

  • Every 90 seconds x 5+ sets, 2-3 ring muscle-ups *adding reps/sets until 30 reps are achieved 
  • After 30 reps are achieved, reducing rest time: Every 60 seconds x 5+ sets, 2-3 ring muscle-ups *adding reps/sets until 30 reps are achieved 
  • After 30 reps are achieved, increasing reps per set: Every 60-90 seconds x 4+ sets, 4-6 ring muscle-ups *adding reps/sets until 30 reps are achieved

Step 2: Cyclical

When you first introduce the metabolic component to the equation, do so by adding a cyclic movement, such as rowing, running or biking, and do so at a slow pace so as not to fatigue you too much. 

And then take note of what happens to your form. If you’re not able to maintain high-quality reps on your muscle-ups after a bike effort, then slow down your effort on the bike to the point that you can preserve the quality of your muscle-ups.

The goal here might be to achieve something like this:

  • 30-second Assault bike + 4-6 ring muscle-ups. Rest 60 seconds x 5-8 sets

Step 3: Add Opposing Movements

Once you have achieved functional volume with a cyclical movement, pair the gymnastics movement with an opposing or complementary movement, meaning a movement that challenges different muscle groups. 

An example might be something like: 

  • Alternating EMOM x 5-8 sets: 4-6 ring muscle-ups (in the first minute) and 6 back squats @65% of 1RM (in alternating minute) *adding reps/sets until 30 reps are achieved

Step 4: Pair with Similar Movements

Once you have achieved functional volume in step 3, consider pairing your muscle-ups with a similar movement (or one that also requires either pushing or pulling strength).

An example might be something like: 

  • Alternating EMOM x 5-8 sets: 4-6 ring muscle-ups (in the first minute) and 10 toes-to-bar (in alternating minute) *adding reps/sets until 30 reps are achieved

Step 5: Mixed Aerobic Setting

Once you get to this point you have a good amount of strength and muscle endurance, and now it’s time to put it into an aerobic environment. 

An example might be something like: 

  • 5 rounds for time at a sustained pace: 15 wall balls, 6 ring muscle-ups, 15 cal Assault Bike *maintaining even times per round

Step 6: Mixed Anaerobic Setting

This is the last step. It means you can now express the skill in a mixed modal anaerobic environment, meaning you have the ability to perform your muscle-ups at an unsustainable level of work, with rest in between sets or rounds, in order to maintain your effort each set or round. 

An example might be something like:

  • For time at a very hard effort: 8 thrusters, 6 ring muscle-ups, 20 cal Assault Bike. Rest 9 minutes x 4-5 sets

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