Will I Ever Get a Muscle Up?

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Helping Athletes Believe and Achieve the ‘Impossible’.

There are many functional movements in the fitness world, but many are not as flashy and fun as the muscle up. For most people, pull ups and ring dips are hard enough, so having to combine the pushing and pulling mechanics with the instability of the rings makes the muscle up the “holy grail” of movements. It is rare to see someone get a muscle up on their first try, or even their second or third. This is a movement that requires diligent practice, determination and lots of patience!


The muscle up is a great test of all 10 general physical skills. You must have the movement strength (strength, stamina, endurance, flexibility/mobility), the skill (balance, accuracy, agility, coordination) to be able to apply the strength, and the power and speed to bring it all together.

There are three positions in every movement: start, transition, and finish.

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The start position is the shape you are in before performing the movement. In this case, the start is when you are hanging below the rings with your arms fully extended.




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The transition is the shape/shapes you pass through within the movement. In the muscle up, this would be pulling yourself up and over the rings. This is typically the point where things get weird.



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The finish position is the shape you end up in. The finish position for the muscle up is a support position on top of the rings with arms externally rotated and fully extended.


I could cover all of the points of performance and walk you through the muscle up step by step, but in all honesty, getting a muscle up, or any movement for that matter, comes down to how dedicated you are to achieving that goal. Are you willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears that come along with getting your first muscle up? Do you have a game plan? Have you laid out action steps that you will take daily to help you achieve your goal? Goal setting will be a very useful tool in getting your muscle up.


First off, let’s figure out if your goal is a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

S.M.A.R.T goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound.

The movement is specific: Muscle Up.

It is measurable: 1 muscle up. Is it attainable?

Do you have the movement strength necessary, i.e. can you do a pull up and a ring dip?

If not, that does not mean you will never get a muscle up, it just means you may need to take a step back and build a stronger movement foundation before jumping ahead to more complex movements like the muscle up.

Is it relevant? Do you constantly have to scale workouts because you cannot perform the movement?

Lastly, we need to put a specific date on when you will get your muscle up by. You could choose something like and upcoming competition, the CrossFit Open, your birthday, etc.



Step 1: Now that you have set your goal, it is important to set some action steps. The first thing I would recommend doing is purchasing a pair of rings and a band. The band is a great tool to use to nail down the transition. If you have your own equipment, you don’t have to rely on the gym and you have no excuse to skip muscle up practice. I got my first muscle up on a pair of plastic rings hooked up to a basketball goal at an elementary school in my neighborhood.

Step 2: Once you have all the necessary equipment, you need to decide how much time/week you are going to dedicate to muscle up practice. Are you able to set aside 20-30 minutes, 3-5 times per week to focus specifically on your muscle up? If you are diligent with your practice, you will see continual progress. Practicing once a month probably wont cut it.

Step 3: Lastly, always remember to stay positive! I know this is easier said than done, but letting frustration bring you down won’t get you anywhere. 99% of the game is mental toughness, and if you are putting in the work day in and day out, trust that you are progressing closer and closer to your goal!

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.”—Peter F. Drucker



Blog Author
Chelsea McKinney

Fitness Assessments for New Clients