Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Muscle Up!

It's been a little while since I've written about a certain exercise. But every now and then I feel compelled to share with you my thoughts on an exercise that holds a special place in my heart! So without further introduction let's dive into learning about the muscle up!
Muscle ups are one of my absolute favourite exercises, they combine both upper body pulling and pushing while training explosive strength! The muscle up consists of a full pull up bringing your body up high enough to slightly lean over the bar and transition into a dip. It's great for building functional strength, enhancing athletic ability, and really smokes the upper body in a very unique way. Yes, this movement is rather advanced but that's why there are so many great ways to work up towards being able to perform this technique!

First thing is first, you need to be able to push and pull your own body weight. Start off by mastering body weight rows, and dips with your feet on the floor. Once you have accomplished this, begin to work on your pull ups and dips without your feet resting on anything at all. Pull ups and regular dips can be challenging to master, but that's why we have progressions!

Try pull ups while standing on a chair, squat down and hold the bar at arms length, the majority of your weight should be put on your arms and upper body. Think hanging from the bar with very light pressure on your heels. Then pull up while giving just enough push from your legs to get your chin/chest up to the bar but still making it challenging. For dips try elevating yourself by resting your feet on a stability ball or bench. This will force you to push a greater amount of body weight than you would by simple keeping your feet on the floor.

Once both of these progressions become too easy, move on to working towards full pull ups and dips. Again, this may take time and other progressions may be needed to achieve a full pull up or dip (there will be plenty in the upcoming ebook "The Body Weight Solution"). Once you have both the pull up and dip down, practice them over and over again! Try all sorts of variations, add weight to both, try them explosively by trying clapping pull ups or plyo dips (a dip where you actually push so hard your hands come off the bars). You'll need all the practice you can get before moving onto the muscle up. A great product for dip and row training is the Lebert Equalizer if you don't have one yet I would highly recommend getting one!

Now that have the pull up and dip it's time to try some muscle ups. Chances are, you wont be banging out muscle ups right away, but that's ok again it takes time and practice! Try jumping up into your muscle up, find a low bar grab a hold of it and squat down until your arms are fully extended, this should look similar to your chair pull ups. Now, explosively jump upwards and at the same time pull yourself up as you would for a pull up. The jump should allow you to pull yourself high enough to lean over the bar and position yourself for the pressing/dip phase. Once this becomes too easy, find a bar that is high enough that you can only grab it with your arms full extended over head. Now, jump up and grab that bar and using the momentum from the jump pull yourself up and into the muscle up.

Sooner or later all of these will become far too easy, and that's then it will be time to just work on getting your first full muscle up. It's normal to kip/kick/swing into your first muscle up, over time your kick and swing will decrease as you become stronger. It's also normal for one elbow/arm to flip up into the dip position first, this is simple because your dominant side is doing a little more work. Again, over time you'll become stronger and both arms will transition into the dip phase at the same time. Just keep practicing, workout hard, and don't get discouraged. Big movements take time and practice, just working on them can be a workout in itself. Remember, fitness is a journey and not a destination.

For more great body weight progressions and workouts for any goal, be sure to grab your copy of the soon to be released "The Jungle Fit Body Weight Solution" ebook. It will be available at and will change the way you look at body weight training. The book shows in full colour detail how to progress from the most basic body weight exercises to some of the most advanced, including the muscle up, hand stand push up, pistol squat, and much more! For more information e-mail me at or visit the website at

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