THE MUSCLE UP – How to chase down that illusive exercise

The Muscle Up is for many people the ultimate gymnastic exercise to reach within CrossFit. It can be a very hard nut to crack, and that is why I am writing this blog. – To give you as much help reaching it as possible!
I will break the muscle up down into simple to follow steps and exercises that you can progress through at your own pace.
Here goes!

Step 1 – The False Grip

The False Grip is a grip that conquers two grips in one. It allows us to be both under and over the ring without letting go. This is super important, but we will get to why a little later.


Normal Grip:                          False Grip:


What we are trying to achieve with a false grip is to get your wrists slightly on top of the rings. Grip both rings in a false grip, let your knuckles face each other and let your elbows fall towards the ground. Now your false grip is established!



Step 2 – Building the strength required

We can divide the strength required into two groups; Pulling and pushing strength. First we will have a look at the pulling strength (Ring row and pull up) and then the pushing (Dips):

The false grip Ring Row:

This movement is a normal ring row where you maintain a false grip throughout. It can be very tough to maintain the false grip in the bottom of your ring row, so start by not going all the way into the bottom position and then work your way there slowly. Do this every day that you train for 4 x 10 Reps


4 5

The false grip Pull Up:

As soon as the false grip ring rows become an easy feat, advance to the false grip pull ups. This movement is performed like a normal pull up in the rings while maintaining a false grip throughout. Same as with the ring rows it can be very tough to lock out fully in the bottom position, therefore go as far down as you can and then progress further and further as you get better at it. Perform 4 x 8 reps 3 times weekly after warming up your shoulders well.



The Ring Dip:

The ring dip is a tough version of the dip. Start trying to support yourself hanging in the rings, both in top and bottom position. If this is still a little too tough start out by doing 4 x 12 Box dips 3 times per week. As soon as that gets easy, progress to bar dips 4 x 10 reps 3 times per week. As soon as you master them, it is time for the rings. Make sure you keep the rings close throughout the entire movement. Let them leave your body and they will make your life very hard! Perform 4 x 8 reps 3 times per week after warming your shoulders up well.




Step 3 – The Transition

The hard part of a muscle up is neither the pull up nor the dip. The part where most people struggle is the transition phase between the pull up and the dip. It is a tiny movement yet super important and that is the reason this exercise will be the one you will need to drill the most of them all.
There are many progressions to practice the transition, however in my time of teaching the muscle up, this specific exercise is the one I have found most effective to teach people of all levels how to transition. Here is the exercise broken down into steps:

  • Start with the bottom on the rings around your hip height and your toes right under the rings.
  • Establish your false grip and let your knees shoot forward forcing you on your toes.

Do NOT move your feet away from the starting spot.




  • By using your legs, elevate your hip upwards until the rings touch the bottom of your chest. Do not rely on your arm strength here – Let your legs do the work




  • After a 1 second break in the top position you must turn your torso almost 180 degrees while keeping the rings as close as you can and maintaining your false grip. Chest goes from facing up towards the ceiling to down to the ground. Land in the bottom of you ring dip keeping the rings close to your body




Practice this transition every time you do your strength work, even if you are far from having the strength required. This will just ensure that once you are strong enough to do the muscle up, the transition will be a piece of cake for you!
Do 4 x 5 repetitions 2 to 3 times per week together with your strength work.


Step 4 – Putting it all together

After practicing the 3 first steps enough to make it practically second nature, it is time to put it all together. The strict muscle up does not need to be performed slowly, so make sure you have a good and powerful pull, pulling the rings to the underside of your chest. As soon as the rings are there you will have to do your transition by shooting your head forward in an aggressive sit up while keeping the rings as close to your body as you can. Land in the bottom of your dip and make sure you squeeze the rings to your body to prevent them from slipping out to the side and you falling through and down. As soon as you have stabilized yourself in the bottom of your dip perform your dip and BOOM! – You just did your first Muscle Up!
Now it is time to go celebrate and post videos on Instagram 😉



Enjoy doing your muscle up training and if you get stuck anywhere make sure to talk to your coach!

Have fun and stay strong,

Coach Mikkel