I Learned How to Muscle-Up in 3 Months

There’s no doubt about it. The second you achieve your first muscle-up, you will feel so powerful – I know I did.

Here’s how I taught myself how to bar muscle-up in just a few months and what you need to do to achieve yours.

Have you felt like you ALWAYS train a skill, but that you JUST.CAN’T.GET.IT? Do you find yourself thinking that maybe you just aren’t meant to do handstands, pull-ups, or whatever skill you are working on? Well, that was me with muscle-ups. 

If we’re being honest, I just wanted to magically be able to do muscle-ups without putting in the work.

I would jump up on the bar every few months, not be able to muscle-up (of course), then complain that I just couldn’t do muscle-ups.

The thing was, I knew I was strong enough to do it. However….

NO ONE talked about actually needing to try muscle-ups to get muscle-ups. 

So I spent years hoping that by strengthening the basic exercises needed to muscle-up, I would be able to randomly muscle up without practicing it.

Are Chicken Wing Muscle-Ups Ok?

Another reason I didn’t want to commit to trying muscle-ups was due to the ridicule aimed at people who were learning the skill because their form wasn’t perfect.

But how are we supposed to achieve a muscle-up without first having poor form while learning it?!?!? The answer is you can’t. You cannot expect to be perfect at anything when first learning; waiting to be perfect will only stunt your growth. 

Having poor form, failing and falling is part of the learning journey for all things calisthenics. 

How to Get Over the Fear of Muscle-Ups

I had a huge mental barrier to overcome when learning how to muscle-up. I was terrified of slipping off the bar, flying backwards, breaking my ankle, winding myself by hitting my chest….etc.

But in reality, I may have just been scared that I wouldn’t ever be able to do a muscle-up and not trying was an easier way out. Which isn’t how you progress in life. So….

I decided the only way to get over the fear was to start familiarizing myself with the movement – by actually trying it. 

Can Girls do Muscle-Ups?

Yes, of course, they can. Watch me (a calisthenics girl) achieve gymnastics ring muscle-ups, strict muscle-ups and kipping muscle-ups in just 3 months.

All it takes is:

  • Knowing the technique
  • Having a goal (rings, strict, kipping..etc)
  • Committing to consistently training for it

Muscle-Up Mondays

Come December 2021, I decided it was time to “Learn How to do a Muscle-Up.”

I deemed every Monday “Muscle-up Monday” to ensure I would stay consistent with my training.

Muscle-Up Training

My plan was to spend 20% of my session attempting (and failing at) muscle-ups, while spending the other 80%  strengthening the basics.

Download my Muscle-Up Workout Program Here >

Types of Muscle-Ups

There are quite a few different types of muscle-ups. Choosing the one right for you depends on your mobility, explosiveness and your ultimate goal. 

If you train CrossFit, you’d want to stick to muscle-ups that assist you in your sport. If you are a general calisthenics athlete try going for a Knee Drive Bar Muscle-Up, to an L-Sit Muscle-Up and then progressing to harder skills like Chin-Up Muscle-Ups or Commando Muscle-Ups.

Which Muscle-Up Should You Learn First?

The general public claims that false grip slow muscle-ups are the hardest, followed by strict bar muscle-ups, with kipping bar muscle-ups being the easiest.

Which wasn’t the case for me. I achieved the ring muscle-up in 2016 (on my first try) and the slow bar muscle-ups a few weeks later. 
Despite these being labelled the “harder” versions, I actually wasn’t able to achieve my
knee-drive/kipping muscle up until Feb 2022!

Which style will be easiest for you?
If you are more mobile, you’ll have an easier time with a strict ring muscle-up. 

strict gymnastics ring muscle up

The bar muscle-up will be easier if you excel at dynamic movements.

strict gymnastics ring muscle up

One day, after loads of practice and dedication, you should aim to reduce the knee drive and shift towards a strict bar muscle-up as shown below. 

My Cleanest Strict Bar Muscle-Up:

Two years later, here’s what my muscle-up currently looks like:

Now that you’ve gotten clear on what muscle-up style is your goal. It’s time to get to work. My main focus was learning the knee drive bar muscle-up, which was my biggest weakness.

How Did I Achieve a Bar Muscle-Up so Fast?

After weeks of flailing around trying to teach my body the coordination and timing needed for the muscle-up, I finally figured it out!  

I started training for dynamic muscle-ups in Dec 2021, achieved my first one in Feb 22′ and then quickly progressed to 5 in a row by April.

As I mentioned earlier, I dedicated a large portion of my training to building the fundamental strength required for a muscle-up. Mastering the basics meant that my body was strong and comfortable in the movement patterns.

Had I not spent so much time building the fundamental strength, I would not have progressed at the muscle up so quickly.

Bar Muscle-Up Exercises

Focus on these 8 exercises to get strong enough do muscle ups.

1. High Pull-Ups 

pull up vs high pull up

2. Weighted Pull-Ups

explosive calisthenics - clapping pull-ups and rows

3. Clapping Pull-Ups

explosive calisthenics - clapping pull-ups and rows

4. L-Sit Pulls

strict gymnastics ring muscle up

5. Straight Bar Dips 

strict gymnastics ring muscle up

6. Muscle-Up Negatives

muscle-up drill slow negatives

7. Attempting Muscle-Ups/Banded Muscle-Ups

Once you’ve hit 15 pull-ups, try muscle-ups (even though you won’t have good form), then work on strengthening the basics.

Spend 20% of your session attempting the skill, and 80% building the basic strength.

This style of training is also relevant to learning how to do a handstand. In order to handstand, you must work on the basics as well as actually attempting to hold a handstand. 

5 Technique Tips to Master the Bar Muscle-Up

Here are some quick tips to help you clean up your strict bar muscle-up:

1. Don’t look down
2. Create space between you and the bar
3. Loosely overgrip the bar
4. Don’t pause on the way down

Number 2 is hard to explain, but it’s the technique that I had been missing for so long. Pushing my elbows forward so that they’re briefly perpendicular to the ground will help you generate way more power against the bar than just doing a regular pull-up. Watch the video below for details:

How Many Pull-Ups Are Needed to Do a Muscle-Up?

I’d say a minimum of 15 pull-ups for a general muscle-up. If you are looking to get really good at muscle-ups, then I would say 5-8 EXPLOSIVE pull-ups are necessary.

The higher you call pull, the easier the muscle-up will be. When performing your high pull-ups, aim to pull up to your waistline.

However, this question misses about 50% of the exercise. A muscle-up is both a pull-up AND a dip. Work on achieving 15 deep straight bar dips.

pull-up and dip

How to Get Your Muscle-Up Summary

If you are serious about learning to do muscle-ups, make sure you:

  1. Train consistently, for at 3-6 months

  2. Build your strength in the fundamental exercises

  3. Actually attempt the skill (about 20% of your training)

  4. Improve your shoulder and wrist mobility

  5. Believe in yourself 

Keep in mind that your training will fluctuate week to week. Some weeks I can’t do muscle-ups; others I can do 30 in one training session. If you are keen on learning from my journey, follow me on YouTube or Instagram.

pull-up and dip

Just in case my style of teaching doesn’t resonate with you, check out Fitness Faq’s video on How to Train for Muscle-Ups:

Why I Didn’t Do Band Assisted Muscle-Ups

I refrained from using a resistance band while learning how to muscle up because:

1. It can give you too much power. 
If you cannot control the explosiveness the band provides, you may end up getting injured.

2. It doesn’t allow you to practice the knee drive.
Coordinating the knee drive was the most challenging part for me when learning how to muscle-up. Using a resistance band requires straight legs, thus preventing you from learning the movement pattern.

3. Limits progression.
If you are not highly motivated to push yourself, then you will rely on the band too much. 

Are you a calisthenics beginner? Click here for the top 10 calisthenics pull exercises to get closer to your muscle-up goal.

Who’s Joining me for Muscle-Up Mondays?

For the rest of the year, I will be doing Muscle-up Mondays until I achieve my goal of mastering muscle-ups! Who’s with me?!

Ready to get your muscle-up? Do these 7 drills to warm up for muscle-ups. Let me know what you need next by commenting on my YouTube channel or sending me an email!