How I Went From Zero to Ten Bar Muscles-Ups
Stuck on your strict bar muscle-up? In one year of training, I was able to go from zero bar muscle-ups to ten – in a row. Here’s everything I learned so you can do it too.
Welcome, my name is Summerfunfitness. I am a self-taught calisthenics athlete, meaning I have NO gymnastics experience. I help people learn to master their own body weight so they can be strong and mobile regardless of their ability to access a gym.
How Long Does It Take To Do a Muscle-Up?
Learning how to muscle-up takes radically different lengths of time depending on your previous experience with bodyweight exercises, your explosive skills and your commitment to training.
How Long Did It Take Me to Get My First Bar Muscle-Up?
“How strong do you need to be to muscle-up?” which isn’t the best question; it should instead be “how explosive do I have to be to do muscle-ups?” Because the more explosive power you have, the easier it is. You can be quite strong and still not be able to be to muscle-up. I started my muscle-up journey at around 17 pull-ups, but I lacked dynamic body awareness/explosive power. Learning to muscle-up wasn’t about strength for my body, but rather about learning how to be explosive.
Why I Wanted to Learn How to Bar Muscle-Up
1. Provide Purpose & Structure
To keep improving at calisthenics, I needed a new challenge. A reason to keep doing damn pull-ups because my pull-ups were already pretty strong, and I was getting bored. Setting this goal of hitting 10 dynamic muscle-ups provided the framework for my training for the year, thus giving it a purpose and direction alongside my other calisthenics goals.
And because they look super cool. Not going to lie.
2. Training Efficiency
Muscle-ups strengthen your pulling, pushing and dynamic body control, making them an efficient compound exercise. Strengthening all these components for one goal gave me more freedom in my non-muscle-up training days to work on other skills, such as handstands. Rather than needing to have one goal for pushing, one goal for pulling..etc, to create a balanced body.
Plus, I needed to improve my dynamic skills to become a better athlete, as my static skills far outweighed my dynamic capabilities. This is evident in the fact that I got a false grip muscles-up back in 2016 yet only achieved a dynamic muscle-up in 2022.
3. Make Calisthenics More Welcoming to Women
My most popular video on Youtube and Instagram talks about whether or not girls can do pull-ups, as this still is a heavily debated topic. Even though in those videos, I’m literally doing pull-ups as a regular female (not a professional athlete), I still have people saying that females can’t do calisthenics…
So I decided to one up the pull-ups and show the world that not only can we do pull-ups, we can even do muscle-ups. And I’m not the only one; many incredible female calisthenics athletes can do bar muscle-ups.
What Are the Prerequisites to Learn How to Muscle-Up?
Here’s the secret about learning how to muscle-up. I always thought it was about overall strength…that if you only trained pull-ups and dips you’d one day be able to muscle-up, but that isn’t completely true unless we’re talking about false grip muscle-ups. In the case of dynamic muscle-ups, one crucial component you need to be good at is explosive power, which takes specific training and body control.
Can a Beginner Learn How to Muscle-Up?
If you want to learn how to muscle up and you’re not yet at a pull-up, start with my how to do pull-ups workout, and two, it’s OK to set muscle-ups as your long-term goal. Use the muscle-up prerequisites outlined today as your goal to work towards. PLUS, if you aren’t strong enough for muscle-ups, but you still want to play along, you can always try jumping muscle-ups on a nice low bar.
You could also learn a glide kip instead of a muscle-up as it requires less strength – but a lot of technique, so don’t think it’s easy.
How Strong I Was When I Started Training for Bar Muscle-Ups
I didn’t test my max reps when I started training for muscle-ups, but this is where I think I was at in January 2022.
- 17 ish chest to bar pull-ups
- 6-8 25# weighted pulls-ups
- 8 half rep straight bar dips
- I had very strong regular dips (15+)
- 12 toes to bar
- WEAK explosive high pulls. Which are KEY to doing muscle-ups. If you asked me for only one exercise to work on for muscle-ups, I’d say get so good at high pulls.
Also, having excellent shoulder, wrist and elbow mobility is essential to prevent injury. Work on your deep straight bar dips and overall shoulder mobility before attempting muscle-ups.
That being said, if you’re super explosive and have a wicked pull-up, you’ll probably get your muscle-up faster than I did without needing to work on straight bar dips. I’ve seen many climbers who don’t work pushing easily do muscle-ups without having tried before.
The 4 Best Exercises For Bar Muscle-Ups
These drills are targeted towards learning how to strict bar muscle-up but don’t be surprised if your false grip muscle-up improves due to increased strength and mobility. Side note: negatives are not the best place to spend your time if your goal is dynamic muscle-ups.
1. High Pull-Ups
3. Weighted Straight Bar Dips
Beginner Progression: Start with non-weighted straight bar dips working on depth. Once 10 reps to lower chest becomes easy, move to weighted straight bar dips. If you can’t yet do a straight bar dip, start with my In Gym Beginner Calisthenics Workout >
5 Things I Wish I Knew Sooner When Learning to Muscle-Up
1. Don’t Swing Too Much. Excessive swinging makes it much harder. I was practicing on a tall bar I couldn’t reach, I would climb up, take 20 seconds to center myself, let go, swing and try to get up. This was a mistake. At the end of the year, I switched to doing muscle-ups on a bar I could jump to that limited the amount I could swing, making it so much easier. If you have a tall bar, set up a box underneath, lightly jump to the bar on an angle, then pull on your first swing. Don’t waste energy swinging a billlion times.
2. The higher you pull, the easier it is. Work on your explosive high pulls.
3. Look Where you Want to Go. When I started learning how to muscle-up, I was focused on the classic “magic button” trick that all the influencers promote. The “magic button” technique is where you place an object on the floor and attempt to “press” it by extending your body. I did not like this technique as it caused me to look down, making the muscle-up feel far away and impossible. Instead, I focused on getting a tug in my chest and looking in the direction I wanted to go – rather than looking down.
4. Some days, you’re going to suck at muscle-ups, and some days you’re going to be great. On your bad days, stop doing muscle-ups and focus on your conditioning.
How Strong Do You Have to Be to Do 10 Muscle-Ups?
At the end of the year, I needed an extra boost to hit my 2022 goal of 10 muscle-ups in a row, so I arranged a mini calisthenics rep competition with my friends. Not only did this allow me to hit my goal for the year, thanks to everyone cheering me on. It also made me test my max reps. However, the numbers are only partially accurate as we did each exercise back to back with minimal rest. If I were to properly test my max reps again, I’m 100% certain they would all be significantly higher.
Max Calisthenics Rep Comp Results:
- 48 push-ups (below my regular max)
- 18 pull-ups
- 22 dips
- 16 chin ups
- and another 39 push-ups as a tiebreaker
That’s how strong I needed to be to do 10 muscle-ups. Watch my calisthenics rep comp recap >
FYI, my 10 muscle-ups weren’t clean. I was so nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do ANY muscle-ups in a comp setting, so I favoured one side to get over the bar. I’ll clean them up in a few months and post a follow-up video, so make sure you subscribe!
I also learned from the crew that I was wasting energy coming down on my muscle-up by doing a little half dip between reps. In the future, I plan to let my body fall down into the position.
Could I Have Achieved My Bar Muscle-up Sooner?
I could have if muscle-ups were my only goal. In 2022, I also trained for one-arm handstands, flexibility, overall athleticism, handstand push-ups and lower body maintenance. Here’s how I structured my summer time 5 day a week calisthenics program.
I also think I would have gotten it faster if I had done high pulls instead of clapping pull-ups in my initial muscle-up workout.
Don’t forget to rest
In October, I went to film my updated muscle-up workout for YouTube to suddenly be unable to do ONE muscle-up. Even though I had already achieved 7 in a row, on that day, I vowed not to do muscle-ups in October and just focused on strengthening the 4 exercises for muscle-ups. Had I properly scheduled a de-load week, I don’t think this would have occurred.
Also, as a female, know that your strength changes throughout the month. It’s a good idea to learn a bit more about your cycle so you have a better understanding of why your strength fluctuates.
Muscle-Up Commonly Asked Questions
Should I Use a Band for Muscle-Ups?
Using a band is not the best route for learning how to strict bar muscle-up. This is because it fails to mimic the first progression of muscle-ups which is the knee drive. I would only use a band to increase muscle-up reps once you’ve learned how to do a strict bar muscle-up and have mastered the technique. Most of the time, when I see people on social media using a band, they do a glide kip rather than an actual muscle-up. Your energy is better spent working on your high pull-ups.
*More frequently asked questions will be posted this week, so stay tuned! (January 23, 2023)*