What is this article about?
Identifying what we need to work on to improve muscle ups
Providing Example training sessions to improve muscle ups for those:
Who don’t have them
Who have them, but want to improve their max set
For people who want to improve ability to execute muscle ups in a met-con
Getting Specific With Our Limitations
Generally in the CrossFit world if I asked someone the following question:
If someone can do twenty unbroken kipping muscle ups, are they great at muscle ups?
More often then not the answer would be yes. I think in my earlier days of coaching, I would agree with this statement. Now, I don’t think it is specific enough of a question to give an answer, but I’d lean towards disagreeing that the person has great muscle ups. In the CrossFit world I’d contest this because I’ve watched people with high level gymnastics skills have those skills completely deteriorate following a hard metabolic effort or after very grip intensive strength work.
So, for someone to be great at muscle ups in the Sport of Fitness, I’d say that there would need to be some requirement that the movement pattern is resistant to a variety of fatigue inputs. Outside of the CrossFit world, displaying movement quality with a muscle up could include being able to perform:
A large number of strict unbroken reps
An extremely slow and controlled strict rep
An ability to perform strict muscle ups with weight or in an L position
An ability to do complex skills like a clapping muscle up
I say all of this because I believe it illustrates the need for you to decide for yourself what aspect of the muscle up you want to improve. For example:
Do you want to obtain your first kipping muscle up?
Do you want to improve your ability to do strict muscle ups?
Do you want to be able to do muscle ups better when it’s paired with a barbell?
So, knowing there are different goals people have with regards to muscle ups, I wrote three example single day training sessions to illustrate the differences in these 3 goals.
Program 1 - Get your first muscle up
Assumptions: I believe people who do muscle ups should be able to do both kipping and strict muscle ups, so I wrote a training session that develops the requisite strength needs for strict and then technical portions for kipping muscle ups.
Part 1: False grip strength
A. False grip passive hang; 20 seconds x5; rest 2 min
B. False grip ring to chest isometric hang; 20 seconds x5; rest 2 min
Part 2: Transition drills and strength
C. Toe nail ring muscle up; accumulate 15 reps
D. Russian dip; 5x5; rest as needed
E. Negative ring muscle ups; accumulate 10 slow controlled reps
F. Seated muscle up transitions; accumulate 10 reps
Part 3: Swinging and attempts
E. Bar kip swings; 10 reps x3; rest as needed
F. Spent 10 min performing muscle up attempts with spotter
Program 2 - Improve your ability to do multiple reps unbroken
Assumptions: This athlete can perform ten unbroken reps and wants to get to twenty unbroken. The athlete reports limitations in grip endurance, ability to get out of the dip, and core fatigue as the three most common reasons for needing to come down. So the training program is written to pre fatigue those limiters and then do density muscle up work at the end.
Part 1: Core work
A1. Toes to bar; amrap (-3) unbroken x2; rest 30 sec
A2. 45 degree externally rotated support hold on paralleles in L position; accumulate 4 sets of 10 seconds unbroken x2; rest 1 min
A3. Arch body rock; 1 min x2; rest as needed to repeat effort from set 1
Part 2: Grip and Dip
B1. Small magnitude kip swings on bar; amsap (-5 sec) x2; rest 1 min
B2. Strict ring dips @21x2; amrap unbroken with full ring turnout x2; rest 1 min
B3. Farmers static hold; 1 min unbroken carry with heavy weight x2; rest 1 min
B4. Passive hang on rings; accumulate 1 min AFAP x2; rest 1 min
B5. Hand release push ups; amrap unbroken x2; rest as needed to repeat effort from set 1
Part 3: Muscle ups
C. Amrap unbroken x3; rest 5 min actively on ski erg between sets
Program 3 - Improve your ability to do muscle ups in a met-con
Assumptions: People who want to improve muscle ups in met-cons want to do muscle ups when paired with other movements, minimize rest time to complete a set number of unbroken reps, and perform them under high levels of metabolic fatigue. So, I expanded this third program into four separate one part programs all targeted towards getting better as a specific limiter that could be found in a met-con.
#1 - Improving muscle ups when paired with barbell cycling
15 tng power clean and jerk @50% 1rm
Amrap (-2) unbroken muscle ups
Rest 3 min actively on rower between sets
#2 - Improving muscle ups when paired with calisthenics
2 rounds for time
15 bar facing burpees
6-12 muscle ups
rest 5 min
40 box jump overs 24/20”
6-12 muscle ups
20 box jump overs 24/20”
4-8 muscle ups
#3 - Improving max number of unbroken muscle ups
5 sets max unbroken muscle ups; rest as needed to full recovery and your score for the day is the highest cumulative number across all 5 sets
#4 - Improving your ability to do muscle ups under a lot of metabolic stress
800m run @1 mile pr pace or faster
15 muscle ups
1k row @2k pr pace or faster
15 muscle ups
* if needed rest after first set of muscle ups to hit the row pace but transition from cyclical to muscle ups the goal is to get your first muscle up done as fast as possible.
My hope with illustrating these programs was to give coaches, athletes, and recreational trainees a better mental framework for understanding how to train yourself to improve. On any quest to improve, you are required to set a specific goal that is meaningful to you, ensure it’s measurable, and work towards that goal until you accomplish it. I hope this framework helps make your work more efficient and meaningful.
If you enjoy seeing training progressions and how I break down workouts to construct training DSGN’s, you can also see our piece in the Classroom on program design surrounding open workout 19.3.
Written by Max El-Hag