How to Do a Muscle-Up

Muscle-ups are an advanced body weight exercise that uses both pulling and pushing to complete the maneuver. The movement requires explosive strength, and while more popular in Cross Fit gyms, it’s starting to become more mainstream.

It should be noted that the risk of injury and time it takes to learn this skill does not necessarily outweigh the fitness-related benefits for the average gym enthusiast.

This exercise targets multiple muscles including the latissimus dorsi and trapezius of the back, the deltoids of the shoulder, and the biceps and triceps of the arms. The pectorals of the chest and the core are also key players in providing the power need for a muscle-up.

How To

  • This exercise starts in a full body hang, with hands gripping the bar just wider than shoulder width apart. Hands should be placed so that the palms are facing away from the body.
  • Engage your core and pull your chest up to the bar in a swift movement. Keep your glutes engaged and pull your knees up as you go.
  • As your lower chest reaches the bar, twist your wrists so that your hands are now pressing down onto the bar. Throw your chest and shoulder forward over the bar and press up until your arms are extended. Your body should end up about waist level with the bar.
  • To complete the maneuver, perform a tricep dip as you lower toward the bar and then lower yourself slowly back to a full hang. Continue to keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement.


With an advanced exercise like this, the emphasis should always be on quality over quantity. Do not attempt additional repetitions once your form begins to fail.


There really aren’t any ways to modify or adapt this exercise. If variation is required, it is often due to a weakness in one of the required muscles.

Band-assisted muscle-ups are sometimes used to allow the person performing the movement to slow down the movement and therefore concentrate on perfecting each section of the maneuver.

If you are performing the movement well on a static bar, you can increase the level of difficulty by attempting the move on the rings. The rings must be controlled throughout the entire exercise requiring greater stability from all of the active muscles.

Cautionary Notes

You should be completing unassisted pull-ups before considering moving on to the muscle-up.

Anyone dealing with rotator cuff or carpal tunnel problems should avoid this exercise due to the stress that is put on the shoulders and wrists.

Use a spotter until you are comfortable in your ability to perform the movements. This helps to identify any problems early and avoid potential injury.

More Muscle-Up Related Resources

How to Do the Muscle Up Exercise Without Kipping
Your Foolproof Muscle-Up Plan |
12 Weeks to a Muscle-Up! | Urban Evolution
How to do a Muscle-Up | BearSqueeze
Proper Foundations: A 5 Step Progression to the Bar Muscle Up | Breaking Muscle
4 Exercises For A Muscle Up | Bar Brothers Groningen For Calisthenics Workout

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