How to Get Your First Muscle Up
Written by Bryan Miller

Getting your first muscle up is a coveted experience for most CrossFitters. Everybody remembers when and where they got their first one and how good it felt! As far as functionality goes, muscle ups are very much like climbing a fence or pulling yourself over a wall, and they are the ultimate test of upper body strength.

What you should know

  • Just like pull-ups, when you have sufficient strength, kipping allows you to perform muscle ups with the least amount of energy exerted. However, to ensure you have the appropriate strength and positioning for kipping muscle ups, it is ideal to learn them strict first.
  • The more strict pull-ups and dips you have, the faster your muscle up will come.
  • A bare minimum of 1 strict pull-up and 1 strict ring dip is needed, but 5 strict chest to bar (more on this in a minute) pull-ups and 5 strict ring dips is preferred. In this case, more is definitely better.
  • A muscle up is the highest pull-up and deepest dip combined into one movement; therefore, train your pull-ups and dips accordingly (full range of motion).

The first step is to figure out which category you fall into – the majority of people reading this will be in Group B.

Group A

You have the requisite strength (5 Strict Pull-Ups, 5 Strict Dips, but can’t get a muscle up)

  • Learn what the transition feel like by having a qualified coach show you how to perform them. Or, at the very least, watch and see what a good strict muscle up looks like. The transition is why most people who may be strong lack the ability to get above the rings.

  • You need more time working on technique and flexibility. This group is definitely the minority. Stay with it and be patient working on the skills and drills and you will have your first muscle up in no time.

Group B

Most people will fall into the group that just flat out need to get stronger. These people will need to practice strict dips and pull-ups. A great way to get stronger in these simple gymnastic movements is to build volume. The pull-up and dip are some of the most basic upper body movements that people need to spend more time on.

The following is an example program for someone who has ~3 strict pull-ups and ~3 dips.

Week 1

Monday: Every minute on the minute (EMOM) for 10 minutes: 2 strict pull-ups and dips

Wednesday: EMOM 12: 2 strict pull-ups and dips

Friday: EMOM 14: 2 strict pull-ups and dips

Week 2

Monday: EMOM 10: 3 strict pull-ups and dips

Wednesday: EMOM 12: 3 strict pull-ups and dips

Friday: EMOM 14: 3 strict pull-ups and dips

Week 3

Monday: EMOM 12: 3 strict pull-ups and dips

Wednesday: EMOM 14: 3 strict pull-ups and dips

Friday: EMOM 16: 3 strict pull-ups and dips


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January 8, 2015 11:44 am

i did it without this. HA!

Gina Cacchiotti-Wellner
Gina Cacchiotti-Wellner
May 4, 2014 10:22 am

I guess I’m one of the minorities is CAT A …. I have chest2bar pull ups, ring dips and bar muscle ups, but my aging shoulders struggle with the false grip on the rings. But I will keep following your tips and I will get there! Amanda … Here I come !

Emily Manship
Emily Manship
June 12, 2015 9:02 am

I am also in your boat :-/

Jonathan Miller
Jonathan Miller
May 2, 2014 11:58 pm

I’d say if you are planning on getting a MU go with ring dips

Rune Refshøj
Rune Refshøj
May 2, 2014 11:37 pm

Do you prefer ring or bar dips?

Carrie Sandoval
Carrie Sandoval
May 2, 2014 4:24 pm

How about Group C… those have done a handful of muscle ups, but are highly inconsistent with them? 2 weeks ago, I was able to finish Amanda, 21 muscle ups, with only 3 misses! This week during practice, I only made 3 with 21 misses (that may be slightly exaggerated)! Pretty sure I know the answer… do Amanda every week!!