Are Lack of Lats to Blame for Your Lack of a Muscle-Up?
Written by Kaitlyn Kassis

So you’re trying to get your first muscle- up. You have done your homework and possess the pulling and pressing capacities – but still can’t get yourself on top of the rings. Why? In this article I am going to go over one of the most common faults, and some drills you can implement to help turn your struggle-ups into muscle-ups.

Those Lats!
One of the most common faults across nearly every gymnastics movement in CrossFit, but especially in the muscle-up, is lack of lat engagement. By default, this means overcompensating by pulling with the biceps. Not only will engaging the lats help to keep your shoulders and biceps tendons safer, it is also much more efficient.

Though counterintuitive, it helps to visualize the muscle-up as a pressing movement, rather than a pulling movement. This goes for both ring or bar muscle-ups. Imagine your bar or rings is a face-height wall that you want to get on top of – how are you going to accomplish that?

A) You could go from a strict pull-up and then wriggle your torso over the wall one elbow at a time.

B) You create momentum with your legs by jumping and then press onto the wall to hoist yourself up.

Though option A is possible (and I see it all of the time), it is by far the least efficient option. The muscle-up is an upper body press, not a pull.

Transitioning from relying on the biceps to using the lats will not only help with getting your first muscle-up, but will also help with stringing larger sets of muscle-ups together. The more you are able to press with your lats, the higher you will be able to catch the dip. The less you have to press out of a dip, the less taxing each rep will be. Thus, you will be able to string together larger sets at a time.

Try these drills – starting with the Banded Lat Pull-Down (Standing) – and work your way through them. You can use them as a warm-up on any day, especially when gymnastics movements are in your workout. These are also great to superset with your squats, or whatever your strength movement of the day may be. Do these a few times a week and soon you will be a master at pressing with your lats and well on your way to that first muscle-up!

Banded Lat Pull Down (Standing)
– Loop band around pull up bar
– Palms face down, hands slightly wider than shoulder width, stance hip width
– With straight arms press band down toward hips
– Keeps shoulders away from the ears
– Slow and controlled on the way back up

Banded Lat Pull Down (Kneeling)
– Loop band around pull up bar
– Hang PVC pipe (preferably 2 taped together) from center of band
– Kneel slightly behind pull up bar, hands outside of shoulder width, palms face down on PVC
– With straight arms press band straight down
– Keeps shoulders away from the ears
– Slow and controlled on the way back up

Banded Bar MU Sliders
– Set up a barbell at clavicle height, and secure to rig with bands
– Place feet on floor sliders directly under the bar
– Hands go to the width they would be in a bar muscle up
– Lean back with straight arms
– Fall through into full extension
– Press down on bar with straight arms
– The goal is to see how high you can press yourself back up with straight arms

Hollow Bar Press Down (With Box)
– Set up a 30’’ box just in front of a pull-up bar
– Hang from bar in hollow position
– Press down on pull up bar with straight arms to push torso as far behind the bar as possible
– Feet will slide up the box as the torso travels behind the bar
– Maintain hollow position the entire time

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