Strict Muscle-Up Progressions: Good ‘Cheats’ & ‘Negatives’
Video by Travis Ewart

The ability to execute a strict muscle-up is by no means a simple task. It requires flexibility as well as a great amount of strength in both your ability to pull and your ability to press out of a very deep ring dip. It also requires quite a bit of body awareness and control. 

If you aren’t quite to your goal of achieving a strict muscle-up, try these ‘cheats’ help learn the movement pattern and how to shift the bodyweight for the strict ring muscle-up​. ​And don’t overlook the positive benefits of doing ‘negatives’ to help build the strength to not only be able to perform the movement, but also prevent yourself from getting injured while you practice. 

Necessary Strength for a Strict Muscle-Up

First let’s talk about your pulling and pressing ability. If you are still struggling with strict movements such as pull-ups and ring dips, it should be your priority to work towards strengthening these two areas before moving on to strict muscle-ups.

You should be able to string a minimum of 5-7 strict chest-to-bar pull-ups together. This means that the bar is coming in contact with your chest at the very least right below your collarbone. If you’re stuck at this phase, download our FREE, 3-Week Pull-Up Guide & Training Program!

Next make sure you are confident with your dipping skills. You should be confident stringing 5-7 strict ring dips together at a time. However, a strict muscle-up will at times put you in a deeper dip position than a regular ring dip and therefore make sure you have practiced dipping in such a position.

Strict Muscle-Up Progression: Deep Dip

The depth of the dip needed is when, at the bottom of your dip, the rings are right next to your pecs and shoulders are just below the top of the rings. This is a difficult position to dip out of and must be accomplished before the strict muscle-up can be performed. Here are some tips and a program to follow to help you strengthen your ring dips.

Negative Muscle-up Progression to Build Strength

After you have successfully trained to become efficient with both your strict dips and pull-ups, it’s time to talk about that strict muscle-up. A favorite tool of athletes to strengthen their strict gymnastics movements is to do the ‘negative’ version of that movement. For example, when training the strict handstand push-up, athletes will often use a slow negative strict handstand push-up as a strengthening tool. This can hold true when training the strict muscle-up as well. Let’s look at that from the perspective of a negative muscle-up progression.

Support in Extension on Rings

First, start in Support in Extension on Rings, or a ring support position. While in that ring support your elbows should be fully extended and tucked in close to your body. Focus on bringing your pinkies to your pockets and slightly turning your rings out so your thumbs are pointing away from your body as seen below.

Strict Muscle-Up Progression: Ring Hold

You can choose to use high rings and have a box to assist you to the top, or utilize a set of lower rings and make them high enough so your feet don’t slide across the ground as you work through this movement.

Ring Dip Negative

Next you will perform a negative ring dip. Slowly lower yourself to the bottom of your deep dip position. This should be slow and controlled with at least a 3-5 second count from the top of your dip to the bottom of your dip. Once you are in the deep dip position, hold for a second or two before working through the transition.

Strict Negative Muscle-Up Transition

Ok, here’s the tricky part – the transition. Many people will have a hard time during this phase of the muscle-up progression at first. It takes a lot of control but mastering this piece will bring everything together. After your dip, you will keep your thumbs tucked nice and close to your chest. Start to slowly let your body slide back and out of that dip position. As you do so the big fight will be keeping the rings close to your chest and your elbows in a tight bent position. 

Negative Ring Pull-Up

At this point you will be in a chest-to-ring hanging position. Try to hold this for a minimum for 2-3 seconds before slowly lowering yourself away from the rings. Just like that eccentric dip that you performed earlier in the muscle-up progression, it should take you 3-5 seconds to lower yourself to a full hanging position.

When training the negative muscle-ups, it is not recommended that you use these when doing high volume work as that can be dangerous with any movement with such high time under tension. Remember that every muscle-up negative must be performed with control and take about 10-15 seconds if performed correctly. We recommend keeping your set/rep counts to around 3×3 or 5×3.

‘Cheating’ the Strict Ring Muscle-Up

Ready to practice the ‘positive’ strict muscle-up? Check out this video where Invictus Gymnastics Coach, Travis Ewart, discusses and demonstrates how to “cheat” a strict ring muscle-up to help learn the movement pattern and how to shift the bodyweight for future success. Remember, this is a progression and drill to use in practice and will not be allowed in competition because of the kipping and swinging involved with the drill. The more you practice, the less you’ll have to cheat the movement and the closer you’ll be to competition-standard strict muscle-ups!

False Grip Tips

The strict muscle-up requires a false grip for most athletes and it is common to be very uncomfortable in this grip if you are not used to it. It can really do a number on your wrists so be sure to check out How to Tape for the False Grip before you get too many reps in that you start to lose skin. If strength is more of your issue, here are some ideas for Strengthening Your False Grip.

Is a strict muscle-up on your bucket list? Our next cycle of the Invictus Gymnastics online program starts Monday, January 6th! Register here!

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