So You Want Your First Muscle-Up?
Written by Kaitlyn Kassis

Everyone remembers their first – MUSCLE-UP, that is. I can recall the outfit I was wearing, the song that was playing, and the sudden feeling of excitement and terror that I felt the first time I mustered my way on top of the rings.

I squealed like a pig and flailed my legs with excitement as I stayed in the lockout of my dip for a few extra moments. I wanted to take it all in. I finally dropped from the rings, jumped for joy a few times, and gave myself an enthusiastic fist pump. It was all quite embarrassing, especially considering I was in the gym alone with my phone propped up in my shoe as a tripod, but I didn’t care. Months and months of failed attempts, countless hours of working on strict pull-ups and dips, frustration, and bloodied wrists had all been worth it for that one moment.

As a coach, it is my mission to help others feel that same sense of joy and accomplishment for themselves.

So what are the first steps towards getting your first muscle-up?

1) Voice your goal.

Talk to a coach, and have them help you put together a game plan. When you start working towards getting your first muscle-up, it is important to recognize that everyone is going to have a different square one. Some people may already possess the strict pulling and pressing strength to get themselves on top of the rings, but lack the coordination to tie their strength together with the transition. As a coach, these people are the low hanging fruit of individuals to help get their first muscle-up. The vast majority of people fall into the second category, in which there is a lot of room for improvement in the strict pulling and pressing strength departments. For the majority, this means that the second step towards getting a muscle up is doing what most people don’t want to do.

2) Lots and LOTS of strict pull-ups and strict dips.

I am not going to sugarcoat it – accumulating the volume of strict work needed to successfully complete a muscle-up is not the most exciting thing you will do in the gym. I wish that there was a super sexy, magic drill that I could show people to help them instantly get a muscle-up, but that isn’t the case. Though this is not a set-in-stone rule, in order for someone to safely and successfully perform a muscle-up, I like for them to first be able to complete 10 quality strict pull-ups, and 10 quality strict dips. This strength capacity is necessary as it will serve as the foundation to your muscle-up.

Your Muscle-Up Mission Plan of Action
Now that I just told you the secret to getting a muscle-up that you probably didn’t want to hear, let’s put together an action plan to make this step more tangible.

Keep it simple.

Accumulate 30 Strict Pull-Ups and 30 Strict Dips, 1-2x every week.

Whether that is in single reps with lots of rest in between, or whether you are able to knock that out in larger chunks with shorter breaks. As I mentioned earlier, everyone’s starting point will look different. From there, you can work on being able to hang on for larger sets, or incrementally adding small amounts of load to the repetitions (even a 2.5# plate makes a difference!).

Do this for 12 weeks, and take note of the number of sets it take you to complete the 30 repetitions. I promise, if you do this consistently you will see a world of difference in your pulling and pressing capacities. This is the work that no one “wants” to do, but this is the work that will have the biggest impact on getting you closer to your goal.

In Part 2 of “So You Want Your First Muscle Up?” I will go over a few of my favorite drills for marrying together your pulling and pressing strength in, Step 3) The Transition. Stay tuned!

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