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Ultimate Upper Body Strength and Power – MUSCLE UPS

Would You Help Coach Me to a Muscle-Up???

Ever since I started seriously training for size and strength, I enjoyed trying new training methods. I just plain love training and learning new things.

I also like to take things to the extreme. I guess it’s the way I was brought up. You either do something for real, or you don’t do it.

My dad would say when I was a kid: “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.”

Well, I took that to mean work your ass off until you’re successful.

At first, my training revolved around the sports I was playing. Ask Smitty when you see him if I took my rotator cuff and delt training seriously in high school. I would hit internal and external rotations until it felt like my arms were going to fall off. I never had a shoulder problem in high school and my last three years I pitched just about every other game.

Once I was done with baseball, my sports specific lifting was replaced by bodybuilding and I took it just as seriously. I lifted 5 days a week for two hours a night and did cardio every workout day. I did stepper, treadmill, rowing machine, and even used plyos for my cardio.

Next came powerlifting, then Olympic lifts, then strongman and after that grip strength. Each time I took on a new challenge, I went after it as hard as I could. My last type of training I took on was the speed bag, but it’s actually been a few years since I took on a brand new challenge…

Recently, Smitty posted a video of Brad and himself performing a muscle-up. You can see that video here:  Smitty and Brad Doing Muscle Ups.

I had seen Mike Rankin performing and instructing on muscle-ups at the PA State NSCA clinic a few years back, but he had been using rings, and since I never ended up getting my own pair, I never took muscle-ups on as a challenge. I never thought about going after them using just a pull-up station until seeing Smitty and Brad repping them out on the set-up where they train.

That’s when I started obsessing over them and I have put in about 20 attempts each Upper Body Pull workout ever since.

Two Saturdays ago, I got a chance to train with the fellas where they lift and where they hit their muscle-ups and I was determined to get one. I was unsuccessful, but with Smitty and Brad’s verbal cueing, I was able to come pretty close.

I would have kept trying but about 3/4 through the video you’ll see me looking at my hand every so often. I ripped what started out as a dime-sized hole out of my palm and then kept going increasing it to about the size of a nickel. Eventually, I just had to stop because my hand was so raw, but it felt great to finally get my head up over the bar last weekend.

What I am hoping is that some of you here in the Diesel Community might be able to lend me some advice on what I can do to improve and go from doing Almost-Ups to actual Muscle-Ups.

movarrowIf you can help me out, I’d appreciate. Please leave a comment below.

Here’s the video.

Please rate this video 5 stars if you like it!

Current Focal Points

This is what I am currently working on to get to the muscle-up in my weekly upper body pull day:

    – 10 to 20 attempts at performing a muscle-up. These are done in groups of 3 singles.

    – Weighted Pull-ups: Body Weight (255-260) plus a 50-lb Dumbbell. 3 sets of 3 to 5.

    – Dynamic Pull-ups: Body Weight only performed dynamically, pulling myself up as hard and high as possible.

Technique Details

    – I have been trying to pull with a false grip and trying to pull myself as high as I can each time.

    – Smitty pointed out when I was up there that I was not lifting my knees up quickly enough and I was not doing it explosively enough. Since part of my hand was raw, I couldn’t try to reinforce that last week, but am looking for ways to do it this week.

    – I am still unsure what exactly I should be doing prior to pulling myself up to the bar – should I jump to the bar like in the video clip? swing to the bar? pull from a straight position?

    – I am also unsure about what I should be doing with my legs – are they angled properly? am I pulling my knees high enough?

These are just some of the questions I have, but my issues may lie in something completely different, too, that I am not thinking of.

Thanks a lot everyone. I really appreciate any assistance you can give me.

movarrowDon’t forget to leave a comment!

All the best in your training,

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19 Responses to “Ultimate Upper Body Strength and Power – MUSCLE UPS”

  1. Chris Smith Says:


    Try getting on the bar at a dead hang, THEN kicking your knees up and pulling over. It looks like you are losing some of the momentum you have by hitting the wall with your feet from jumping onto the bar. Weighted pullups and dynamic pullups helped me a lot to get my first muscle up down.

    You have the height on the pull, it’s just a matter of transitioning it. When I was attempting my first MUs, I seriously needed to drill into myself mentally to go straight from the pullup to the dip. Really drill it in not to pause between the two. Don’t pull, then push. Just drive yourself straight up and over.

    Like I said, try starting from a dead hang, do a regular pullup, drop and then explode straight up, kicking your knees high, straight up to your chest. It looks like you’re losing a lot of momentum going forward, as opposed to straight upward.

    Hope this helps bro, you will have this very soon I can tell.


  2. Aisha Arayssi Says:

    You rock DUDE!!!!

  3. Coach mike Says:

    Hi Jedd! I am 260 and much older than you. This is how I did it. Start from the top down! Do them negitive only with body weight until they are smooth. Then add a weight vest or dip belt and some weight. Back into the sticking point. You might even want to use one of your boxes to limit the travel below the bar and jump back up to increase the reps at that range of motion. It might help to wrap the thumb side of your bar so your hand is forced into the foe grip for the whole motion. Added shoulder work like heavy kb snatches and walks with a core wheel might help! Oh and one more thing I use a much closer grip–ie my thumbs touch. coach mike

  4. Dan Cenidoza Says:

    Love the resolve! You’ll get it next workout.

  5. Chris Smith Says:

    Coach Mike made a great point on the grip (sorry I didn’t catch it!). Definitely try using a narrower grip. I usually use a slightly closer than shoulder-width grip, and it has helped me a lot.

  6. Coach mike Says:

    Gymnists use a false or foe grip on rings and stuff. I worded it poorly.(dead tired sorry) I used some tape and ramped the bar so the heels of my hand were slightly higher than the thunbs. A gynastic coach of my nephews showed me how. Yes it did help! My grip is about the width of the tips of my thumbs just touching! I think because more weight is on your thumb and first finger your hand comes around the bar quicker. It is totaly a technique, not a strength thing. coach Mike

  7. Walter Says:


    I love your determination! Awesome.

    Sorry this is a little long…

    My thoughts are to also work from the top down. You need a lower bar or a higher platform to get your body so the bar is about chest height, right at nipple level.

    Grab the bar and do a little hop to get your body up over the bar with your arms bent, as if you just arrived in that position from your pullup; so you are ready to do the second half of the muscles-up, the part where you press your body up to arms length.

    Next you have two choices: I would work on just balancing on the bar and getting comfortable with that. Shouldn’t take long for that. Try balancing on the bar with your arms bent as above and then try balancing on the bar with your arms locked out straight.

    If you can’t balance yourself and control your movement, as you legs swing back under the bar your upper body will rotate back and you will lose your balance over the bar and fall back as in the video.

    Second, Once your balance is good in those two positions, I would start working on doing press-ups from the bent arm to the locked-out arm position. Same set-up as above, starting with the bar at about chest height. Hop up and start doing press-ups for low reps. One hop up and as many reps as you can do in good form with control. Drill the skill of pressing your body up on that bar. Do these slow and controled.

    Third, once you master the above, step up to the bar, grab it and in one smooth motion, give a little hop and then immediately roll forward into your press up. You should have the control and strength to do that at this point. This time, do all reps from the platform, in other words, each rep drop back down, hop up and press-up.

    Once the above steps are mastered, lower your platform to the following levels. Master each level before moving on to the next:

    bar set at chin height
    bar set at top of head height
    bar set halfway between top of head and full extension of arms
    bar set at arms length overhead

    You will use the same technique at each level: a little hop straight up so your momentum goes stright up. Immediately pull for all you are worth and roll forward as soon as your body clears the bar and press-up.

    Think of whipping your elbows up and over that bar. Sort of the opposite of doing a Olympic clean where you have to whip your elbows under the bar. Learn to hit that power spot where your body is balanced easily over the bar and you can press with control and authority.

    At each level you may drill the skill of just hopping up into the bent arm position and dropping back down after you balanced yourself in that position for a count of 3-5 seconds.. Then you may drill the skill of hopping up and immediately pressing up.

    Don’t take a step forward to hop up. That creates too much forward momentum which causes your body to rock back and forth. Get close to the bar and hop straight up.

    Once you can do this with the bar at full-arms length above your head using the hop, start drilling it by jumping up to the bar and stilling your momentum. Then from a dead hang explosively pull up to the press-up position and press-up.

    Some find the skill of doing muscles up easier to perform on rings because you can rotate the arms and hands and they are not locked into one position by the straight fixed bar.

    On the bar, if you keep your hands closer, so you just have enough room to get your body through them, you can brace the hands against the hips to create more stability once you hop/pull up high enough.

    Also, if you keep your elbows closer to your body you will have more power. It is similar to doing dips, keeping the elbows closer to the sides of your body creates better shoulder stability. It also forces the upper body to lean further forward, getting your weight balanced over the bar better. Keep those elbows close to your sides and pointing/extending back behind you once you begin to get over that bar.

    In a clean you whip the bar from the pull at waist to chest/shoulders/neck by snapping the forearms and elbows under. It is really just the opposite of that. Whip the bar from shoulders/neck to your waist.

    As a side point you really need to pull up and begin throwing the body over the bar as if doing tricep pressdowns on a cable machine. AS soon as you can, pull/press that bar into your waist so the bar ends up at that point where you hinge at the hips. Then it is really easy to balance and press up.

    SO you need to create enough pull and momentum to get those hips up there. Don’t think of pulling yourself up to the bar, think of pulling that bar down to you and whipping it down into that hip hinge area. It needs to flow.

    Analyze the finer points, break the movement down. Then master each step. At some point you need to stop thinking about all the little details and just do so your mind is not clouded with details.

    With your tenacity as demonstrated in the vid, I am sure you will hit this pretty quick.

    Hope this is of help,


  8. Goody Says:


    The progression I was telling you about is based on the ring muscle up, but some many points are applicable. The hardest part in the movement is pushing through to roll over the bar. With rings, you can lower them all the way down and start the movement from your knees with the rings directly in front of your face, thumbs facing in, false grip, hands touching. Initiate the movement and focus on dragging your thumbs right down over your nose. Concurrently, you’re pushing off your toes and popping your upper body through as you separate your hands. As you begin to get stronger on the mechanics of pushing yourself through, you slowly raise the rings. As the rings go up the range of motion of your pull goes up, you get stronger, and you rely less on your legs to pop you up. Simple. 🙂

    The muscle up on a bar is a different animal entirely. False grip will help on the bar, hands slightly inside shoulder width. With your set up I’d start with the box directly under the bar so you’re not jumping to it. Grab the bar from the standing position and work on rocking yourself in/out while maintaning grip on the bar and your feet on the box. Again, the height of the box can vary; higher as you start out, lower as you get stronger, culminating at the dead hang/no box. Think of it as pushing your hips forward and pulling them back. This motion is the basis for the Kipping pull-up. On your forward push drive your head through your arms and concentrate on timing. Once you’re comfortable with the mechanics of this movement you can start to time the high pull as you’re coming back from your forward push. Once you’re consistently pulling through with the bar at chest/belly level it’s time to start rolling over. The key is to drive your head through while kicking your feet forward. From there it’s just a bar dip. It will get a little crazy as your legs swing back, but once you get a feel for it, you’ll be crushing them out in no time.

    It’s an easy progression and for this tough movement. When you break it down into a few steps, mastering each, you’ll make it look easy, bro.

  9. James Says:

    You’re almost there

    Knees first: start from a dead hang and keep your feet together, drive your knees to your chest as hard and fast as possible. Then when you feel that wave of momentum come up go for your pull up, pulling as high as possible. Get comfortable using your knee wave into your pull.

    Pull ups: Do the the climbing pull ups where you start from a dead hang and pull up as high as you can and reach with one hand, much like you would be if you were going for a higher hold on a rock or climbing gym. try to get high enough so that you can pull into the dip position with one hand. Also try doing dynos.
    watch how he uses his legs, try with feet together and feet apart which ever feels more powerful and fluid.

    Dips: Just work on getting stronger doing dips with the hands on the bar in front of you like the top of the muscle up. After work on starting at the top of the muscle up and going down into your pull up.

    All the best

  10. Coach mike Says:

    Hey jedd now that I have tought about it a while you might try a waist high bar and have a partner hold your feet. Lots of my wrestlers knock them out on a rail in a hall at the school. Your feet and hands start at the same level horizontal Gotch style! Coach Mike

  11. Matt Wichlinski Says:

    have someone grab you at the ribs and help you through the transition, helping less and less over time. you should treat it as a strength move, not a wild kicking and screaming ballistic movement. Your hands should trace the edge of your face and into your armpits, not outside. Rings would help, so would taping your hands while learning the movement with tons of reps. Ripped hands don’t work as well.

  12. Scott Brady Says:

    I actually found it easier on rings would you believe. Maybe try that first and see what happens. I think the extra movement due to the rings actually helps. Plus the false grip is a big help.

    Good luck.

  13. Jedd Says:

    Guys, you’ve really hooked me up with some good information with your comments. I really appreciate the help. I have copied the major points and printed them out so i can take them with me down to my garage gym and when I go up with the fellas. Thanks again, and I will post the video when I get it. Shouldn’t be long now!


  14. Coach Goldy Says:

    The one big thing I’m seein’ is that once you get up to the pressing part, you’re in a bad position. Your spine is curved over the bar and you’re looking straight down. When you do this, you’re shoulders and chest aren’t in a strong enough position to get that press. You don’t have anything to push against, is that makes any sense. By that I mean that when you’re curved over the bar like that and exert force from the arms you just push and roll yourself off. You have more than enough power and momentum to get up to that position, but once you’re there you loose it. Try looking straight up, or at least a 45 degree. This will put your spine and core in a better position to deal with you pushing on the bar. Also by straightening out, it will bring you hips in closer to the bar, therefore bringing your center of gravity closer to the bar, so all you need to worry about is going up, not over and then up. Hope this helps!

  15. mark Says:

    This is basically a kip done on the bars or rings in gymnastics (I’m a former gymnast). Make sure that your shoulders and body weight are over and past the front side of the bar (wall side). You have gto finish with your weight supported on top of the bar. Your first attempts will finish with the up part of a dip. Once you master the weight transfer, you will finish in a complete support on top of the bar. You have the basic movement, now ou just need to be in position to complete the movement.

  16. Jack Says:

    Great advice! I’m working on MU too, so I appreciate all the help. Keep them coming!

  17. Coach mike Says:

    Hey Jedd! How is it coming? Found this on the tube that might help! Hope you knock it out soon!

  18. Jim Smith Says:

    Hey man. Thanks for posting that. I have had some bicep insertion pain lately and laid off the muscle-up attempts. Then, Mighty Mitts came along and I focused mainly on that. I look forward to training them again soon, so thanks again!
    -Jedd- (on Smitty’s log-in)

  19. jim hutch Says:

    Oh man, you are so close. Just try moving the box in, add something to jump off, and jumping more to get over that bar! Don’t quit you are 90% there.

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