How to build strength in order to achieve a perfect form Muscle Up (MU)
Hey guys what’s up!! Today we wanna talk about probably one of the most powerful and beautiful moves in the world of Calisthenics and Street Workout that is the MUSCLE UP! We will, first of all, start to analyze which are the requirements that will allow you to build the necessary strength in order to perform it and, after that, how to perform a Muscle Up in perfect form with no kipping. Soooo…let’s get started!
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO WHAT IT HAS BE AVOIDED IN ORDER TO PREVENT INJURIES ALONG THE JOURNEY
Nowadays it happens often to watch random videos on YouTube and to come across a lot of guys in different ages, especially younger ones, attempting to perform the Muscle Ups without proper form and especially without the necessary strength. We are all amazed to watch how powerful and very good looking is such skill, but if you look closer, you’ll notice that not all these people are aware of the damages they are causing especially to their shoulders because they obmit to pay attention to some little details that, in the whole movement, can cause serious injuries through the years. The result then can be a floppy movement by which these people are anyway able to get with their chest over the bar, but maybe firstly with one shoulder and then the second one. This kind of movement leads to put a lot stress into the shoulder, in particular to the front deltoid and in general also to the whole rotator cuff. So first thing first, we strongly recommend to not attempt to perform a Muscle Up if your form leads you to floppy movements like the one just explained above.
THE CORRECT FORM TO KEEP FOR THE WHOLE DURATION OF THE MOVEMENT (PULL-PUSH)
To start with, we wanna emphasize one very important aspect of every single movement performed in the Calisthenics and Street Workout’s world that is:
Whichever exercise you will attempt to learn, you must try since the beginning to focus on its form. One principle that comes straight from the basics of gymnastics, is the concept of maintaining for the whole duration of the eccentric and concentric movements the so called “body hollow position”. We wanna make sure that, for instance, when we are going to approach the first steps in order to learn the pull up or the push up, we must always think that without a solid core and spinal column stability, the movement will always lack of that perfect line that helps to keep our back stable for the whole duration of the movement (eccentric and concentric phases). This is particularly felt while performing for instance the front lever, back lever, planche that are all horizontal movements compared to the vertical ones like i.e. pull ups. For the reasons just mentioned, the phases that the strict form pull up is made of (as we are now going more in depth of the Muscle Up journey) are:
- Wrap your hands around the bar with thumbs in and not out in order to have a stronger grip
- Assume the hollow body position keeping in mind this scheme:
and oblicuo interno we are ensuring that our spinal column assumes a neutral position preventing in this way injuries in our lower back. In poor words, you must close your hips and point them towards our chest, by squeezing your glutes and, at the same time, put in a retro position your core. Be aware that, in order to be able to perform such movement, you must be very flexible in your hips as they are connected with the pelvic girdle allowing the pelvic tilt. If by trying to do the retro-version of the pelvis your legs tend to bend, it means that your iliopsoas has a lot of tension and so you must first of all focus on working on it and extend it till you will feel more flexible in that area. To better understand how the iliopsoas is connected with our pelvis and legs and how connected is, check this out:
As you can see, we are talking about a small tendon that has a lot of influence to the pain that we can feel in our lower back as it is directly connected and also that influences the mobility of your hips as well.
- After assuming the hollow body position, starts the concentric movement where the body start to lift up towards the bar and by bending your arms starts the pulling movement.
Now, considering that we are performing a pulling movement, this phase is crucial as we need to ensure that our elbows are not pointing out but inside, closer to our hips for the whole duration of the movement. We can consider a pull up performed in perfect form only when we will be able to touch always the bar with our chest at the end of the pulling movement (concentric phase).
- Now starts the phase, that is the eccentric phase where the body starts to lower below the bar, but still our body is in hollow body position in order to maintain the perfect form as mentioned above.
So to sum up the phases the pull up is made of are basically four:
- Wrap up the whole hands around the bar to ensure a strong grip
- Ensure to have your hands places on the bar at a shoulder width position
- Assume and maintain for the whole duration of the movement the hollow body position
- Concentric phase, where the action of pulling starts in order to reach the bar with our chest and in the beginning at least with your chin over the bar (first goal)
- Eccentric phase, where the body lowers and returns to the starting position always maintaining the hollow body position
- REQUIREMENTS TO ACHIEVE IN ORDER TO PERFORM A MUSCLE UP IN STRICT FORM
- 10 PULL UPS IN STRICT FORM
You must gain the proper strength by performing at least 10 pull ups in strict form with hollow body position for both phases of the movement (concentric-eccentric), by taking a shoulder width position of your hands while grabbing the bar and by always touching the bar with your chest at the end of the pulling movement. To start with, you can set as first goal to go over the bar with your chin, at the same time you can also work by adding progressively weight to your body in order to perform weighted pull ups with additional weight. Remember that this kind of work will take you to increase the strength only if performed constantly in the longer period (weeks, months) and by also maxing out. For all those who are strictly beginners, start by performing at least 10 Australian pull ups (by using all the grip variations i.e. pronated, supinated, wide, medium, inverted, close, switch from one to another) at a waist-height bar. Once you get stronger with the all the Australian pull ups variations, you can start to approach the high bar and start to work more on the eccentric movements like for instance jumping on the bar with your chin over it and, by counting slowly from 5 sec lower yourself below the bar till you have completely extended arms. After that jump over the bar again, grab the bar with the whole hands and repeat the same counting. Another very useful tool we suggest you to include in your routines are the loop bands or so called resistance bands, that are an incredible support for learning how to control your body in performing movements like pull-ups, some of the front lever variations as well as back lever variations and also for the planche. Basically the loop bands have a wide variety of ways that they can be used and so start to get confident with them since the beginning of your journey. Here’s an example of what you can find on the market today:
AS you can see, to each color usually corresponds to a different size of the resistance band as well as the hypothetical weight it is supposed to take in order to make you feel “lighter” while performing a movement (i.e. pull-ups).
- 10 L-SIT PULL UPS IN STRICT FORM
You must also be aware that, if we do not have access all the time to a gym or a park fully provided with all the staff we need to train in different ways, we can always try to increase the difficulty of the exercise by applying some changes in the way it is done. One way for surely increasing the difficulty of performing a pull up is by lifting our legs in a 90-degree position at the trunk level. In this way we will increase the emphasis of the movement by adding more weight in our lats (latissimus dorsi) and so by making it more difficult. L-Sit pull ups are a great advanced bodyweight exercise that helps a lot to increase the strength especially when we are in depth of the Muscle Up and for instance also for the Archer pull ups, other great exercise to increase the strength even if it focuses more on one side at a time of the lats.
- WAIST PULL UPS (AND L-SIT WAIST PULL UPS)
Once you are able to perform in clean form 10 Pull ups touching the bar with your chest and 10 L-Sit Pull ups in clean form, it is then time to include also a way harder version of the Pull ups so called “waist pull ups”. If you are able to perform at least 2-3 reps of this exercise, well then it means that you already made it and that to perform a Muscle Up you just need to lean over the bar with your chest because at the end of the pulling phase, you find yourself with the bar at a waist height hence you reached already the point that allows you to get over the bar easily. Being able to perform such type of pull ups requests a lot of explosive strength that can be developed and increased by focusing more on the weighted pull ups and then also by maxing out after the last set in order to transform the
- A NEW JOURNEY BEGINS!
Ok guys! Now that we have given you all the necessary elements to let you start your journey in mastering the Muscle Up, you can set up and write down your workout routine and include all those exercises enlisted above and keep always in mind that first thing first you must master the form. Without form any exercise will lack of perfection, of style and so of appreciation for you and for all those who are looking at you trying to imitate you! Keep up with the good work and never give up! Hard work always pays off!
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