How to build strength in order to achieve a perfect form Muscle Up
Hey guys what’s up!!
Today we are gonna talk about probably one of the most powerful and beautiful moves in the world of Calisthenics and Street Workout that is the MUSCLE UP!
First of all, we start by analyzing which are the requirements needed to build the necessary strength and explosiveness.
Then, in order to achieve your very first Muscle Up, we are going to go more in depth of which are the complementary exercises needed to develop the transition work from the pulling phase all the way to the pushing one (above the bar).
Soooo…let’s get started!
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO WHAT IT HAS TO BE AVOIDED IN ORDER TO PREVENT INJURIES ALONG THE JOURNEY
Nowadays happens often to watch random videos on YouTube and to come across a lot of guys in different ages and body conditions, especially the younger ones, attempting to perform Muscle Ups without proper form and especially without the necessary strength.
We are all amazed watching how powerful and very good looking the Muscle Up is, 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 omit to pay attention to some little details that, in the whole movement, can cause serious injuries along the journey.
The result then can be a floppy movement like for instance the most classical case of Muscle Up performed by kipping a lot with legs and reaching over the bar with one shoulder and then the other one that follows.
By means of this way adopted in the execution of the first Muscle Ups (without proper strength and explosiveness), people are progressively led to causing a lot of stress to their shoulders (in particular to the front deltoid and more in general to the whole rotator cuff) as well as to the elbows.
So, first thing first, we strongly recommend not 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 PHASES)
To start with, we wanna emphasize one very important aspect of every single movement performed in 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, maybe not that much at the very beginning, but by progressively involving more and more the correct form so to isolate the movement and avoid using “additional muscles” not needed.
One principle that comes straight from the basics of gymnastics, is the concept of maintaining for the whole duration of the eccentric and concentric movement the so called “hollow body position”.
We wanna make sure that, for instance, when we are going to approach the first steps in order to learn pull-ups and push-ups (two phases Muscle Ups are made of), we must always think that without a solid core and spinal column stability, the movement will always lack of that perfect line.
A perfect line, that helps to keep our back stable for the whole duration of the movement (eccentric and concentric phase) and that is met while performing all possible type of skills.
So to mention some of the main ones: front lever, back lever, planche for the main horizontal movements as well as for the vertical ones like i.e. pull-ups, muscle ups, hefestos, bar handstand, bar handstand push-ups and so on.
For the reasons just mentioned, the phases 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:
As we can see from the picture (first figure on the left), by pointing up our recto abdominal together with the oblique external and internal 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 your chest, by squeezing your glutes and, at the same time, by contracting the 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 (i.e. anterior – posterior).
If while trying to perform the posterior pelvic tilt, your legs tend to bend, it means that your iliopsoas is pretty tight and so you must first of all focus on loosen it up until you will feel more flexible in that area.
To better understand how the iliopsoas is connected with your pelvis and legs, check the picture below:
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 elevates towards the bar and, by bending your arms, starts as well 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 outside 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 eccentric phase where the body lowers below the bar, but still maintaining a hollow body position in order to keep the perfect form as mentioned above.
So, to sum up, the phases pull-up is made of are basically four:
Wrap both hands up around the bar to ensure a strong and safe grip
Make sure to have your hands placed on the bar shoulder-width apart
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 (it should be the first goal)
Eccentric phase, where the body lowers and returns to the starting position with arms fully extended, always maintaining the hollow body position
REQUIREMENTS TO MASTER IN ORDER TO PERFORM A MUSCLE UP IN STRICT FORM
10 PULL UPS IN STRICT FORM
In order to gain the proper strength that will allow you to achieve the muscle up, you must, first of all, be able to perform at least 10 pull-ups in strict form.
This means that you have to keep the hollow body position for both phases of the movement (concentric-eccentric), like we said before by also placing the hands around the bar at a shoulder-width and, last but not least, 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, but the ultimate one is to touch with the chest the bar so, once you have gained the strength and explosiveness required to achieve the muscle up, the skill will get a lot easier than it was.
At the same time, to develop more strength and explosiveness, you can also consider to switch from a more intense exercise such as L-sit pull-ups and chin-ups (that we are going to discuss further on) to a one a bit more stressful for tendons, but still very effective, by adding weight to your own bodyweight while performing these basics.
Remember that this kind of workload will take you to increase the strength only if performed constantly through monthly cycles and by maxing out periodically.
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 all the Australian pull-up variations, you can start to approach the high bar and start working more on the eccentric movements.
The very first one for instance, implies to take a jump and grab the bar in order to have your chin above it, by counting slowly down from 5 to 1 sec, lower yourself below the bar till you have completely extended arms and, after landing with your feet, jump again and repeat the same movement.
Another very useful tool we suggest you including 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, the back lever and planche ones and many more.
Basically, loop bands have a wide variety of ways that allow you to get more confident with all the basics and also to perform some very effective warm up routines for your shoulders, chest and trapezius.
Talking about the muscle up, once you got enough strength with the main basics, you can also consider to star working on “assisted muscle ups” by using different types of bands, starting from the heavier one going all the way down to the lighter one and eventually getting closer to the first free Muscle Up.
Here’s an example of what you can find out on the market today:
As you can see, to each color usually matches 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 you do not have access all the time to a gym or a park fully provided with all the staff we need, to vary the intensity of your trainings, you can always try to increase the difficulty of the exercises by applying some changes in the way they are executed.
One way for surely increasing the difficulty of performing a pull up is by placing our legs in a 90° position compared to our upper body.
In this way, we increase the emphasis of the movement by adding more weight in our lats (latissimus dorsi) in a natural way when it is not possible to use a belt and simply add weight by using disks or kettlebells.
L-Sit pull-ups/chin-ups are a great advanced bodyweight exercise that helps a lot to increase the strength especially when you are looking in depth to develop the strength and explosiveness needed to achieve the Muscle Up.
The beauty of Calisthenics is that there are so many different approaches in order to achieve the skills that you can work a lot with “fantasy”.
Archer pull-ups for instance, are another great exercise that helps to develop the single arm pulling strength so that you can increase the overall conditioning of both 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.
At this point to perform a muscle up you just need to get 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 already reached the point that allows you to get over the bar easily.
Being able to perform such type of pull-ups requires a lot of explosive strength that can be developed and increased by focusing more on weighted pull-ups and then, also by maxing out after the last set in order to transform the potential energy into kinetic one.
The same we can tell of L-sit pull-ups/chin-ups at waist height, probably one of the most effective ways that are showing the level of strength and explosiveness a body can have.
A NEW JOURNEY BEGINS!
Ok guys! Now that we have given you, the very first elements needed to start working on your way to master the first muscle up, be aware that we will now taking you into another article through which you can find a full tutorial on how to do a muscle up correctly, phase by phase.
Remember that even the muscle up, once achieved, doesn’t represent an end, but a beginning of a whole new level of strength and explosiveness that requires to keep evolving into something even harder.
I’m talking about all the possible variations muscle up has like the ring muscle up, the impossible one, the close, wide or false grip ones and other variations.
Without good 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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