Posted On December 2, 2019
In many ways the muscle up defines calisthenics. It’s the perfect blend of strength and functional utility. Despite their prevalence in calisthenics, the muscle up is by no means easy. A perfect muscle up is at the very least an intermediate skill .
The muscle up is more complicated than you think
There are multiple types of muscle ups. For simplicity, we will focus on only 2: the standard muscle up and the false grip muscle up (slow muscle up). The standard muscle up is accessible to those with good pull strength and body awareness.
Step 1: Perfect the swing
The swing allows us to circumvent this biomechanical problem by creating space between ourselves and the bar. The swing should be small and quite vertical. The body should be driven towards the ground at an acute angle.
Note that this is different to the usual relaxed swing that you may be used to – which is more circular in nature. This type of swing allows us to explode vertically, having created a slingshot with our own muscle elasticity.
Step 2: Master the pull up
Explosive pull ups are a type of pull up where the aim is to get your chest to the bar. This type of pull up is focused on power rather than strength/endurance, which is exactly what is needed for the muscle up.
Step 3: Get a handle on the transition
It is important to use a combination of the power generated from the swing and the pull up to facilitate the transition. Many beginners try to jump the gun and ‘chicken wing’ the muscle up, that is, they try to get over the bar one arm at a time. This is cheating and can lead to injury.
Step 4: Build dip strength
The false grip muscle up
The false grip muscle up is done from a dead hang and requires the false grip. The false grip is where athletes place their wrists over the bar rather than hanging by the palms and fingers. This grip will initially be very uncomfortable, and it is recommended that it is mastered first on gymnastics rings.
The false grip circumvents the need for momentum by having the wrists sit over the bar from the beginning. As such, there is no longer any need to swing. Instead, the false grip provides a scaffold that gives leverage for athletes to raise themselves over the bar. It can be said that there is still a transition, however it is much more subtle and does not involve any wrist slippage.
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