How to Do a Muscle Up in a Perfect Way

October 19, 2015 by VAHVA Fitness

In this article we go through how to do a muscle up in a perfect way. Muscle up is a strength move, which, during the past decade, has become a notorious strength feat to showcase physical prowess. 


Muscle up, in short, is nothing more than a pull-up and a dip combined by a transition phase. The purpose of the skill is to get on the top of rings or a bar.

Originally, muscle ups were a move just to get on the top of the rings or horizontal bar in gymnastics. In gymnastics, the muscle up is such a basic move that it is not even scored in the gymnastic cards.

Kids and adults from all ages, all over the world, are performing muscle ups, whether it is part of a local street workout group or gymnastics.

Nowadays, muscle ups have become massively prevalent in many exercise programs.

Many athletes, such as MMA fighters, include muscle ups in their training regimen to improve their strength and conditioning.

One of the fastest growing sports in the world, CrossFit, has also included their version of a kipping muscle up in their programs.

Muscle up is also a central part of most street and bar workout routines and is continuing to build its reputation as one of the foundational moves of the sport.

Below is our 10 strict consecutive ring muscle ups video illustrating the muscle up:

What Is A Muscle Up

Whether a muscle up is performed on a bar or on rings, the muscle up consists of three parts:

  • Pull up: pulling your bodyweight up.
  • Transition phase: internally rotating the shoulders on the top of the bar so you can start the next phase. 
  • Dip: pushing yourself up to straight arms.
muscle up bottom
muscle up transition phase
muscle up top position support

Muscle up is a special kind of a beast, because the move includes both a pulling motion, pressing motion, and the transition phase between a pull-up and a dip.

Muscle up is an amazing move to improve pulling: strength and size in biceps, middle back, and upper back.

The pressing motion improves pressing strength by adding size and strength to triceps, front deltoids, and chest muscles.

The transition phase increases strength and size in forearms, shoulders, rotator cuffs, and numerous of smaller muscle groups in the scapula, or shoulder girdle.

I believe the built strength that is required to perform a clean muscle up is the biggest benefit one can achieve by learning the muscle up.

Learning the muscle up will enhance the entire upper body athletics like no other exercise.

The transition phase will build your forearms, rotator cuffs, and shoulders, which not only translate directly to overall strength, but also keep you injury free like nothing else.

Muscle up is an extraordinary exercise, which can be approached safely and effectively with the right preparation.

When mastered, the muscle up is not only an exercise that will make the jaws drop from everyone around you, but it also has the potential to turn you physically into a whole new beast.

Still, to this day, a muscle up happens to be one of the more “impressive” strength feats one can perform in a gym or a park, and will also convey that the person is capable of for more than just flexing his muscles.

Muscle Up Variations

Muscle ups can be separated into two groups based on the apparel that is used to perform the feat:

  • Ring muscle up: a muscle up on gymnastic rings. 
  • Bar muscle up: a muscle up on a horizontal bar. 

In addition, muscle ups can be divided into two groups based on their execution:

  • Strict muscle up: a clean and strict muscle up.
  • Kipping muscle up: a muscle up where momentum is used to complete the repetition.

The biggest difference between a bar and ring muscle up is that the center of mass is distributed differently, and as a result, they provide slightly different challenges.

Mastering a strict bar muscle up will transfer directly to the strict ring muscle ups.

Why You Shouldn't Do Kipping Muscle Ups

The biggest disadvantage of the kipping muscle up is that the momentum is used to skip the most strenuous and effective part of the muscle up - the transition phase.

As a result, the kipping variation is significantly easier, but the benefits of the exercise are also minimized.

Strict muscle ups will give you the best bang for your buck. Moreover, if you master the strict version, the kipping muscle up will seem almost too easy. 

Just practicing the kipping version will barely transfer to the strict version, and will not ensure all the strength benefits of the muscle up.

Strength Prerequisities For A Muscle Up

In order to ensure the safest and the most effective path to muscle up, you should already have built up a reasonable level of fitness before attempting to learn the muscle up.

Different people start from different starting points and progress with different paces, but before embarking on your journey to the muscle up, you should be able to complete two simple exercises: a pull up and a dip.

10 Clean Reps Of A Basic Pull Up

deadhang pull up
deadhang pull up top

Form: start from a deadhang (straight arms) and then pull up to your lower neck level. Lower down with control.

10 Clean Repetitions of Bar Dips

bar dip support

Form: start from straight arms at the top, lower yourself until you feel your shoulders being stretched, then push yourself up.

Getting Started

Below you can subscribe and get access to your free muscle up guide. The guide contains EVERYTHING you need in order to learn the strict muscle up. 

The guide contains training programming and all the progressions for you to achieve your first muscle up. 

You can also read our detailed articles that can help you to improve your muscle up, or guide you to achieve your first muscle up.

Train hard, stay safe. 


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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