Back to Basics: The Muscle-Up

If you’re struggling with your muscle-ups, it’s probably time to revisit the fundamentals.

Logan Gelbrich, CCFT March 23, 2016

The muscle-up is often the most coveted movement in the high-skill CrossFit arsenal. Attaining that first one and finding a breakthrough for getting lots of them can be a process. Like most complex physical undertakings, however, it often comes back to the fundamentals.

Here are three areas to check for muscle-up efficiency:

The Kip: Feet together, toes pointed

Sure, it’s not the only way to kip, but like my dad said when I tried driving with one hand at 15, “You’re not that cool yet.” Until then, we need to master the basics. We can create more tension and transfer skills better with our legs squeezed together and our toes pointed while kipping pull-ups, dips and toes-to-bars. If you’re getting away with it in simpler movements like the pull-up, you may just be paying the price on the muscle-up.

The Push-Up: Shoulder position

There probably isn’t a more bastardized movement in fitness than the push-up. Nearly 100 percent of people will tell you they can do one, and nearly all of them will perform it with a wide array of faults. But unlike with the muscle-up, those faults don’t prohibit you from completing the rep. The muscle-up, however, is a different story. If you can’t maintain a vertical forearm, your elbows flare out, and/or your shoulder internally rotates, this is you. Fixing this could be the key to your muscle-up woes.

The Ring Row: Pulling mechanics

Like the push-up, quality of movement isn’t required for a successful rep, so the muscle-up becomes the motivator to understand pulling mechanics. Many athletes dump pulling efforts into the biceps and can’t recruit their lats, but they try to maintain a forearm perpendicular to the origin from which you’re pulling. You should be able to pull the ring to your bottom rib. This gives you a chance to pull deep enough to get over the rings in the muscle-up.

Once you dial in often-overlooked basics, you’ll be all the more primed for the muscle-up, whether it be getting your first or stringing together your first 10.

Good luck!


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About the Author

Logan Gelbrich, CCFT

Logan Gelbrich, CCFT

Logan Gelbrich, CCFT, is the owner of DEUCE Gym in Venice Beach, California and ORIGINAL Nutritionals, a CleanAthlete sports nutrition company. He's a four-year alum of the nationally acclaimed University of San Diego baseball program, as well as an ex-pro with the San Diego Padres as a catcher. In addition, he currently travels the world coaching the CrossFit Strongman Seminar.