Though not scientific, I can say with a great deal of confidence that 100 percent of people who have seen a muscle-up would at least agree that they’d like to be able to do one. Some would want to for no better reason than because it looks cool, but desire is desire, right?
Well, as most of us know, the muscle-up begins to enter the higher skill demands of basic gymnastic ability. Comparing the push-up to the muscle-up, I think we can unanimously agree that the muscle-up surpasses the push-up when it comes to sexiness, envy and rarity. Even your grandmother can get on the ground and do a rendition of some kind of sloppy push-up. The muscle-up, however, is on another planet.
As an advocate for improving human movement, I think we can pin the desire for something like the muscle-up against the simplicity of the push-up to raise our game in both movements. I mean, everyone wants that sexy muscle-up, right?
My two cents is that we use the muscle-up as a bargaining chip to help hold the standard on the push-up. I’d say 99 percent of athletes do push-ups in a manner that is some sort of broken, elbows-flared cousin of an actual push-up. Furthermore, these folks can do dozens more push-ups this way than they could a more optimal, elbows-in and organized type solely because they have 10,000 ugly push-ups under their belts and have done as few as zero proper push-ups.
Still don’t care about a poster-boy push-up? What if I told you that you had to say, “I do not want a muscle-up” out loud every time you did a push-up with your elbows out?
This is an exaggeration, certainly. But it’s not entirely untrue. The skill transfer in the push-up, in my opinion, is one of the biggest missed opportunities in fundamental training. You want muscle-ups, a bodyweight strict press or gobs of handstand push-ups, prove it with your push-up!
Clean it up, folks. The push-up may just be the yellow brick road to the pinnacle — the muscle-up.