The muscle-up is like breathing to a gymnast. To CrossFitters it’s more like medaling in the Olympics. And rightfully so, most of us have never touched rings before CrossFit, let alone tried a pull-up in decades. The muscle-up should be a victory and we should be proud.
We just shouldn’t be impatient.
There’s two version of the muscle-up: The spiral that hits the receiver in the numbers, and the Hail-Mary lobbed into a sea of defenders. Most of us learn to throw the later before we’re willing to practice the former. I did.
Before I came to CrossFit I’d dipped with four 45’s hanging from a belt. I’d pulled up strictly a billion times, and barbells were best friends. Six years ago, when I tried my first MUP, I lacked technique but my addiction to strength saved me. Today, many trainers including myself, know technique well enough to score a novice a muscle-up. But getting someone to score can be as much trick as triumph.
For instance, I grand-maled with a circle in each hand for weeks before I ever lucked into my first time. I bellowed like a wolf on his first kill, we filmed it, and a friend bought me a bottle of champagne to celebrate. But it cost me; my elbows creaked like rusty car doors, my wrists wept red tears and my shoulders just kinda swayed like two drunken hobos. But I was strong enough to out last poor technique.
More importantly, no-one was cueing me, I had to figure it out on my own.
It’s like a commercial you’ve seen a million times. An athlete nails a few chest-to-bar-pull-ups and they can ring dip on demand. The pixy dust we call chalk gets patted from fingers to elbows, and they stand two feet under hollow globes swaying like a flag in the breeze. Always, they fail. Then 20 athletes who can do a muscle-up rush over like ants to a picnic. It’s like we feel validated if they make it over the rings after our instruction, it’s like we can own some small part of their success because we said “throw your head through the window.”
In reality, if we’re going to give a cue at all, it should be “stop swinging and your shoulders will stop hating you.”
I’m not against muscle-up momentum, I’m against swinging and praying.
So what then; how do we learn the muscle-up without swinging?
Controlling horizontal momentum and transferring it vertically is fine. Whale-hopping out of the ocean isn’t. Progressions, as with everything else, are the answer.
There are a million MUP progressions manufactured by much more intelligent humans than myself, so click here and pick some. But the thing with progressions is, they must be practiced all the time. And progressions must be able to be practiced all the time. If they’re so involved you hate them, or they’re so difficult they leave you “Cindy sore,” then your progressions blow.
A muscle-up progression, for most of us, should have a strength component like dips and pull-ups. Then, it should chronologically go in order of movement and weakness; false grip extension, hip-drive and timing, turn-over, ring receive. Then, we should do it nearly every day, for no more than 10 minutes.
A muscle-up magic trick will make the crowd cheer while your shoulders explode, but a muscle-up earned is a joint saved.
Behind the neck split jerk
EMOTM 10 Minutes
“Pick a card”
AMRAP 13 Minutes
*For numbered cards, take face value as rep count. Royalty is different; Jacks are 15 reps, Queens are 20, and Kings are 25. As for the Ace, it’s like draw four in Uno. If you grab an Ace, hand it to whomever you like. They’re next 100m just became 400. Enjoy.
4-Skin the cats
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