How to do Muscle-ups

Q: What do you think of muscle-ups?  I’m not able to do a muscle-up, even though I can do 10-15 strict pull-ups.  Any advice on how to do them?


My Answer: Muscle-ups are a great multiple compound movement, sort of like a calisthenic version of the clean and jerk.  It takes quite a bit of explosive strength to do the muscle-up. Unfortunately it is very hard on the joints, namely the elbows and shoulders.  Repetitive muscle-ups (along with kipping pull-ups) are responsible for a lot of CrossFit injuries.


L-sit pull-up


That said if you want to build the strength to do clean muscle-ups on the bar, then I would focus on three exercises:

  1. L-sit pull-ups
  2. Waist pull-ups
  3. Straight bar dips.


Practice the L-sit pull-up, pulling the bar to your chest.  Over time, pull the bar farther and farther down your torso, from your chest to your stomach and eventually to your waist.  At this point it would become a high pull-up, also known as a waist pull-up or an explosive pull-up. Think of the movement as a pull-up feeding into a pressdown.



Once you’re able to do a high pull-up to the waist, then it is just a matter of transitioning from the waist pull-up to a straight bar dip.  To do this, you’ll need to pull-up to the waist and when the bar bar reaches the waist, you pull the bar again and lean your upper body forward, tilting your L-sit body over the bar, then press up.



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