The muscle-up is a movement that comes from gymnastics and is best performed on a set of gymnastic rings. However, if you have only a bar to work with, you may use that instead.

The muscle-up is a pull-up into a dip. The most difficult part of this movement is the transition between the pull-up and the dip, where your elbows go from pointing down to pointing up. This transition requires strength through a range of motion that few people train.

The best ways to develop the strength for the muscle-up is to first get really strong at pull-ups and dips, and then begin working the muscle-up slowly in reverse. Nobody’s first muscle-up is ever pretty. Just keep practicing.

Here are the steps for the muscle-up:


Set up on the rings with a false grip (where the wrists are positioned over the rings, and the rings cut a diagonal across the bottom of the palm).

Developing the strength to hold a false grip takes a while. The best way to develop this strength is to start hanging with a false grip and practice pull-ups with a false grip as much as possible.


Initiate a forceful pull-up, driving the rings down hard toward your sternum.

Imagine that you’re trying to pull the rings through your sternum. Starting out, it may help to lean slightly back (almost like you would with a row) during the pull-up portion. Also, be sure to accelerate through the entire movement to avoid getting “stuck.”


After you’ve gained enough height, push your chest through the rings and pop your elbows up so you land in the bottom of a dip position.

The muscle-up can be quite stressful on unconditioned elbows and shoulders, so don’t do too much too quickly. Your joints need time to toughen up.


Finish the movement by locking out the dip.

A full lockout on the muscle-up means your elbows are extended fully and shoulders are shrugged down.