How to Do a Muscle-Up, One of CrossFit's Hardest Exercises

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Woman performing a CrossFit muscle-up exercise

You might be strong, but are you muscle-up strong? This gymnastics-inspired CrossFit exercise requires major upper-body strength and core control to pull yourself from a dead hang on the rings until you're perched up over them.

While learning how to do a muscle-up can seem intimidating, these seven prep exercises will put you on the fast track.

You might be strong, but are you muscle-up strong? This gymnastics-inspired CrossFit exercise requires major upper-body strength and core control to pull yourself from a dead hang on the rings until you're perched up over them.

While learning how to do a muscle-up can seem intimidating, these seven prep exercises will put you on the fast track.

1. Low Ring Kneeling Muscle-Up

Man demonstrating the low ring kneeling muscle-up in a CrossFit gym

This introductory drill teaches you the movement pattern of a muscle-up for your arms and gets you used to transitioning from below to above the rings in a controlled way.

  1. Start kneeling under the rings.
  2. Slowly pull yourself up (like a chin-up), keeping the rings as close to your body as possible.
  3. Using your feet, push off the floor and switch your hands and arms into the low-dip position. In the dip position, the rings should be touching your shoulders and your hands should be touching your ribs.
  4. Jump into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

Read more: Test Your Strength With These 4 Benchmark CrossFit WODs

This introductory drill teaches you the movement pattern of a muscle-up for your arms and gets you used to transitioning from below to above the rings in a controlled way.

  1. Start kneeling under the rings.
  2. Slowly pull yourself up (like a chin-up), keeping the rings as close to your body as possible.
  3. Using your feet, push off the floor and switch your hands and arms into the low-dip position. In the dip position, the rings should be touching your shoulders and your hands should be touching your ribs.
  4. Jump into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

Read more: Test Your Strength With These 4 Benchmark CrossFit WODs

2. Low Ring Muscle-Up Turnover

Man demonstrates a low ring muscle-up turnover in a CrossFit gym

Next, you need to learn the turnover part of the muscle-up, aka getting yourself to the top of the rings. This drill teaches you the starting hand position as well as how to transition to the dip position above the rings.

  1. Start with your feet under the rings.
  2. Dip your butt toward the floor, then explosively thrust your hips up toward the ceiling.
  3. When your hips reach the top of their movement peak, quickly snap your shoulders and head forward, landing in the dip position on the rings.
  4. Press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

Next, you need to learn the turnover part of the muscle-up, aka getting yourself to the top of the rings. This drill teaches you the starting hand position as well as how to transition to the dip position above the rings.

  1. Start with your feet under the rings.
  2. Dip your butt toward the floor, then explosively thrust your hips up toward the ceiling.
  3. When your hips reach the top of their movement peak, quickly snap your shoulders and head forward, landing in the dip position on the rings.
  4. Press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

3. Low Ring Seated Band Muscle-Up

Man demonstrates a low ring seated band muscle-up in a CrossFit gym

This drill simulates the floating sensation you'll feel during the muscle-up during the transition between the hip thrust and the dip position.

  1. Start by setting up a resistance band on the rings and keep your body parallel while hanging horizontally.
  2. Bounce on the band until your hips reach the top of their movement.
  3. Snap your shoulders and head forward, landing in the dip position on the rings while still seated in the band.
  4. Press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

Read more: 15 CrossFit Body-Weight Exercises to Try

This drill simulates the floating sensation you'll feel during the muscle-up during the transition between the hip thrust and the dip position.

  1. Start by setting up a resistance band on the rings and keep your body parallel while hanging horizontally.
  2. Bounce on the band until your hips reach the top of their movement.
  3. Snap your shoulders and head forward, landing in the dip position on the rings while still seated in the band.
  4. Press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

Read more: 15 CrossFit Body-Weight Exercises to Try

4. Low Ring Candlestick Turnover

Man demonstrating a low ring candlestick turnover in a CrossFit gym

When it comes to doing a full muscle-up, speed is crucial. This drill teaches the importance of hip extension and how quickly you must turn yourself over to make it above the rings.

  1. Start upside down, balancing on your shoulders with your feet over your hips and arms fully extended.
  2. Explosively throw your toes toward the floor and arch your back.
  3. As soon as you feel your toes touch the floor, quickly snap your shoulders and head forward, landing in the dip position on the rings with your knees tightly tucked beneath you.

When it comes to doing a full muscle-up, speed is crucial. This drill teaches the importance of hip extension and how quickly you must turn yourself over to make it above the rings.

  1. Start upside down, balancing on your shoulders with your feet over your hips and arms fully extended.
  2. Explosively throw your toes toward the floor and arch your back.
  3. As soon as you feel your toes touch the floor, quickly snap your shoulders and head forward, landing in the dip position on the rings with your knees tightly tucked beneath you.

5. High Ring Swings

Man demonstrates high ring swing in a CrossFit gym

Getting the hang of things yet? There are just a few more skills to master. This exercise teaches you how to initiate the swinging movement you'll need for a full muscle-up.

  1. Start hanging on the rings with your arms fully extended.
  2. Maintain a tight core as you transition between a hollow and arched body swing on the rings, trying to reach a horizontal position during the front and backswing.

Read more: 5 CrossFit Workouts You Can Do at Home (or Anywhere!)

Getting the hang of things yet? There are just a few more skills to master. This exercise teaches you how to initiate the swinging movement you'll need for a full muscle-up.

  1. Start hanging on the rings with your arms fully extended.
  2. Maintain a tight core as you transition between a hollow and arched body swing on the rings, trying to reach a horizontal position during the front and backswing.

Read more: 5 CrossFit Workouts You Can Do at Home (or Anywhere!)

6. High Ring Jumping Muscle-Up

Man demonstrates a high ring jumping muscle-up in a CrossFit gym

This drill harnesses some lower-body power to help you get up and over the rings. It also teaches you how to transition your hand position from below to above the rings and strengthens your arms with a ring dip.

  1. Start by setting up a high box directly under the rings.
  2. Standing on the box, start with your arms fully extended and lower your legs into a tucked position on the box.
  3. Pushing hard through your toes, jump up to the low-dip position on the rings.
  4. In the dip position, the rings should be touching your shoulders and your hands should be touching your ribs.
  5. Press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

This drill harnesses some lower-body power to help you get up and over the rings. It also teaches you how to transition your hand position from below to above the rings and strengthens your arms with a ring dip.

  1. Start by setting up a high box directly under the rings.
  2. Standing on the box, start with your arms fully extended and lower your legs into a tucked position on the box.
  3. Pushing hard through your toes, jump up to the low-dip position on the rings.
  4. In the dip position, the rings should be touching your shoulders and your hands should be touching your ribs.
  5. Press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

7. High Ring Banded Muscle-Up

Man demonstrates a high ring banded muscle-up in a CrossFit gym

Get used to the muscle-up movement pattern without a swing in the final exercise before you're ready to conquer the real deal.

  1. Use two resistance bands on the rings to link the rings together.
  2. Step into the bands and start with the arms fully extended hanging from the rings.
  3. Slowly pull yourself up (like a chin-up), keeping the rings as close to the body as possible.
  4. Using your feet on the bands, switch your hands and arms into the low-dip position. The rings should be touching your shoulders and your hands should be touching your ribs.
  5. Press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

Read more: 3 CrossFit Leg Workouts to Challenge Your Entire Lower Body

Get used to the muscle-up movement pattern without a swing in the final exercise before you're ready to conquer the real deal.

  1. Use two resistance bands on the rings to link the rings together.
  2. Step into the bands and start with the arms fully extended hanging from the rings.
  3. Slowly pull yourself up (like a chin-up), keeping the rings as close to the body as possible.
  4. Using your feet on the bands, switch your hands and arms into the low-dip position. The rings should be touching your shoulders and your hands should be touching your ribs.
  5. Press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

Read more: 3 CrossFit Leg Workouts to Challenge Your Entire Lower Body

8. The Full Muscle-Up

Man demonstrates a muscle-up CrossFit exercise

It's time to finally put it all together! Gather all the upper-body strength you can muster and give this exercise a shot.

  1. Start hanging on the rings with your arms fully extended.
  2. Maintaining a tight core, swing your feet back into the arched position.
  3. Swing your feet forward.
  4. When your feet get to eye level, explosively thrust your hips up toward the ceiling.
  5. When your hips reach the top of their movement, quickly snap your shoulders and head forward, landing in the dip position on the rings with your knees tucked.
  6. Press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

It's time to finally put it all together! Gather all the upper-body strength you can muster and give this exercise a shot.

  1. Start hanging on the rings with your arms fully extended.
  2. Maintaining a tight core, swing your feet back into the arched position.
  3. Swing your feet forward.
  4. When your feet get to eye level, explosively thrust your hips up toward the ceiling.
  5. When your hips reach the top of their movement, quickly snap your shoulders and head forward, landing in the dip position on the rings with your knees tucked.
  6. Press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

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