How to Tackle One of CrossFit's Hardest Exercises

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You might be strong, but are you muscle-up strong? This gymnastics-inspired CrossFit exercise is even harder than the pull-up and requires an insane amount of upper-body strength and core control. You’re basically pulling your full body weight from a dead hang on the rings until you’re perched up over the rings, supporting your full weight with your arms. But while mastering a muscle-up can seem intimidating, with these seven prep exercises, you’ll be on the fast track to a full muscle-up.

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Low Ring Kneeling Muscle-Up

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First things first: This drill teaches you the movement pattern of the arms and how it feels to transition from below to above the rings in a controlled way. HOW TO DO IT: Start kneeling under the rings. Slowly pull yourself up (like a chin-up), keeping the rings as close to your body as possible. 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. Then jump into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

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Low Ring Muscle-Up Turnover

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Next, you need to learn the turnover part of the muscle-up (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. HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet under the rings. Dip your butt toward the floor, then explosively thrust your hips up toward the ceiling. 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. Then press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

Related: 13 Gymnastics Exercises to Unleash Your Inner Child

3

Low Ring Seated Band Muscle-Up

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Floating sounds easy, but as you’ve likely discovered, there’s nothing easy about a muscle-up. This drill simulates the floating during the muscle-up, which is how your body will feel during the transition between the hip thrust and the dip position during a full muscle-up. HOW TO DO IT: Start by setting up a resistance band on the rings and keep your body parallel while hanging horizontally. Next, bounce on the band until your hips reach the top of their movement. Then, snap your shoulders and head forward, landing in the dip position on the rings while still seated in the band. Then press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

Related: 10 Resistance-Band Exercises to Tone and Tighten

4

Low Ring Candlestick Turnover

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When it comes to doing a full muscle-up, speed is name of the game. This drill teaches the importance of hip extension and how quickly you must turn yourself over during the muscle-up to make it above the rings. HOW TO DO IT: Start upside down, balancing on your shoulders with your feet over your hips and arms fully extended. From there, explosively throw your toes toward the floor and arch your back. 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.

Related: Join LIVESTRONG.COM’s free workout program, STRONGER

5

High Ring Swings

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Are you getting the hang of things yet? There are just a few more skills to master. This exercise strengthens the swinging movement and will teach you how to initiate a swing for the full muscle-up. HOW TO DO IT: Start hanging on the rings with your arms fully extended. 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.

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6

High Ring Jumping Muscle-Up

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This drill harnesses some lower-body power to help you get up and over the rings. It also teaches you how to transition hand position from below to above the rings and strengthens your arms with a ring dip. HOW TO DO IT: Start by setting up a high box directly under the rings. Standing on the box, start with your arms fully extended and lower your legs into a tucked position on the box. Pushing hard through your toes, jump up to the low-dip position on the rings. In the dip position, the rings should be touching your shoulders and your hands should be touching your ribs. Then press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

Related: Join LIVESTRONG.COM’s free workout program, STRONGER

7

High Ring Banded Muscle-Up

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One last exercise to prep you before the full muscle-up! This strengthens the muscle-up movement pattern without a swing. HOW TO DO IT: Use two resistance bands on the rings to link the rings together. Step into the bands and start with the arms fully extended hanging from the rings. From there, slowly pull yourself up (like a chin-up), keeping the rings as close to the body as possible. 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. Then press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core.

Related: Resistance Band Exercises With Ashley Borden

8

The Full Muscle-Up

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Ready for the real thing? It’s time to finally put it all together! Gather all the upper-body strength you can muster and give this exercise a shot. HOW TO DO IT: Start hanging on the rings with your arms fully extended. Maintaining a tight core, swing your feet back into the arched position. Next, swing your feet forward. When your feet get to eye level, explosively thrust your hips up toward the ceiling. 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. Then press into the front-support position on the rings with locked-out elbows and a tight core. That’s it -- you’ve completed a muscle-up!

Related: 16 Essential CrossFit Moves

What Do YOU Think?

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Have you ever attempted a muscle-up? What exercises did you do to help you prep for it? What do you think of these exercises? Will you try any of them before you attempt your next muscle-up? What other exercises do you do to build your upper-body strength? Share your thoughts, suggestions and questions in the comments section below!

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Overview

You might be strong, but are you muscle-up strong? This gymnastics-inspired CrossFit exercise is even harder than the pull-up and requires an insane amount of upper-body strength and core control. You’re basically pulling your full body weight from a dead hang on the rings until you’re perched up over the rings, supporting your full weight with your arms. But while mastering a muscle-up can seem intimidating, with these seven prep exercises, you’ll be on the fast track to a full muscle-up.

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