If you can’t perform a muscle-up, you’re not alone. But it’s a move worth mastering, according to Deuce Wright, a CrossFit Level 3–certified coach at CrossFit Steele Creek in Charlotte, NC, who praises the many benefits of this muscle-builder. “The muscle-up is a high-skill, functional movement,” says Wright, “which requires both upper-body pulling and pushing strength.”

Rooted in gymnastics, the muscle-up is all about technique and core stability, as you pull yourself up from a dead hang and into a fully extended position on the rings or over the bar.

To achieve your first muscle-up, start on the rings. “This way you’re able to get into a solid false grip,” says Wright, “which helps smooth out the transfer into the dip and doesn’t require you to pull quite as high.”
Before technique comes into play, though, you need to be strong enough to perform it.

For false grip, grip the bar or ring without wrapping your thumb around it. This will allow for a smoother transition at the top of the muscle-up.

Wright’s prerequisites are as follows:

  • 2-3 strict chest-to-bar pullups
  • 5 strict ring dips
  • 2-3 strict ring pullups w/ false grip

For the bar version, Wright says, “the first step is being able to pull your chest as high above the bar as possible, and then act as if you’re performing the biggest situp of your life during the transition into the dip.”

If you’re training toward a muscle-up, use the below routine designed by Wright. Once the prerequisites are achieved, doing one or more muscle-ups becomes a matter of practicing technique—specifically, the transition between the pullup and the dip, as well as establishing a good false grip.

The workout

  1. Pullup with 3-second static chest-to-bar hold (6 sets of 3)
  2. Ring dip with 5-second static hold at top (6 sets of 3)
  3. Bar dip (3 sets of 5)