The muscle-up is a double-edged sword of an exercise. It’s incredibly effective at building upper-body strength but also, in the words of CrossFit founder Greg Glassman, “astonishingly difficult to perform…and virtually unknown.” Not to mention dangerous if done improperly. Despite its relative obscurity, the muscle-up is a seminal achievement for CrossFitters and can be realized only through stubborn insistence on proper technique. The two main factors: grip and transition. Follow our step-by-step guide to do muscle-ups correctly, then try the “Jason” WOD (below). Remember: Even with proper form, stringing together a bunch of reps still comes down to old-fashioned struggle.


1. BEGIN: While grasping the rings in a normal position, curl the wrists and point your palms toward your chest. This maneuver shortens the forearm and increases strength for the pull ahead. Kick your legs back to begin the move; the momentum you create is crucial.

2. THE THRUST: Swing your legs forward, open your hips violently, and push your head back between the rings as fast as possible. Keep your hands relatively close together and try to aim your head at a space directly between them as you pull with your lats.

3. THE TRANSITION: As your torso rises between the rings, keep your wrists and elbows in tight and your shoulders tense. Lose control of your body during this portion of the move and you open yourself up to all kinds of potential injuries, especially to your shoulders. 

4. THE LOCKOUT: Once you’re here, the final portion of the exercise is executed exactly like a dip, albeit with a significant stability component. Keep your hands at your hips, both for safety and to ensure that your triceps can generate power to lock out.


“Jason” comprises simultaneous alternating and descending ladders: Air (body-weight) squats start at 100 reps but decrease in increments of 25. Meanwhile, muscle-ups start at five reps and increase in increments of five. Complete for time. Keep rest at a minimum.


Air Squat     100

Muscle-up   5

Air Squat     75

Muscle-up   10

Air Squat     50

Muscle-up   15

Air Squat     25

Muscle-up   20


Rob Orlando: A strongman and CrossFit athlete, Orlando owns Hybrid Athletics in Stamford, CT.