I am working on developing the muscle-up: http://www.beastskills.com/tutorials/tutorials/53.

I can perform a muscle-up at speed, but I am working at making the transition from pull-up to dip as slow as possible without relying on momentum generated in the earlier stages of the pull.

By performing an assisted pull-up with 'straight arms' (an open elbow) I can simulate the the motion of slowly transitioning to the dip phase of the motion. I can rise in a straight arm pull-up slowly to a point where my elbows are level with my hands with around -26kg of assistance, at a bodyweight of 72kg. My standard pull-ups are reasonable strong but do not take me as high as I imagine necessary for a slow muscle-up.

What is the most effective way to develop the necessary strength at the top of the pull?

I feel that the benefits from performing standard pull-ups are plateauing in terms of developing strength at this range of motion.

Should I:

  • Work muscle-ups at speed without assistance, using the momentum to transition?
  • Work straight arm pull-ups with assistance (and if so what progression should I aim for, e.g. static holds, reduced assistance)?
  • Build strength through some other movements (e.g. pull-down)?

I'm not entirely sure what muscle groups are involved during the slow transition. It feels like my biceps and triceps are engaged antagonistically to hold the arm straight, and that some muscles under my arm pit and sides of my thorax are tensed when performing the movement.

I suspect a variety of exercises in conjunction will be useful to improve this.

  • By "at speed" do you mean kipping? – Megasaur Apr 16 '11 at 11:37
  • Any update, did you manage to do it? I'd be interested if Greg's advice worked (though I suspect it did)? I also think that doing sternum pull-ups (touch your chest to the bar) would be useful in working on muscle-ups, though I'm not sure it'd help with the transition in particular. – VPeric Sep 6 '11 at 8:52

I'm always a believer in training a skill by practicing that skill, or as close to it as you can come, rather than something different that seems complimentary. Certainly the transition from pull-up to dip is the hardest part of a muscle-up, and I believe that it is at least as much technique as it is strength: when I was learning muscle-ups I found that I was able to get them rather suddenly when something "clicked" about making that transition, rather than gradually coming closer and closer as I got stronger.

So, I'd suggest doing them as you can - quickly, for now - and just trying to focus on gradually slowing down. You can still train the negative slowly.

  • All good points, and 'get good at x by doing x' is certainly a good rule of thumb. I just wonder whether I am in some sense wasting time and energy doing the lower part of the pull, and that perhaps I could more efficiently train that separately. – silasdavis Apr 12 '11 at 14:11
  • You're right about the negatives too. I tend to pop into the muscle-up one arm slightly before the other, in effect one arm supports the other's transition. Do you think it is worthwhile to do muscle-ups this way? – silasdavis Apr 12 '11 at 14:13
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    I think proper technique is usually critical for the long run. I would focus on an even "pop", even if it means you can do fewer of them for now. Once you have the technique down, strength will come through repetition. – G__ Apr 12 '11 at 15:23
  • This was exactly my experience with muscleups as well — went from not being able to do them at all, to being able to do a complete rep with no trouble – jamesnvc Apr 12 '11 at 20:17
  • I shall try both of your ideas today and report back. A slight problem with the stack exchange model and these sorts of questions is it's hard to accept an answer because a) I won't know for some time, and b) multiple answers might be quite correct. Thanks though, I've upvoted both. – silasdavis Apr 13 '11 at 9:39

I was able to go from not being able to do a single muscle-up to being able to do 5 or 6 at a slow pace by practicing close-hand pullups (i.e. pullups with your hands close enough to be touching).

  • Really, do you have any thoughts on why this helped? On a split bar I can see that having your hands close together would prevent you from rising 'through' the bar. – silasdavis Apr 12 '11 at 14:03
  • I think it was because the close pullup was developing the muscles I needed to get myself over the bar, which is probably the hardest part; prior to that all my exercises had been targeting larger muscle groups, and so didn't really get me anywhere. – jamesnvc Apr 12 '11 at 20:19

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