What is the ideal exercise foundation that will prepare me to for muscleups? Some ideas I am considering are:

  • Losing weight until my BMI is well under 25
  • Weighted dips
  • Weighted pull ups
  • Negatives
  • Overhead press
  • Jumping pull ups
  • Dead hangs

Anything I am missing? Which is most important? My BMI is about 26 right now and I can complete about 12 consecutive pull ups at the moment. Which grip(s) should I be using?

I a not a cross fitter so my goal is not a "kipping muscleup". I can do that already with no training.

  • 1
    Can you clarify whether you are attempting ring or bar muscle ups?
    – michael
    Jun 1 '16 at 18:18

All of the exercises you listed are good, and of course, reducing body weight is helpful as well. However, the most difficult part of the strict muscle up is the transition between the pull-up and the dip, and the best way to train this movement is to do it. Like any other exercise, you will improve by working through a progression. If you wanted to increase your bench press, you might do different number of sets at different weights. You can do the same with muscle ups by using a pulley system.

Place a pulley above your ring setup. Connect a rope through the pulley with one end of the rope lifting a set of weights that is easily changeable. Connect the other end to a climbing harness, or just create loop to sit on or wrap around under your arms. Do a variety of sets over time, decreasing the weights on the pulleys and therefore increasing the weight you are using for the muscle up.

My favorite part about this approach is that you can measure your progress in real numbers to see how you are improving, and how close you are to an unassisted muscle-up, rather than just feeling like you might be getting closer. If you want to continue with some of your listed exercises, also add in a piece where you specifically work back and forth through the transition point without doing pull-ups or dips.

As far as grip goes, you must use a false grip. There is no other way to get through the transition at strict muscle-up speeds. However, the false grip can be painful, and you don't necessarily need to use it every time you are training; just when you go through the transition.


What you've laid out actually looks like a well laid out plan for your goal, so good job for that. I'll just throw my few cents in for additional tips.

  • Losing weight will certainly help you with pretty much every bodyweight exercise, however it's very important that you maintain most of the muscle you already have. Consume adequate protein (about a gram per lbs of bodyweight you have) and make sure you don't train fasted.

  • Weighted bodyweight movements are great for developing power, make sure you are progressing in some form. The progress can be increasing the weight, increasing the reps, or just the total volume that you can handle (reps x sets x weight). Also, it's very important that you understand that your body will recover from bodyweight exercises faster than major muscle weight training exercises (squats, deadlifts, etc). Therefore I HIGHLY suggest that you do these movements (pullups and dips) with a lot of frequency (at least twice a week), if you find that you're recovering ok, I would even increase this upto 3 or 4. Basically, with any sport, practice makes perfect. So if you want to do muscle ups, you MUST practice the two main movements, the pullup, and the dip, as often as you can, in a smart manner.

  • The assistance work that you listed are fine, but make sure you don't overdo them. For example, don't do negatives too often, as they are just a way to shock the muscle group, and overdoing them will set you back more than anything. There's actually a few studies of beginners working out with straight sets as opposed to shock techniques such as supersets and negatives, and the first group gained at least 30% more strength and size. So, just stick to the basics, make sure you get your pullups and dips down right, and do them often, you can add assistance work once or twice a week.

  • As a final note, the grip that you should be using is what you are most comfortable with, it is as simple as that. Everyone's built a bit differently so one grip that works for someone might not be the best option for you.

To conclude and make sure you really understand what I'm trying to say. If you want to do muscleups, you absolutely MUST master the basic fundamental movements first (dips and pullup variations). Do them as often as your body lets you, at LEAST twice a week (maybe once with weights for strength focus, and once focusing on high reps for muscle size and endurance). DON'T rely on the assistance work, practice your sport; do your pullups and dips and do them well, ONCE you stop progressing in these movements, find out where your weaknesses are and incorporate the assistance movements accordingly. For example, if you find out that as you're doing your pullups, your grip is slowing you down, THEN incorporate some dead hangs and grip work. You know the cliche, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If you're finding that you can't push yourself up when you get to the top, work on overhead press, work on getting stronger triceps with DIRECT TRICEPS work, close grip bench, anything...

I will say it once again, if you want to do muscle ups (i.e an explosive pullup into a dip), then you must do exactly that. Pullups and dips, as best as you possibly can as often as you can. It's the same with any sport, if you wanna get better at golfing, you go to the pitch and you practice your swing, you play golf!

  • -1 There are some problems with your answer. Negatives are not "just a way to shock the muscle group", they are eccentric exercises which strengthen connective tissue. Putting them in the same category as supersets is a misunderstanding of what is happening inside the body. Also the grip should be "what you are most comfortable with"? How are you going to do a muscle up without the false grip? It is physically impossible, because of the wrist position, to transition without it.
    – michael
    Jun 1 '16 at 17:54
  • @michael First, since I've done them without a false grip, it is clearly not impossible, I'm talking from experience not bro science. If you look around the internet you will indeed find many people who can do this. Moreover, I was referring more to grip width anyways, probably should have been more clear, my bad. Second, what I meant was, negatives should only be introduced to shock the muscle. Doing negatives every workout is an easy way to get injured and never recover. You incorporate negatives, once you stop progressing with regular methods, in order to introduce new stimulus (shock). Jun 1 '16 at 18:05
  • @michael additionally, not using your thumb in the grip will reduce your total muscle activity (via the brachialis) and hence you will effectively pull with slightly less force. What would be optimal is to do the pullup with your thumb, and quickly transition into a false grip at the top. Jun 1 '16 at 18:10
  • Please give me a link to someone doing a strict muscle up without false grip. That would be impressive, but I'm willing to be wrong. I'm also guessing you are talking about bar muscle ups, while I am talking about ring muscle ups; I have asked the poster for clarification. Eccentric exercises can also be used to prevent and correct injury when used correctly. It appears that you downvoted me for revenge, which is a complete misuse of this site.
    – michael
    Jun 1 '16 at 18:23
  • @michael You really believe in getting revenge on the internet lol ? I downvoted simply because you said "you must use a false grip", key word being "must". I don't think it's good to specify only one way of performing a movement in fitness. Although, I AM talking about bar muscle ups and not ring ones, so you might have a point there. I figured a bar is more accessible. Jun 1 '16 at 18:29

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