The Best Bar Muscle Up Assistance Drills

The bar muscle-up can be a difficult skill to master as it requires significant strength and coordination. Many athletes spend months working on learning the bar muscle-up with limited success or poor technique that rapidly falls apart mid-WOD.

Gymnastics expert Pamela Gagnon has a number of tips for improving technique and exercises that will build your bar muscle-up specific strength and technique.

She has also built a 5-week Bar Muscle-Up plan that has helped thousands of athletes inside of our app, Performance Plus Programming. We would love for you to be the next athlete to finally knock the BMU off your goals list!

Video #1: Understanding Positioning & Mobility for the Bar Muscle-Up

The first step in learning the bar muscle-up is understanding the technique of the movement so that as you work BMU drills, you understand their purpose.

Bar Muscle Up Assistance Drills


We use this drill for athletes that tend to pull into the bar (ouch!) instead of engaging lats by pulling around & down.⁣

  • This is a muscle memory drill.⁣
  • Athletes are required to do both steps so they start to feel the right body position & muscles to engage.⁣


  • Make sure you start with a great “overgrip” or meaty grip (don’t grip from the fingers).
  • As you pull around from the arch into the hollow lat pull down notice the wrist position and transition of wrists from the pull into the press position. We want to create wrist flexion in order to transition into the support position that the Bar Muscle Up requires.




This drill does not have the athlete go to support position so they can focus on building muscle memory on each position before heading into support. Many athletes rush to support and this is where we tend to see the chicken wing.

So, what is this drill good for?

  • It can help you “feel” how to get your hips closer to the bar.
    • Notice we don’t drive our body into an arch after the pullback into hollow…
    • Toes come slightly up AND then we SQUEEZE glutes to open hip to neutral.
  • You have the pulling strength BUT pull INTO the bar instead of AROUND THE BAR.
    • This will help train the straight arm pull mechanic.
    • Notice my grip is “meaty” and rotates as we pull higher.


  • This is a tight and controlled swing.
  • Pressing down the entire skill
  • Did we mention my body is TIGHT?! Tension is key!

Time to get rid of the chicken wing! Over time, long-term damage & pain can/will be an issue when settling for this “technique.”



This teaches the athlete how to keep tension from the arch into the hollow, all the way through to the support position at the top of the Bar Muscle-Up.

  1. For the set-up, plates should be in line with the center of the hips.
  2. To begin, stretch into a tight arch while squeezing glutes. Only shoulders and heels will be on the ground.
  3. As you “snap” into the hollow you want to make sure that the chest leads so the feet don’t fly up higher than the chest or start to move before the upper trunk begins to create the hollow support position.
  4. As you hit the support position, press down aggressively on plates to mimic the support that you will create on the Bar Muscle Up.


Need more detailed help with your Bar Muscle-Ups? Check out our Bar Muscle Up Program

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Bar Muscle Up Assistance Drills Video Transcript

Let’s talk about the Bar Muscle-Up and the two most common faults that I see as a coach.

The first one is going to be your grip.

A lot of people jump on to the bar more in a fingertip grip. Remember to wrap those thumbs for safety. You don’t want to be on your fingertips. Instead, you want to be into your palm so you have almost that over-grip position.

When you have this position, knuckles will be towards the ceiling. Instead of this fingertip grip where your knuckles are facing the wall behind you.

This will set you up for an easier transition, almost think of it like a false-grip in your Muscle-Up.

A drill to fix that is, get like a box adjusting your hand to an over-grip, coming down and then just hanging in that type of position, seeing if you can hold by squeezing the fingers and thumbs around that bar. Holding down in a hollow position. The second you slide into your fingers, just jump down and restart.

It’s basically working on some core arm strength that will help a lot in your Bar Muscle-Up.

That’s one thing to work on.

The second most common fault I see is people rushing to get up to the bar.

They forget about the second portion after the arch is that hollow pull-down.

Instead of, from the arch going right … pulling into the bar, what I want you guys to do is come from the arch and pull down, around the bar, straight arms as long as possible.

So there are two drills I really like to address this.

First, you could use a box and it’s just, work on the patience in that straight-arm hollow position. So, we’re gonna come to that arch, making sure our grip is in an over-grip. Then waiting and pulling down, never bending your arms. This is a true straight-arm drill. You notice when I pull down, my body also is in that hollow position, making for an easier transition up to the top of the rep. If I pull down in this arch, now I’m further away from the bar, I’m gonna have a much more difficult time until I can hold into position for the bar muscle-up.

The second drill that will help you guys with that straight arm stretch for the bar muscle-up. You’re gonna grab a PVC and a band.  Then lockdown that hollow position. Tug on the band and then you’re gonna pull down and hold the tension for 3-2-1. Then you’re gonna come back up, pull down, hold the tension 3-2-1. You can see my triceps are lit, my arms are completely straight, my butt’s squeezed, my ribs are tucked in, my eyesight is neutral.

What this is doing is basically teaching your body to be patient in that hold before you rush to the top. So think of it just like a snatch, you don’t want to pull from position two, you really want to pull that bar in a snatch into position one and then fire up.

It’s the exact same thing with gymnastics movements. You can’t skip a step in order to finish your movement.

The hollow body position in the bar muscle-up

So from a mobility standpoint, we go from that hollow position to the arch position in the Bar Muscle Up. It’s really important that athletes have the ability to really open their shoulders up to get into as good a position as possible, to create that momentum.

So here’s good test to screen your shoulders and see if that’s something you need to be working on.

Pamela’s gonna hold her arms out at about the same grip that she’d be going her Bar Muscle-Up in. Her palms are faced upward, she’s gonna grab a PVC pipe and right now she’s got her back flat against the ground, for some people, they’ll have a little space between their back. That doesn’t matter, what really matters here is that we keep the same amount of back contact as we reach our arms overhead. We’re basically gonna see, “Can you make contact with your hands on the wall, without your elbows bending, or back coming off the wall?”

If you’ve got that, you’ve got great should mobility to get to the Bar Muscle-Up positions. If not, addressing some mobility of your shoulders is going to help you out a lot in positioning.