Top Five Drills to Improve Your Muscle Ups

Top Five Drills to Improve Your Muscle Ups

Muscle Up Series Part 2 – Transitional Movement Drills

Once an athlete has demonstrated competency in all the Muscle Up Framework Movements presented in Part I of this series, combining these movements will allow the athlete to learn the muscle up utilizing proper movement patterns. Mastering the drills presented in this series will help one become extremely efficient in their muscle up technique and will help with long-term development of their muscle up strength. 

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Kipping Muscle Up Transitions


Ring Swing -> Ring Row / Pull Up -> Low Dip Hang -> Dip Up

The following drills will teach athletes to move through the most difficult portions of the muscle up with ease. With emphasis focused on transitioning from the Row to Dip position, these drills all have their own individual focus to help an athlete bring success in their muscle up training. The goal of this series is to help combine each of the drills fluidly with the framework movements to have the ability to perform a muscle up that is efficient. This will be important, not only getting one muscle up, but being able to link multiple with less fatigue.



Transitional Movement Drill #1 – Shoulder Roll to Low Dip Hang

Transitional Drill 1

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This drill’s goal is to help develop the awareness of where the rings need to be during the muscle up and how to get them there. While standing, the athlete is able to comfortably control their speed while learning to understand the movement pattern.

Step 1 – Hold the Rings at about chest height with the athlete’s preferable choice of grip. NOTE: A false grip allows for easier transition when first learning.

Step 2 – From a low squat, the athlete will stand up or jump while doing a pull up to their chest, followed by quickly bringing their shoulders forward to a low dip hang.

Step 3 – Slowly return to a low squat, feeling where the rings are in relation to your body during the entire reverse motion.

Tip #1 – When performing the transition, try and bring your shoulders as far forward as possible while getting into low dip hang, remembering to keep the rings as close as possible to your body.

Tip #2 – Practice the movement with increased speed or a jump if able. This will most closely mimic a real time kipping muscle up. NOTE: If jumping, raise the rings to an appropriate height.

Tip #3 – When comfortable, try and catch the Low Dip Hang with both feet off the ground to understand how much strength you will need to hold and catch this position with no support.


Transitional Movement Drill #2 – Bouncing Ring Row to Low Dip Hang

Transitional Drill 2

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The goal of this drill is to help an athlete develop whole body awareness of what is required to get from a row position to the top of the rings. Being able to use a band allows one to unweight themselves and put the focus purely on the transition.

Step 1 – Standing with the rings at hip level grab the band in each hand prior to holding on to the rings.

Step 2 – Lay the band below the glutes and hang down at the bottom of the row position.

Step 3 – After 2-3 bouncing rows, as the athlete is pulling themselves up, they are to flex their hips and bring their shoulders forward at the same time continuing into the Low Dip Hang.

Tip #1 – Use bands with high resistance that allows one to easily unweight their body when doing this drill. When the athlete feels comfortable, decrease the resistance to rely more on your own body to generate the power.

Tip #2 – The athlete should focus on flexing their hips by bringing your upper body forward and not lower body backward. This will allow an athlete to keep their center of mass in front upon catching into the Low Dip Hang.


Transitional Movement Drill #3 – Ring Swing to Ring Row Transition

Transitional Drill 3

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This drill is an extension of the Ring Swing Drill explained in Part 1 of the Muscle up Series with the goal of maintaining form on the ring swing and being able to combine it with a strong row pull.

Step 1 – From a long hang, the athlete will use their core and lower body to start the swing to prevent the rings from swinging back and forth.

Step 2 – In the front swing the athlete with kick with their toes up, keeping their eyes one their toes, while pulling their shoulders back maintaining a tight hollow position.

Step 3 – As one is performing the front swing, they are to maintain the hollow position and bend their arms into a ring row with no break in momentum. The athlete will then continue into a solid back swing and repeat the row in the front for 5-10 reps.

NOTE: Some athletes prefer to perform the muscle up with bent knees. This can be done with the same body position as explained above with the slight difference of leading the kick with their knees out front.


Transitional Movement Drill #4 – Lower Body Kipping Transition

Transitional Drill 4

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This drill will help an athlete understand how to use their lower body to kip during the front swing. Doing a kip and timing it perfectly with their front swing to ring row will be crucial in getting the first muscle up and one that is efficient.

Step 1 – With the rings low, the athlete will lay on their back with their knees and hips flexed. With their choice of grip, they will hang onto the rings with arms straight and shoulders flexed 90 degrees.

Step 2 – The athlete with then flex their hips slightly followed by quick and powerful hip/knee extension with their feet directed forward at a 45-degree angle.

Step 3 – Immediately after the kip, the athlete will bend their arms and bring their shoulders up and forward to the low hang dip.


Transitional Movement #5 – Upper Body Kipping transition

Transitional Drill 5

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The goal of this movement is to allow the athlete to understand how to use their upper body as the sole source of gaining momentum. With this body awareness developed in addition to all other drills, they will be able to enhance all the other transitions to the low dip hang.

Step 1 – Set up two boxes at a height that allows an athlete’s knees to not be touching the floor as they support yourself on themselves on their forearms.

Step 2 – They will then slowly lean their shoulders back, followed by a quick kip forward.

Step 3 – As they are kipping forward, the goal is to turn your shoulders over bringing your elbows up quickly ending in a low hang dip and finishing the dip.

Tip #1 – Try and minimize the use of the lower body when kipping yourself forward during this drill.

Tip #2 – If the goal is to get your strict muscle up, focus a majority of transition practice on this movement.


Putting It All Together

When one has developed the strength, flexibility, and technique in all the Drills and Progressions from Part 1 and Part 2 of the muscle up series, attempting the full muscle up is the next step. Everyone moves their own body differently and prefers their own way of moving, so adjustments will need to be made based off feel after several attempts at full muscle ups.

It is a good idea to practice the full muscle up after several weeks of training your Framework Movement Circuits and practicing the Transitional Movement Drills. This will allow your body to become aware of how it all fits together, but it is important to not forget about the basics. Even after an athlete gets their first muscle up and are even able to link multiple, it is very important to continue to improve the framework and transitional movements to create the most efficient muscle up possible.



Zach Aguiar is currently a Doctor of Physical Therapy student at the University of Massachusetts – Lowell and will be graduating May 2016.   Zach has an extensive background in gymnastics, starting from the age of 8 and went on to compete in college as a member of the NCAA Division 1 Temple Owls from 2009-2013. Zach was a 4X Junior Olympics National Championships Qualifier, member of the 2012 and 2013 ECAC Conference Champion teams at Temple, and competed Rings for Temple at the 2012 NCAA Championships. Zach started Crossfit in December of 2015 and is a member of Crossfit Merrimack located in Lowell, MA.

If you have any questions about specific drills or how to develop the best circuit to maximize your potential, email Zach at, comment on Instagram @zach_aguiar or on twitter @zach_aguiar.

Follow Zach on Instagram and Twitter for continued gymnastic drills/skills and physical therapy techniques for CrossFit athletes.