Extreme Training: From Pull Ups To Muscle Ups

Mastering the pull up is already a feat in itself.

From the days of dead-hanging with your legs kicking and your shoulders feeling like they're going to break, to finally being able to get your chin to the bar – it's definitely a journey.

And from your first pull up, you're hooked. They become your main focus, you want to get better at them and before you know it, you're doing pull ups in your sleep.

So, if you've got a slight pull up bar addiction, you've probably already started thinking about the next step: the muscle up. The muscle up is one of the ultimate exercises. And it requires a really good amount of upper body strength.

Ready to take your pull up to new heights? Head over to the bar and follow these steps for transforming your pull up into one of the greatest exercises of them all.

Starting out

Muscle ups are a step up from the pull up but they require a completely different approach. They are the next level but don't think if them as an extension to the pull up. They are a new move altogether.

So, just like you trained for the pull up. Now's your chance to take what you've learnt and progress your knowledge.

Strength isn't the only part of doing a muscle up. However, you will need a good starting point to progress with. Before you begin your muscle up training, make sure you can do at least 10 straight pull ups and around 20 straight bar dips, just to ensure you have enough to start out with.

Another thing you'll need to remember as you progress is that muscle ups are very much about power as well as strength. This means incorporating speed into your training so not only can you do pull ups, but that you can do them quickly and that you're more explosive with your movements.

Incorporating this level of power into your pull ups will eventually allow you to get the bar to chest height rather than just chin height. Which in turn will help you progress to the muscle up.

Focusing each step of the muscle up

If you divide the muscle up into different stages – from dead-hanging to pushing yourself up from the bar at the end – you'll see there are certain elements that present challenges along the way. It's rare to see someone go straight into a muscle up without any practice.

So, rather than jumping straight into trying to launch yourself over the bar, break it down and work on each bit until you have the strength and technique clean enough to move onto the next stage.

Pull ups


Firstly make sure you're really comfortable doing an active hang. So as you jump up and grab the bar, push your shoulders down and lift yourself up slightly so that your arms are slightly bent. Many people rely on momentum for their pull ups and this is part of the chain that doesn't get targeted.

Remember to leave your ego at the door and address every element of the pull up before you try to progress. You'll really benefit from doing this later on.


Next you want to make sure your pull ups aren't just strong but they're quick too. This will help you build up your power and explosivity which is key for muscle ups. If this is proving difficult, take it back a step and start to develop your speed using a resistance band.

You're training your nervous system so think less about the weight and more about getting your chest to the bar as fast as you can. This is also a good time to mention that your rests should be longer in between sets as you want to make sure you're pushing yourself to the max each time.

Try around three minute rests, or if that's not enough, just until you're fully recovered. As soon as you start to lose height, stop. You're not training to failure or anything like that. This is about practising getting a few explosive bursts in each time to develop your speed and power.


Muscle ups aren't about going straight up towards the bar like you would with a traditional pull up. To be able to do them, you're aiming to do a C shape.

So, think about pushing your body back, up and over, rather than just up and down. The first part of doing this is being able to push your body back and you'll want to get some swing behind you to be able to achieve this.

  • Start by standing about a foot behind the bar – if you start directly under it, you wont be able to swing forward.
  • Once you grab the bar, swing your body forwards so your feet are reaching around a foot to tow feet in front of the bar as you move forwards. Keep your body straight, this isn't a leg movement, it's a full body movement. You want your body to angle so that as your legs move forward, you stay straight and your chest is angled at a slight decline.
  • When you get comfortable doing this you want to start to develop the initial push into a muscle up. This means that as your feet get to their farthest point in front of you, tuck your knees up into your chest and back down.
  • These moves need to be explosive so keep the reps low and the recovery periods long.

Jumping muscle ups

Next comes the middle part – this includes the transition from pull up to muscle up as you move from pulling up to pushing up. As always, it's best to start with a little bit of help and get the motion right as you gradually remove the supports.

Start on a weight bench so the bar is much closer to you. Grab the bar, squat down so that your arms are straight and then push up using the bench to get yourself up and around.

Then you can complete the muscle up with the final push up at the end. You're aiming to use your upper body rather than your legs but the weight bench will help give you a boost as you start out.

Practise moving your wrist position from being below to over the bar. At the same time, remember the C shape. You're not moving straight up, you're aiming to curve your chest over the bar, so the last bit looks more like a hanging push up.

Straight bar dips

Next comes the top bit – the push up. Practising these will help get you used to raising your body above the bar as well as strengthen your anterior chain.

Negative muscle ups


Next come negative muscle ups – using an explosive movement to get to the top position, and then slowly bring yourself back down. This will help you target each step individually as well as build strength in all the key areas.

Improving your muscle up

It's natural for anyone new to muscle ups to employ momentum to get themselves up and over the bar. As you begin your muscle up, you will find lifting your knees into your chest helps to reduce the amount that you're working against gravity.

As you get stronger, you want to aim to clean up your muscle up by keeping your legs down and straight. The less you kick the more actual strength and power you're using rather than momentum.

Pro tip: if you find yourself doing your muscle up one arm at a time, you need to target your weak points. Hooking one arm over and then the other is nicknamed chicken wing – don't chicken wing.

Keep targeting your power, speed and break down the movements so you can strengthen each link in the chain.

Already mastered the muscle up? Show us how you do yours on Instagram and Facebook @mirafitofficial.