The strict ring muscle-up is one of the first skills that most people set their sights on achieving when looking into calisthenics/crossfit/movement culture. It demonstrates a proficient base level of strength and skill and is a foundation for building up to more advanced exercises as it is a transition from below to above the rings.
In order to achieve this skill you must be proficient in the following elements:
- False Grip Ring Chin Ups
- Ring Dips
- Transition strength
For those participating in Crossfit it is imperative that you have these strength pre-requisites to perform a strict muscle-up as well as a few quality reps on the strict muscle-up prior to performing the kipping muscle-up as you will develop the necessary ligament and tendon strength around your upper extremity to handle the larger forces associated with the kipping version. Let’s take a look at how you can progress towards these skills and what path you might take to get there:
Let’s look at the false grip ring chin first, you need to master two components:
- False grip;
- And ring chins
If you are following along with this you most likely know what the false grip is, if not have a look here where there is a very good explanation of what it is and how to get into it. Try to work the false grip in 15s holds and progress through the following from easiest to hardest:
- Arms bent hands near chest
- Arms bent half way point
- Arms near lockout – hands turned forward
- Arms locked out – hands turned out
To progress up to ring chins go through the following progressions performing 5 sets of 5 reps before going to the next progression:
- Ring Rows
- Chest to Bar Chin Ups or Pull Ups
- Ring Chins
Now that you have fulfilled these prerequisites you will have built the appropriate pulling strength required for the muscle-up. Make sure you put these elements together and can perform 5 sets of 5 reps of the false grip chin up and you are there.
Next we will look at the ring dip, like the chin up we want to work towards 5 sets of 5 reps of strict ring dips where our biceps touch the rings on each rep. Go through the same process as our pulling strength following these progressions:
- Push Ups (chest touches floor)
- Ring Push Ups (Rings touch biceps)
- Ring Dips
Ensure you use full range of motion on all of these progressions as you will need strength right at the bottom of the dip to press up out of the transition in the muscle-up. If you don’t train it, it won’t be there!
The missing link in most muscle-up training programs is working on the transition from the false grip ring chin to the ring dip, this can make or break weather you get your muscle-up or not! In order to work on this transitional movement we will want to take the majority of our weight off our hands and start to pattern the movement in order for our brain to get used to it. Start at the bottom of the ring dip with your feet directly below the rings and, using your feet to hold some weight, transition down to where you would be at the top of the false grip chin up with your hands touching your chest. Now pull/push yourself back to the bottom of the ring dip and repeat to get used to this motion. As you get more confident in this movement you can start to take some weight off your feet and progress to full bodyweight negatives (only doing the lowering portion) and then full bodyweight reps!
Most coaches and athletes who go about trying to achieve a muscle-up for themselves or their clients go about it with no rhyme or reason or try to teach others without ever doing it themselves! The pre-requisites and progressions outlined above will give you a good roadmap on your way to achieving your first muscle-up and then many, many more! In saying this, there will be challenges and plateaus along the way that you will need to overcome and this is where having a coach who has navigated the process and helped others navigate the process can be a huge asset.
This could mean the difference between taking 2-6 weeks to get the muscle-up (depending on where you are currently), to being frustrated for months or years! For me personally the ring muscle-up was exactly this, extremely frustrating, until I attended a seminar with movement master Ido Portal who taught me this basic system and was able to tweak the little things necessary to get to my first successful muscle-up only 3 weeks after.