6 Best Drills To Get Your First Strict Muscle Up

The correct (and incorrect) drills you should be doing now to get your muscle up.

The CrossFit Open is rapidly approaching. It's just four weeks away if you're into that functional fitness stuff :)!

If you haven't been already hitting False Grips for some tuning up of the muscle up technique, I'd highly recommend it! The rings have been on hiatus the past couple of years during the Open and we are expecting them to return this year. Although, nobody knows for sure what Dave Castro has up his sleeves!

In either case, I wanted to take a moment to run through some of our correct and incorrect ways to use False Grips. Not only to maximize return on your time, but to keep you safe while training!

Here are the correct drills to be doing on the rings with your False Grips:

1. False grip holds on rings.

False grip hold in ring row position.

False grip holds are best done in a controlled manner (e.g., not slipping off and in complete agony!), so I typically recommend them done in a ring row position where you are only recognizing 30-50% bodyweight for 2-3 sets of 20-30 seconds per session. Only when this is mastered, should you go to a full hang position under the rings with full body weight. A little bit goes a long way here. Holding the false grip (even on False Grips) can be quite painful on the wrist when you are beginning. So, take your time!

2. False grip ring rows, and false grip pull-ups on rings. 

False grip ring rows.

I still see too many people skipping over ring rows and doing their pull-ups on rings (and that should be the place to start and master). Then move to holding a false grip while doing ring rows and pull-ups on rings which is a great exercise for someone looking to get their first muscle up. For all pulling, think of pulling the shoulder blades back, then pulling the elbows to the side, while keeping your belly tight. And, remember to chalk the palm and heel of hand while using your False Grips to reduce the risk of tearing your skin!

3. False grip transitions on rings. 

Band assisted transition.

The transition is a big sticking point for a lot of folks in the strict muscle up and thus should be practiced regularly in a variety of ways. My favorites are the toe assisted transition and the band assisted transition (pictured above). Think of the transition as the connection between your highest false grip ring pull-up and your lowest point on the ring dip. If either of those positions are questionable for you, I would suggest spending some time working on those positions first, which will make your transition much easier to work through. My recommendation is to start with slow and controlled transition work (watch my toe assisted muscle up drill video), and then build speed toward the band assisted drill and jumping muscle up drills once the movement pattern is refined.

4. Support positions and holds on rings. 

Band assisted top support position.

I'm a huge believer of building positional strength, which is to say the isometric (non-moving) hold of a particular part of a given movement. For instance, hold both the top and bottom position of the ring dips (the athlete above is using bands for this hold at the top of the ring dip, which I totally recommend for folks getting started) for 10-20 seconds at a time and focus on building strength in those positions. This is going to have a DIRECT carryover to your ring dip. Holds are highly underrated and should be done much more by so many athletes I work with!

5. Ring dips and ring push-ups. 

Ring dips.

If you didn't read the blurb above about practicing holds, please go read that first. If you are already doing holds at the top and bottom positions of your ring dips and ring push-ups - good. Thank you. So, it just makes a lot of sense that one that wants a muscle up would practice their dip and build it to be as strong as possible. The dip is to the muscle up what the front squat is to the clean. You can't have a 200 lb. clean with a 150 lb. front squat. You're front squat should be significantly heavier than your clean. Likewise, you should be able to do a handful of strict dips before you're realistically going to get your first strict muscle up.

6. Strict, banded, and jumping muscle ups. NOT Kipping!

Jumping muscle up.

I like to start all my athletes with drills 1-5 above, then depending on how those drills are progressing, I'll take them to the higher rings where they will do either jumping, banded, or strict muscle ups with a gentle spot. It's crucial when moving to high rings that you are being safe with having safe footing below you and a plan in the case of needing to bail either forward or backward. Preferably you do this higher ring work over a padded mat at first in case all goes wrong and you end up on the ground. 

An incorrect and unsafe way of using False Grips is to use a heavy body swing (aka 'kipping') in order to build momentum to go up and over the rings. False Grips are designed for strict work only. The use of a kip is NOT recommended and serious injury or death may occur!


All warnings aside, the journey of your first strict muscle up can be a fun one and I highly recommend it to all my CrossFitting friends. Just remember to have a mind set of building your foundation on the rings as wide and as strong as possible versus chasing after the single muscle up. All of the drills mentioned above are all anyone would need to get their first muscle up if they would just make it a point to do them consistently 2-3 times a week and put in the work!

Until next time friends. Happy training!