"How Long Will It Take To Get My First Muscle Up?" Developing Compensations and Bad Habits

There isn’t a “one month guarantee” that if you do your drills every single day, you will eventually get your muscle up. The truth is that it could take one hour or one year. It’s all dependent on how effective you are with your training while not picking up any bad habits or compensations. The CrossFit Gymnastics program emphasizes that any compensation or out of the ordinary habit you learn will eventually have to be corrected. Here are a few examples...

One of the most popular forms of compensation we see as coaches is what we refer to as “bicep land”. Not engaging your lats at the beginning of your pull will immediately put the stress of your body’s weight on your biceps. Your lats are much larger and stronger than your biceps. Starting from a bent arm hang makes it easier when you first start out doing strict muscle ups, but you’re pretty much asking for bicep tendonitis. You can read further about this fault here.

Another bad habit is pulling with an arched back. You’ve probably heard about the importance of getting your hips to the rings for height, but a lot of athletes will do this just by overarching. Getting your hips to the rings should be controlled from the lats pushing down on the rings while you maintain a hollow body. Some athletes will use a giant kip to compensate for his or her lats not pushing down on the rings. Read more about fixing this here.

The last bad habit to be covered for now is arching during the dip. Arching in the dip puts unnecessary tension on the hamstrings, back and pectoral muscles. Poor form in the ring dip can come from lack of coordination or simply lack of pushing strength.

Point being, you can go into the gym and do your drills effectively and with difficulty… or you can figure out a compensation or “cheat” for every single drill in the book. Compensations and bad habits only lengthen the process of getting your first muscle up. And once you get your muscle up, those compensations are even harder to go back and correct. You are more likely to get your first muscle up sooner if there are only coordination cues to correct rather than strength gaps and bad habit barriers.