At nearly all of our strict muscle up clinics, I get the question, “What about bar muscle ups?” The person asking the question is usually referring to the kipping bar muscle up, which is a wildly different movement than the strict muscle up. In fact, comparing kipping and strict muscle ups (whether bar or ring) is like comparing apples to oranges.
I figured the best way to show all the differences and similarities is to make a matrix with notes on each. Have a look and let me know if you’d like us to do a follow up video!
Muscle up comparison matrix
Strict ring muscle up
- Grip: While it can be done without a false grip, it would be “circus trick” level of difficulty, so we suggest using the false grip technique in your strict ring muscle ups.
- Pull: A strong vertical pull downward is required to get high enough over the top of the rings. Hands will be held in a neutral position (palms facing) in front of the body, which allows good use of the lats.
- Transition: In order to transition and "catch" your body on top of the rings, you will only need to get the bottom of the shoulders over the top of the rings.
- Dip: Being that the catch is at the bottom of the shoulders, a strict dip will begin from this position. Make sure you are training your dips with full depth!
Strict bar muscle up
- Grip: A false grip technique is required to do a bar muscle up with the slight difference that the thumb needs to go over the top of the bar in order to get the false grip.
- Pull: Again, a very strong pull will be needed to get the height required to transition. The hands will be pronated (overhand) with the width varying from narrower to wider adding different levels of difficulty.
- Transition: Here is the significant difference between the rings and bar. In the bar muscle up, the transition will happen a bit later and require a catch that is slightly higher than on the rings. The catch on the bar will be the chest on the bar versus the shoulders on the rings, which is not only a lower position down the body requiring you to pull higher, but it’s also going to require that you flex your torso more forward to get your center of mass over the bar. For these reasons, I think strict ring muscle ups are quite a bit easier than strict bar muscle ups.
- Dip: Being that the catch is higher, it actually makes the dip a bit easier because the distance to lockout is shortened.
Kipping ring muscle up
- Grip: While a false grip technique can be used, ultimately you should progress to doing the kipping ring muscle up without a false grip because it will not allow you to make the best use of the kip. A neutral grip with rings in the center of the palms of the hand with thumbs around the rings is preferred.
- Pull: There’s not really a pull when the kip is being used. The kip should be done with enough momentum to propel you vertical and then immediately transition over the rings.
- Transition: While a kip can be done with enough force to propel you to the top of the rings with your arms locked out, I rarely see that as an efficient way to perform the ring muscle up, so you should really plan on catching the dip in the same place that you caught the strict muscle up, with the shoulders on top of the rings, and then doing the dip.
- Dip: I would assume if you’re doing a kipping muscle up, you’d plan on kipping the dip as well. Yes, absolutely kip the dip. It takes some practice to perform this efficiently and requires a SOLID bottom support position (good thing we train those a TON in our muscle up program!) to kip out of it.
Kipping bar muscle up
- Grip: Either thumb around bar or over bar can be used. I feel like thumbs over the bar are a stronger grip while using the kip, but that might just be my personal preference.
- Pull: Again, while using a kip, there isn’t really thought of this being a "pull". The idea is to kip with enough force to elevate the body in order to immediately transition.
- Transition: Similar to my recommendations on the kipping ring muscle up, while it is possible to get enough power from the kip to get all the way to the locked out position, I recommend catching on the chest and then using a kipping dip to get to lockout.
- Dip: With the catch being higher (lower down the chest) than in the ring muscle up, the dip range is shortened and very easy with a kip to get lockout (must be practiced though).
So this is a pretty abbreviated explanation of the similarities and differences of the various versions of muscle ups: rings versus bar and strict versus kipping. I could probably write another 1,000 words on the subject. Probably the biggest takeway from this article is that the strict bar and ring muscle ups are pretty similar. Same with the ring and bar kipping muscle ups. And, the difference between strict and kipping is the KIP!!! The kip essentially takes away the requirement to pull.
If you have any specific questions, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're always happy to take a look at some video clips and help you guys out. Otherwise, get on the rings and practice and you'll make your way to figuring it out. Good luck!
PS - If you haven’t already, check out our free strict muscle up guide. It includes a comprehensive break down of the strict ring muscle up and a complete program with technique and session videos to get your muscle up.