Why Pull-Ups and Dips Don't Equal A Muscle Up

How many of us still believe the following is true?

3-5 Pull-ups + 3-5 Dips = Muscle up

If you see the sense in this equation, you're not alone and I don't blame you one bit. Coaches are notorious for using the pull-up and dip as a strength prerequisite for someone to be able to do a muscle up safely. Unfortunately, this is only part of the equation.

While there is some truth to the fact that pull-up and dip strength play a role in your ability to get a muscle up, the false grip and transition are as equally as important. Additionally, the WAY in which you perform your pull-up and dip plays a big role too. Finally, even when you have all of the components of the muscle up, it is still up to you to put in the necessary work to put them together.

Grip and Transition

If you've read our Strict Muscle Up Program (it's a free thorough 50+ page guide) or any of my other posts on this blog, I'm often referring to the four components of the muscle up - grip, pull, transition and dip. All four components come together equally to help you achieve the muscle up. Both grip and transition have elements of technique and strength that benefit from practicing and training NO DIFFERENTLY than you would strict pull-ups and dips. If you think it makes sense to do 5 sets of 5 strict pull-ups, it should make just as much sense to work 5 sets of 15 second false grip holds on False Grips and/or 5 sets of 3 slow transitions. 

It's not what you do, it's how you do it

The quality or standard in which you train your pull-ups and dips matters. While a "chin over bar" pull-up does qualify as a pull-up, we need to understand that a pull-up done with the chest touching the bar at the finish is what is required to get the height needed for a muscle up. If you train anything less than that, you will not be getting a muscle up at the end of that road! Similarly, dips should be performed with the shoulders meeting the rings at the bottom (with control) in order to have the required strength when coming over the top of the rings in a muscle up. Sloppy or partial range of motion pull-ups and dips will NOT help you get your muscle up. 

You'll still need to put it all together

Even when you have trained all four components to the correct standard, it'll still be up to you to put the elements together for the final movement. This may sound silly, but I'll often think about it similar to a complicated dance move with multiple movements. I use the dance analogy because I think everyone can agree there is a certain rhythm that really good dancers have that really bad dancers don't. They have better timing, speed and control. It is the same with the pull, transition and dip of the muscle up. I've seen plenty of people be able to do the drills alone, but still not have the ability to put them together for the muscle up. My best advice for this is once you have the individual components, begin putting two of them together at a time. For example, by putting grip and pull together, you get false grip pull-ups. Or, by putting transition and dip together, you might work a transition to a dip and back to a transition. Get creative and use bands, False Grips, boxes or anything else to help you slowly work the movements together. Again, our Muscle Up Program progresses from isolated movements into complexes with multiple movements at a time.