Muscle-up Variations

No one move works the entire upper body as thoroughly as the muscle-up. In fact, muscle-ups are on their way to replacing pull-ups as my number one favorite exercise.

If you’re unfamiliar with them, check out my guide to getting your first muscle-up as well as my original post on muscle-ups.

Muscle(up) Confusion
Varying your training forces the body to continually adapt, so I’m always working on acquiring new skills and expanding my arsenal. The better that I get at doing muscle-ups, the more I try to challenge myself with different modifications. I’ve blogged about advanced muscle-ups before, but I’ve been working on some new techniques since then.

Slow Muscle-ups and the False Grip
The transition between the pulling and pushing phases of the muscle-up is the hardest part for beginners. Some people find that using a false grip (cocking your wrist over the bar) can be helpful, as it eliminates the need to roll your hand over the bar during the transition.

A false grip is especially important when attempting to perform slow, controlled muscle-ups. In such instances, if can be helpful to use an exaggerated false grip with your closed fists completely on top of the bar.

Wide Grip/Narrow Grip
Just like pull-ups, the muscle-up can be done with a wide grip or a narrow grip. Both add their own unique challenges to the exercise, though the close grip can be especially tough. Work on gradually bringing your hands closer together over time, eventually working up to the point where they are touching.

As the name implies, this muscle-up involves crossing your arms like an X, with each hand over the opposite side’s shoulder. When you do an X-muscleup, the arm that is on the bottom has to do most of the work, so start by learning with your dominant side underneath. It took me lots of practice to get the hang of these and I still need to work on cleaning up my form. Even if you are very good at muscle-ups, expect to get a humbling the first time you try this one.

Clapping Muscle-up
Any time you generate enough explosive force to get airborne, you are doing plyometrics. If you do enough muscle-ups, eventually you can try to push beyond the normal range of motion and propel yourself completely off the bar. Once you’re in the air, you may choose to toss in a clap or other freestyle movement of your choosing. When practicing plyo muscle-ups, use your hips to “cast off” the bar for more height.

Switchblade Muscle-up
The switch grip or “switchblade” muscle-up is one of the more difficult plyometric variations. To perform the switchblade, start out hanging below the bar in an underhand (chin-up) grip. From here, pull yourself up explosively, reversing your grip during the transition phase. You’ll have to generate tons of explosive force to get high enough over the bar to catch yourself and push through the dip phase to complete the exercise.

Watch the video below for more:

23 thoughts on “Muscle-up Variations

  • By Seamus McGuinness -

    Al, Youre the man! Always coming with the fire to inspire!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Seamus!  You know how I appreciate a good rhyme!

      • By Jack -

        Great article! Keep the articles on MU coming!

        • By Al Kavadlo -

          You got it, Jack!  This definitely won’t be the last time I blog about the muscle-up!

  • Pingback: Muscle-up Variations | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

  • By steve -

    you suck

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Haha – thanks for the reality check!  My ego was getting a little inflated after Seamus’ comment!

    • By Anonymous -

      I wonder if this Steve guy can show us some of his variations on the muscle ups. 

      • By Al Kavadlo -

        Haha – yeah that’d be nice!

  • By Belatrix -

    Al, I’m always in awe of the strength and body control you have. I’m working on getting my first muscle up right now and I think I’m close. I can pull myself up to my chest / ribcage (and I have the bruises to prove it from smacking into the bar) but I just can’t seem to get my centre of gravity over the bar and transition into the dip part.  My timing seems to be off. 🙁  Well, I’ll keep trying. I’m stubborn…

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks!  I prefer the word “determined” over “stubborn.”  It sounds like you know what you need to do – keep training hard!

  • By Eddie -

    another awesome vid, keep on rockin Al just did my first muscle up last week. Bodyweight training is hella addictive

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Congrats on your first muscle-up, Eddie!  Glad you enjoyed today’s post!

  • By Chuck Stephens -

    I’m glad you posted this today man!  Was working on ring muscle ups tonight and managed 6 doing single kips.  With the pull up bar I’m able to get my abs to the bar but still can’t transition.  I like how you mention using false grips on the pull up bar.  I didn’t think to do that as I use false grips on the rings.  I’ll have to start with that and see how that works out.  Dude you also got me hooked on PB Banana Jammers….my new go to post workout drink!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Hey Chuck – glad you’re enjoying the smoothies!  If you’re getting m-ups on rings, you’ll get ’em on a bar soon enough.  Try out that false grip and see how it goes.

  • By ShavedApe -

    The only thing that sucks is the brief waiting time between Al’s posts.  More Al, we want more!!!  BUWAHAHAHAHA!  

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, ShavedApe!  More to come soon!

  • By Brusc -

    This is an awesome site for all things bodyweight Al. Just pulled off four consecutive muscle-ups today! Integrating bodyweight exercises with weight training has so far brought me the best results. Thanks for all the work that you put into this superb site!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Brusc!  And congrats on those muscle-ups!

  • By Benji -

    Hey Al. Just started incorporating bodyweight training into my weekly routine and WOW!!! its quickly taking over and becoming an obsession. Starting to train towards my first muscle-up which i know is going to be a long tough road but with perseverance and the great tips i’m receiving from your site i know its just a matter of time!
    Thanks for the great advice and vids!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Benji!  Glad to hear you’ve discovered how fun bodyweight training can be!  Keep it up!

  • By dtm -

    I just saw this video:
    Can you do a muscle up like in 0.57, that looks very though.

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      That’s a pretty sweet variation – I’ll have to practice it and see how it goes! 

Comments are closed.