Category Archives: Pull-ups!

Revolving Pull-up Handles for Grip Strength

Rotating Thick Pull-up Handles
There’s a street hustle in parts of Europe where passersby are offered the chance to win 100 euro if they can hang from a bar for two minutes.

To play the game, an entry fee of 10 euro is required, which seems like a small price to pay if you’re confident in your ability to hang.

The only problem is that nobody ever wins. That’s what makes it such an effective hustle.

A two-minute bar hang is no easy task, but it’s something that any serious calisthenics practitioner can accomplish.

So what’s the catch? How come nobody wins the 100 euro?

The answer is simple, but hardly noticeable upon first glance, hence the effectiveness of the con: The bar they have you hang from is very thick and – more importantly – it rotates.

Perhaps you’re thinking that a little bit of spin shouldn’t make it harder to hang. That’s what I thought, too, which is precisely why people fall for this game.

As The Bar Turns
I recently found myself in London teaching a Progressive Calisthenics Certification workshop at The Commando Temple, a fantastic place for calisthenics training, and home to some very serious grip enthusiasts. In fact, their head calisthenics coach and PCC Team Leader, Fitsz Dubova, is also a world-record holding grip strength competitor.

During one of the breaks at PCC, Fitsz showed me a pair of rotating handles that can be hung below a standard pull-up bar. Then he had me try to hang from them, so I could see for myself how they felt.

Fitsz demonstrates a one arm pull-up at PCC

Fitsz demonstrates a one arm pull-up at PCC


I was immediately surprised by how tough it was to hold onto the rotating handles, but I was still able to hang for a bit in spite of the increased difficulty.

Then Fitsz challenged me to try hanging from it on one arm.

On a standard bar, I can hang for a minute or longer on one hand, but on this thick, rotating apparatus, I was barely able to hang for two seconds!

Though I was intrigued, I didn’t get much time to play around with the revolving handles that weekend. After I returned home to NYC, however, I began thinking about them again.

I started looking around online, and came across an article on Jedd Johnson’s blog detailing how to make your own rotating grip handles. Then I went to my local hardware store and got everything I needed to assemble my own revolving pull-up bar handles.

Each handle consists of two pieces of PVC pipe – one inside of the other – with a foot and a half of chain threaded through and attached to a climbing strap with a carabiner. Placing one piece of pipe inside of the other is what causes the handles to rotate smoothly. They are cheap and easy to assemble.

Roll With It
Training with these handles has been a humbling experience. I’m no stranger to thick bar pull-ups, but the rotating nature of these handles makes them very tough to hold onto. I have pretty strong hands from decades of doing pull-ups on various types of bars, and I’ve messed around with a few kinds of grip boards and other climber’s training tools. Those of you who follow my blog also know that I recently started training to rip decks of cards in half. All of these things offer their own unique challenges, but these rotating thick grips are one of the most difficult grip tools I’ve encountered over the years.

Rolling Thick Grip

If you have a very strong grip, you might not notice right away how much harder it is to hold onto a rotating bar or rotating handles, but as soon as you begin to fatigue, it will become immediately apparent.

Think about what you do when you are hanging from a bar and start to lose your grip. Most people instinctively try to choke their hands up a bit higher on the bar for more surface contact and improved leverage.

When you try to do this on a rotating handle, however, it just spins right back to where it was, forcing you to grip from a position of unfavorable leverage. It’s impossible to utilize any type of false grip on a bar that turns.

On top of that, these 2-inch grips are too think for most people to wrap their hand completely around, which makes the idea of hanging for two minutes that much more daunting.

Though I usually prefer to grip with my thumb on the same side of the bar as the rest of my fingers, as I feel that gives me the best leverage, I’ve been practicing pull-ups and hangs on these handles with my thumb wrapped around the other side in order to purposely increase the grip challenge.

I can hang from a standard pull-up bar for close to four minutes, but so far I’ve yet to stay on these handles for a full 60 seconds.

If I ever get to two minutes, I’ll be ready to try and win that 100 euro.

Watch the clip below to see my max set of pull-ups on these revolving pull-up handles:

The Top 5 Pull-up Variations for Building Strength and Muscle

Al Kavadlo Pull-up MuscleIt’s no secret that pull-ups are my favorite exercise. There are an endless number of ways in which you can alter or modify the classic pull-up – and I love them all!

Still, the question remains: What are the very best pull-up variations for building strength and muscle?

Though all types of pull-ups work the entire upper-body (including the abdominal muscles), the following 5 variations are the very best for building strength and size:

Pull-up
The classic overhand pull-up has been a strength training staple for as long as the concept of “working out” has existed. Focus on driving your elbows toward your hips to fully engage your lats.

Chin-up
This underhand version of the classic pull-up is a great way to add emphasis to the biceps. It can also be a less difficult variation for beginners who struggle to perform pull-ups with the overhand grip.

Commando Pull-up
For this variation you will grasp the bar with your hands facing one another in a close grip, and your body positioned in line with the bar. This means you will have to pull yourself toward the side on the way up, which creates a unique challenge. Make sure to alternate which side of the bar your head passes with each rep.

L-sit Pull-up
The L-sit pull-up is a fantastic way to increase the demand on your abs, while also increasing the strength and muscle building potential for your entire upper body. Due to the change in leverage, all of your muscles will have to work harder than in a standard pull-up.

Archer Pull-up
The archer pull-up is an advanced variation that involves keeping one arm straight while relying primarily on the opposite side to do the bulk of the pulling. Begin like you’re performing a very wide pull-up, but bend only one of your arms as you pull your chin over the bar. This means your torso will shift toward that side while the opposite arm stays straight. The hand of your straight arm may need to open and roll over the bar at the top of the range of motion, depending on your wrist mobility.

Watch the video below for more!


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Tompkins Square Park Calisthenics Bootcamp

My Tompkins Square Park Calisthenics Bootcamp is back!

Classes will meet at the jungle gym near the Northeast corner of NYC’s Tompkins Square Park at 10am on select Saturday mornings beginning April 12.

Due to my travel schedule for the Progressive Calisthenics Certification, I will only be able to offer bootcamp classes once or twice each month.

To stay informed of when classes will be taking place, make sure you follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter. I will update both accounts a few days before each bootcamp session to confirm that we’re on for that Saturday.

I almost forgot the best part! The new price for bootcamp at TSP is… FREE!!!

All you need to bring is a positive attitude and a willingness to challenge yourself! Adults of all fitness levels are welcome to attend. Hope to see you there!

We’re Working Out!
Al

Progressive Calisthenics

Since announcing the upcoming Progressive Calisthenics Certification, I have been getting more emails and messages than ever!

Many of the questions are about when the PCC will be coming to additional cities, others want to know what to expect when they attend. Though I don’t have any additional dates to announce yet, I can tell you that the amount of interest in this workshop has been even greater than we anticipated. It’s a safe bet that additional dates will be added. I’ll keep you posted as soon as details are confirmed.

In the meantime, Convict Conditioning author Paul “Coach” Wade (my collaborator on the PCC) has written an excellent FAQ page about the PCC that you can check out here.

I’ve also just posted the third video in my progressive calisthenics series. I saved the best for last: pull-ups!

And in case you missed them, here are the first two videos on push-ups and squats:

Al Kavadlo Fall 2012 Update

I’m excited to announce that the DVD companion to my book Raising The Bar is finished and will be available this November.

The DVD will include all the most important exercises and progressions from the book, plus a few new moves and new trainer tips.

Seeing the exercises performed in real time will be helpful for a lot of people, plus there are several entertaining musical interludes!

It’s almost like an hour long version of these two youtube videos, but better and shot in high definition.

Here’s what people are saying about the DVD:

“This DVD is the ultimate training course on bar athletics, masterminded and presented by the man who—for my two cent’s worth—is the greatest calisthenics coach alive today. Raising the Bar is motivational and looks cool as hell, but more important than that, it’s an incredible source of instruction.”

Paul Wade, Author of Convict Conditioning

“Al Kavadlo consistently puts out the best info on calisthenics and bodyweight training. The book Raising the Bar is a killer introduction into the world of the Bar Athlete. Now with the release of the accompanying DVD, Al has truly raised the bar to a whole new level. The DVD combines solid info along with fun and entertainment, as only Al can.”

Mike Fitch, Founder of Global Bodyweight Training

“Al’s unique coaching style really shines through on the Raising the Bar DVD. The clear cut progressions are fantastic for both men and women at all levels—from working towards a first pull up, to mind-bogglingly difficult muscle-up variations. There is absolutely something for everyone on this DVD.”

Adrienne Harvey, Owner of Girya Girl Fitness

“With Raising The Bar, Al Kavadlo has put forth the perfect primal pull-up program. Al’s progressions and demonstrations make even the most challenging exercises attainable. Anyone who is serious about pull-ups should get this DVD.”

Mark Sisson, Author of The Primal Blueprint

We’re Working Out!
I’m also excited to announce that I will be leading a bodyweight strength workshop at Q Crossfit in Randolph, NJ on Jan 12, 2013.

The workshop will cover the muscle-up, elbow lever, pistol squat, human flag and more.

Space is limited so reserve your spot asap!

Time Flies
October 2012 marks three years since I started this blog. In that time, I’ve written over 250 posts, had over 300,000 unique visitors and reached over 2,000,000 total views on Youtube.

I’ve gone from being a successful local personal trainer who started a blog in his free time, to a full-time writer/blogger/trainer with followers in dozens of countries. I’ve gotten messages from people all over the world who I’ve inspired to work out and empowered to improve their lives. It is truly a blessing to connect with so many people in such a positive way.

In the last three years, I’ve not only grown as a coach and a writer, but also as a student of movement.

Thanks for stopping by, commenting and showing your support!

We’re Working Out!
Al

Raising The Bar on Paperback!

I’m excited to announce that my new book Raising The Bar is now available on paperback!

The book release party is still scheduled for June 1, but due to popular demand, Dragon Door has decided to make the book available sooner. They are also offering a discount to anyone who orders the book before the end of the month!

Raising The Bar goes over everything you ever wanted to know about pull-ups, dips, muscle-ups and dozens of other exercises.

Click the link for more info on Raising The Bar.

If that’s not enough for you, I’ve also got a brand new workout video featuring my brother Danny and me in a calisthenics battle.

Check it out and leave your comments below!

Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics



Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics
is now available from Dragon Door Publications!


Click here to purchase and download the ebook now!


Here is what people are saying about Raising The Bar:

“With Raising The Bar, Al Kavadlo has put forth the perfect primal pull-up program. Al’s progressions and demonstrations make even the most challenging exercises attainable. Anyone
who is serious about pull-ups should read this book.”

—Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint

Raising The Bar is very likely the most important book on strength and conditioning to be published in the last fifty years. If you only ever get your hands on one training manual in your
life, make it this one. Buy it, read it, use it. This book has the power to transform you into the ultimate bar athlete.”

—Paul “Coach” Wade, author of Convict Conditioning

“Al has put together the companion manual for all the crazy bar calisthenics videos that you find yourself watching over and over again—a much needed resource. Within this book is a huge volume of bar exercises that will keep your pull-up workouts fresh for years, and give you some
insane goals to shoot for.”

—Max Shank, Senior RKC, Owner of Ambition Athletics


Click here to purchase and download the ebook now!

Pull-up Battle

Your old buddy Al has been starting to get a little attention from the mainstream media.

If you happen to fly American Airlines this month, keep an eye out for me in the January issue of their in-flight magazine. (You can also see the article online by clicking here.)

I also appeared in a new video series about the human flag for Men’s Health.

Don’t worry – I’m still going to keep putting up new content here on my blog! Check out my newest youtube clip, featuring Danny and me in a brotherly pull-up battle:

Backyard Pull-up Bar Part III

Last summer my brother Danny and I built a backyard pull-up bar at his home in Brooklyn. The original set-up featured two bars of different heights connected by crossbeams for extra stability.

Recently, Danny had the idea to make an adjustment to the backyard pull-up bar set-up by switching the crossbeams on the right side into parallel beams. This one minor adjustment has opened up a lot of new possibilities for our backyard workouts.

In addition to practicing various types of pull-ups, muscle-ups and levers, we can now work on human flags off the parallel bars as well as using them for assisted one arm pull-ups.

Watch the video below to see some highlights from one of our recent training sessions:

Related Posts:

Building a Backyard Pull-up Bar

Backyard Pull-up Bar Part 2: Back to the Bar

5B's Pull-up Jam 2011

This past Saturday I took the #4 train into Brooklyn for the annual 5B’s Pull-up Jam at Lincoln Terrace Park.

Unlike last year’s contest, however, I didn’t enter the actual competition. This time I just went to hang out, be a part of the good vibes and of course, get my reps in.

As always, there was lots of good energy, good conversation and of course, “good money!”

While the contest was happening in one part of the park, a crowd gathered near another set of bars for an informal freestyle exhibition. A lot of big names from the extreme calisthenics community were on hand to represent. There was no shortage of pull-ups, muscle-ups, levers and many other advanced moves.

All in all, everyone had a good time and a great workout. Thanks to all who entered and attended, and especially to everyone behind the scenes who made this event so much fun!

Watch the video below for more:

Pull-ups for Women

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 9.24.19 AMIt’s no secret that pull-ups are my favorite exercise. They work your entire upper body, plus they’re cool looking and fun!

While learning to do pull-ups is hard for anyone, the task can be especially daunting for females.

I’ve met a lot of women who didn’t think it would ever be possible for them to do a single pull-up.

The good news is that I’ve gotten many of them to break through that barrier and achieve their first rep – and in most cases, many more!

If you can’t do a pull-up yet, don’t get discouraged – there are a few things you can do to work your way up to that first one.

Chin It To Win It
Pull-ups can be done with many different grips, though it’s usually best for beginners to start out with an underhand (chin-up) grip, as this will allow you to utilize your biceps more.

Though the muscles of the upper back have the potential to become incredibly powerful, your arms are more likely to be developed and will be able to compensate in the meantime. With enough practice, the disparity between grips can start to even out.

Flex Hangs
As I mentioned in my original guide to learning to do a pull-up, holding a flex hang (the top position of a pull-up) for time is a great way to start building toward your first full pull-up. Begin with an underhand grip and focus on keeping your whole body tight. Don’t just use your arms! Tense your abs, legs and everything else.

At first you may only be able to hold this position for a few seconds. This is fine. With practice, you can eventually work to a 30 second hold, at which point you will be close to your first pull-up.

Negative Pull-ups
The term “negative pull-up” refers to the lowering phase of the exercise and is a fantastic way to get a feel for the movement pattern of the full pull-up, without having to perform the entire range of motion.

Jump or use assistance to get your chin over the bar, then hold the top position for as long as you can. When your arms start to fatigue, lower yourself to a right angle at your elbow and hold there. From here, slowly lower yourself to a full hang.

Aussie Pull-up
Australian Pull-ups
Just like an assisted pull-up is easier than the free-hanging variety, the Australian pull-up will allow you to train a similar movement pattern without having to bear your full weight.

The Australian pull-up will also get you used to keeping your core engaged, which is a key aspect of performing pull-ups.

Start out hanging below a bar that’s about waist height with your legs extended so you form a straight line from your head to your heels. Grip tightly and brace your entire body as you pull your chest toward the bar, then lower yourself back to the bottom with control.

To make the Aussie pull-up more accessible to beginners, you can use a bar that is chest height instead of waist height, which will allow for more favorable leverage.

Watch the video below for more:

Minimal Equipment Workouts

You don’t need to spend money on a gym membership or any fancy fitness gear to get in shape. You can actually get great workouts with no equipment at all. The only thing you need to get fit is the desire to better yourself and the ability to take action. If you are looking to get some equipment, however, the best thing you could buy (or build) is a standard pull-up bar.

Nothin’ but Bar
You could seriously train every muscle in your upper-body just by doing pull-ups, muscle-ups and dips on a straight bar – no other equipment is needed. As for your legs, you don’t even need a bar! Just doing lots of squats and lunges will make them strong and toned. If you decide to up the ante, pistol squats hit every part of your lower body as well as your core muscles. And if those get too easy for you, try doing pistol squats standing on a pull-up bar.

I don’t typically share specific workout routines here on the blog, but today is an exception! Here are three simple workouts that you can do with nothing but a pull-up bar:

The Trifecta
This workout is based on a pyramid training scheme and it will work every single muscle in your body – including your heart! Start by performing one squat, then immediately grab an overhead bar and do one pull-up, then drop down and do a push-up. Next do two squats, two pull-ups and two push-ups. Continue to add one rep to each exercise until you fail to get through the circuit. Then start taking one rep away and work your way back down. Try to keep your rest time to a minimum. If you’re not strong enough to do push-ups or pull-ups, feel free to substitute knee push-ups and Australian pull-ups in their place.

Core Crusher
Don’t be fooled by the name – though the emphasis of this workout is on the abs, obliques and lower back, it hits every muscle in your body!

First warm up by holding a plank for one minute. The rest of the workout consists of ten hanging leg raises (or hanging knee raises), ten back bridges (perform the back bridges with a two second hold at the top), then a 30 second side plank hold on each side. Try to get through this workout without any breaks (though you may stop to rest as needed). Feel free to repeat the sequence two or three times.

Area 51
This is an advanced workout that’s not for the faint of heart! It doesn’t take very long, but you’ll need to be strong to even try this one. Area 51 starts with one muscle-up on a straight bar. Once you’re over the bar, stay up top and do 30 dips. The next objective is to perform 20 pull-ups – all without coming off the bar. If you can get through the whole set, you will have performed 51 total reps. If you can’t do it all in one set, you may take a break in between the dips and the pull-ups and/or spread out the pull-ups into multiple sets. For the advanced trainee, area 51 can be used as a warm-up.

Watch the video below to see me performing the “Area 51” workout:


For more information, check out my book, Pushing The Limits! – Total Body Strength With No Equipment.

One Arm Pull-ups and One Arm Chin-ups

A long time ago, a client of mine asked me if I’d ever seen anyone do a one arm pull-up. I stood for a moment in silent contemplation, then lifted one hand, wrapped it around my opposite wrist and said, “ya mean like this?”

“No,” he said, “without the other hand assisting at all.”

I told him I hadn’t, adding that I didn’t think such a thing was even possible – boy was I wrong!

I’ll never forget the first time I saw someone do a one arm pull-up. It was a game-changer and now I’m a believer!

Pull-up or Chin-up
If you want to get technical about it, a pull-up is done with a pronated (overhand) grip, while a chin-up implies a supinated (underhand) grip. A lot of people find that the pull-up is a more difficult exercise – this tends to be especially true for beginners.

When you do a one arm pull-up, however, there’s a certain amount of unavoidable rotation. This is why many of the people who can perform this feat on a bar will wind up pulling towards their opposite shoulder. When a one arm pull-up is performed on gymnastic rings, the ring will simply rotate to account for this.

For me, the disparity between overhand and underhand grips seems negligible, though I’ve done so many reps of different kinds of pull-ups over years that I may have just evened it out. Besides, when someone is strong enough to pull their chin over the bar with just one arm, they’ve earned my respect; belly-aching over their hand position seems pointless.

Training for a One Arm Pull-up
Only once you can perform at least 15 consecutive dead hang pull-ups should you even consider training for this feat. Tendinitis is a bitch, so back off if you start to get pain in or around your elbows.

The following methods have helped me on my quest for the one arm pull-up, but keep in mind that these are not the only ways to train towards this feat. There are many paths that lead to the same destination–feel free to be creative!

One Arm Flex Hangs
Just like learning to do a standard pull-up, performing a flex hang (holding your body at the top of a pull-up position) with one arm is the first step towards doing a one arm pull-up. Pull yourself up using both arms, then try to stay up while you take one hand away. Squeeze your whole body tight while keeping your legs tucked in close when you’re starting out. With practice, eventually you be able to try it with your legs extended.

One Arm Negatives
The idea here is to keep your body tight and controlled while slowly lowering yourself down from a one arm flex hang. Be prepared that the first time you try to do a one arm negative you will drop very quickly. When starting out, don’t even think of it as a negative, think of it as just trying to keep yourself up. Gravity takes care of the rest. Eventually, try working up to the point where you can make a one arm negative last for ten seconds or longer.

Archer Pull-ups
Archer pull-ups are a great exercise regardless of if you want to work towards a one arm pull-up or not. When performing the archer pull-up as practice for the one arm pull-up, try to do as much of the work as possible with the arm closer to you. Think of your extended arm simply as a means of giving your pulling arm assistance, so use it as little as possible – eventually you won’t need it at all. (You can also spot yourself with your secondary arm by draping a towel over the bar and holding it or grabbing the pull-up bar frame.)

The One Arm Australian Pull-up
This is a nice precursor to the OAP for the same reason that Australian pull-ups can be a gateway to pull-ups – your feet are on the ground! When attempting a one arm Australian pull-up, concentrate on engaging your abs and your back muscles–don’t just focus on using your bicep strength. Remember that when you do a one arm Australian, it’s natural for your body to roll a little bit in the direction of your pulling arm.

Hard Core
Just like a one arm push-up or a pistol squat, core strength plays a huge role in one arm pull-ups and chin-ups. Think about keeping your entire body tight and controlled during your one arm pull-up training. If your core is weak, you may need to do some remedial ab exercises.

Pull-up or Shut up
Talk is cheap. The one arm pull-up is an elusive move that demands patience, consistency, and dedication. You’re never gonna get one without lots of practice. The question you need to ask yourself is this: How bad do you want it?


For more information about one arm pull-ups, check out my book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics.

How to Increase Your Reps on Pull-ups

I get lots of emails from people who’ve gone stagnant on their pull-ups asking for my advice on how to improve.

The only way to progress at pull-ups (or anything for that matter) is consistent practice. There has never been another way and there never will be.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, there are specific methods that can be more effective than others.

Here are a few techniques that may help you bust through a plateau:

Greasing the Groove
This technique was made famous by Pavel Tsatsouline and it is especially helpful for beginners who may still be learning to do a pull-up.

Greasing the groove simply involves doing multiple sets of an exercise throughout the day, rather than doing all your sets in succession. If you have a pull-up bar at home, you can take a workout like my 50 pull-up challenge and spread it out over the course of an entire day. A beginner, on the other hand, might grease the groove by doing a couple of flex hangs and negatives in the morning, a few more throughout the afternoon and then hit it one more time in the evening. Greasing the groove is as much about training your central nervous system to learn a movement pattern as it is about building muscle. While consistent practice is key, don’t try to do too much too soon. If you start getting pain in your joints, back off and give yourself time to recover.

Supersets
A superset involves taking two exercises and performing them back-to-back with no rest. Typically the harder exercise goes first and when fatigue is reached, you switch to the easier exercise and continue repping out. By sequencing it this way, you’re essentially pushing your body beyond failure.

Try supersetting Australian pull-ups after going to failure on standard pull-ups, or do pull-ups while wearing a weight vest, then remove the vest when you reach failure and continue with just your body weight.

Pyramid Sets and The Rest/Pause Method
These old school techniques will test your body, as well as your mental fortitude. See my full articles on pyramid sets and the rest/pause method for more.

Zef’s Warm-up
This is a routine that I got from Zef of the Bar-Barians. I’ve been using it recently in an attempt to increase my numbers on muscle-ups, but it’s been helping my pull-ups, too.

The routine consists of 5 muscle-ups, followed by 5 straight bar dips, then without coming down from the bar, you proceed to do 4 more muscle-ups and 4 more dips, then 3 of each, all the way down to 1 rep of each. If you can make it to the end, you’ll have done 15 muscle-ups and 15 dips, all without coming off the bar. I’ve been adding a set of pull-ups to failure at the end as well before finally dropping down to rest.

You must be willing to push your body’s limits in order to effect change and experience growth. Get creative with different patterns of super-sets, pyramid sets and anything else that you can come up with to challenge yourself. Just don’t get too hung up on chasing progress, instead try to enjoy the process.

Check out the video below for my version of Zef’s warm-up:


For more information about pull-ups, pick up a copy of my book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics.

Backyard Pull-up Bar Part 2: Back to the Bar

Last month, my brother Danny and I finally finished building his backyard pull-up bar. It wound up being a bigger project than we originally envisioned, but in the end, Danny was left with an amazing home gym.

I recently got to work out on the backyard bar during a visit to Danny’s house in Brooklyn. I’ve been trying out some advanced muscle-up techniques like plyometric clapping muscle-ups and slow, no-hands muscle-ups (technically the hands are used, but they aren’t gripping the bar), while Danny’s been continuing to practice the human flag and human flag pull-ups.

The bars in Danny’s set-up have a 2″ diameter, which is even thicker than the bars at Tompkins Square Park. The thickness of the bars adds an extra challenge to exercises like pull-ups, muscle-ups and levers, so practicing on Danny’s set-up is helping my grip strength. Training on the fat bars makes going back to standard ones feel easy.

It was a bit cold out but we still managed to heat up those bars!

Scaffold Pull-ups

Any red-blooded man who’s walked beneath scaffolding has no doubt been tempted to jump up, grab a bar and go for it. Those things are practically begging to be swung around on, hung from or climbed.

One of the only things I dislike about life in NYC is all the construction, but every cloud has a sliver lining. While it can be an eye sore, construction scaffolding is great for doing pull-ups.

My brother Danny and I got a great workout yesterday during the morning commute. While everyone around us scuttled off to the office, we got our reps in without setting foot in a gym.

Watch the video below for more:

Building a Backyard Pull-up Bar

Editors note: This is a guest post by my brother Danny Kavadlo.

There are many paths you can take when putting together a home gym. Throughout my life, I’ve owned free weights, benches, push-up bars, and a pull-up bar mounted in a doorframe. However, as we progress in fitness and life, our goals change and so do our needs. Like our bodies, our minds and creative forces need to be challenged (it just feels good to make something). So when the itch to create a home gym struck again, it was a no-brainer: a backyard pull-up bar was the only way to go.

Why Build A Backyard Pull-Up Bar?

The way I train, a door-frame or stand up (power-tower) design would not meet my needs, which include plyometrics and aggressive kipping. I needed something that could withstand hundreds of pounds of explosive force.

The basic design is a bar supported by two posts dug deep in the ground; it needs to be SOLID. The plan was to leave 8’ of pole above ground and 4’ below. I wound up going about 6” deeper for extra stability. But even within that simple layout, there are a lot of choices to make.

Wood Posts Vs. Metal Posts
If you are working with wood posts, I’d recommend going no smaller than 6×6. A 2×4 is not going to cut it. Be sure to use “treated” wood (it’s the one at Home Depot with the green tint.) It’s worth the extra money to have something that will stand the test of time. Be aware that you’ll have to purchase circular metal flanges to affix the bar to the wood. These flanges range from $8-$20 depending on the style.

Wood is cost efficient, solid and looks great, but I looked forward to practicing the human flag on my bar, so my posts had to be metal. Generally plumbers’ galvanized 2” pipe is about $7 per foot. However, you can’t get anything larger than 8’ at a hardware store (even giants like Home Depot or Lowes). To make a 12’ post, you’d have to buy 20’ directly from a supplier, pay for each cut and buy 90 degree fittings (also about $8-$20) to attach each post to the bar itself. Instead, I contacted a local gate manufacturer to build the initial design (two 12’ iron posts welded to a 4’ bar up top, plus another 4’ bar 3 ½’ from the bottom—this lower bar gets buried for stability) for $180.

Another factor influencing stability is the amount of concrete used in the foundations. Most websites I consulted expressed remorse about not using enough cement. I decided to avoid that problem by using 600 lbs. per post. Remember, I said AGGRESSIVE KIPPING!

The Bar
A standard pull-up bar is 1”-1 ½” in diameter and 2-3’ in length. To get the most out of mine, I did 2” diameters and 4’ across. The 2” grip makes for a harder workout and is excellent for building grip strength.

Be aware that raw metal bars are open on the ends so you’ll need to seal them. I filled mine with cement and painted over them, but you can use nylon or rubber stoppers.


Additional Considerations

Aside from the posts and bars, if you’re making a backyard pull-up bar you’ll need the following:

Post Hole Diggers
Shovel
Cement (I used twenty-five 80 lb. bags)
Something to mix it in (You don’t need a wheel barrow. I got a huge planter for $18. Next year I’ll grow fresh herbs in it.)
Leveler
Six 2×4’s and some screws (for building a frame)
Oil-based enamel paint (or lacquer for wood posts)

Building Your Bar
Make sure you have plenty of space. My posts were affixed 4’ apart so I set the holes 4’ apart. If you are using wood posts, I recommend building the 1st post completely and then measuring the 2nd one from it to ensure accuracy.

My holes were about 12” diameter at the bottom and about 18” on top. I also dug a trough about 18” deep from one post to the other, which when filled with cement, surrounded the bar at the bottom of the frame. Even with post-hole diggers, digging 4 ½’ holes is extremely challenging, which made for a great workout!

Each post has to go in perfectly straight. The bar connecting them must be level, and needs to remain so until the concrete sets. The best way to ensure this is to build a wooden frame out of 2×4’s around the structure before you put the concrete in. Take your time! This step is important and will require a lot of trial-and-error.

Once the structure is level, straight and properly framed in wood, fill the holes with concrete. When the concrete dries, remove the frame and you’ve got your pull-up bar!

Almost…

A New Life
Even with four and a half feet in the ground and a ton of cement, explosive muscle-ups caused my backyard pull-up bar to vibrate. It was just a tiny bit, but that wasn’t part of the dream. Changes had to be made. The bars needed diagonal support against one another. Vertical and horizontal were not enough.

I decided that in making it more stable, I’d change the whole shape and make it better! I had a smaller post/bar combo fabricated and set it up 4’ behind my initial bar (This one was 10’ high; I buried just shy of 4’ of it). It had to be parallel to the first structure, as well as level with the ground. Once it was in, I used four 7’ diagonal cross beams to mount the two structures together and two 4’ horizontal crossbeams for extra support. I purchased used scaffold clamps (“cheezeboros” in the production world) for $10 each to secure them. Finally, when the concrete dried and the smoke cleared…THIS BABY WASN’T GOING ANYWHERE!

The best part of this new design was that it wasn’t limited to pull-ups, muscle-ups, and flags. It could accommodate Australian pull-ups, dips and an unlimited variety of grips. My backyard pull-up bar had exceeded my expectations!

In this world, things don’t always go as planned. But when we move forward and roll with the changes, we may find ourselves grateful for the unexpected. That’s part of what makes life beautiful. I’m proud to say I have Brooklyn’s finest home gym – and proud to have made it with my own two hands!

Watch the video below for more:

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Learning to Do a Pull-up

The pull-up is my all-time favorite exercise, so naturally I write about it a lot.

Unfortunately, not all of my readers can do a pull-up…yet.

Many of you have told me you feel like you’ll never be able to do a pull-up.

Well that’s crap!

If I can do it, so can you.

Pull Yourself Together (And UP!)
As is the case with all bodyweight exercises, the heavier you are, the harder it is to do a pull-up, so the first area to assess is your weight. Hopefully, you’ve already started cleaning up your diet. Once you drop the fat, doing a pull-up gets way more realistic.

Another reason you may be having a hard time doing pull-ups is lack of upper-body strength. This is more often an issue for women. It’s just biology ladies – you don’t have as much natural upper-body strength as men. This does not mean you are incapable of pull-ups, it just means that you have to work a little harder for it. (Check out my pull-up tutorial for women for more info).

You Don’t Need Machines
When I was a rookie trainer, I used to put clients on the assisted pull-up (Gravitron) machine. In theory, every few weeks I’d be able to lower the amount of assistance until they didn’t need it at all anymore. In theory.

In reality, none of my clients ever made the leap from not being able to do a pull-up to being able to do one using the Gravitron. The problem is that it takes most of the stability away from the exercise, making it closer to a lat pull-down than an actual pull-up.

How to Work Towards Pull-ups
The best ways to work towards pull-ups are manually assisted pull-ups,
flex hangs, slow negatives and Australian pull-ups.

Manually assisted pull-ups are when you have your trainer spot you on the way up by pressing on your mid-back with their hand(s). I prefer this method over the “hold the feet” method for the same reasons I dislike the Gravitron.

The term “flex hang” refers to holding the top position of a pull-up, and is performed for time.

Negative pull-ups are when you lower yourself down from the top position of the pull-up. Performing slow negatives is a fantastic way to get a feel for the movement pattern of the full pull-up, without having to perform the entire range of motion.

Start by holding a flex hang for as long as you can. When your arms start to fatigue, lower yourself to a right angle at your elbow and hold there. Continue to fight gravity the rest of the way down, carefully lowering to a full hang.

And of course, there’s the good ol’ Australian Pull-up.

Things like lat pull-down machines and Gravitrons aren’t totally useless, but they should not be used as your sole means of working this movement pattern. Moving your own body weight is a unique skill that requires practice and patience.

Watch the video below for more:


For more information about pull-ups, pick up a copy of my book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics.

5B's Pull-up Jam

This past Saturday was a big workout day for your ol’ buddy Al.

First, I took advantage of Summer Streets by running a few miles during the morning hours. Then after leading my bootcamp workout at Tompkins Square Park, I headed into Crown Heights, Brooklyn to participate in the 12th annual 5B’s Pull-up Jam.

There were six events: muscle-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, dips, squats, and sit-ups. I only participated in the first two events as it had been a long day and with so many participants, the contest was going to go into the night.

The muscle-up contest was first, and it was the only event that wasn’t divided into weight classes. I got to compete with the big boys (literally!). For this event, competitors were given 2 minutes to do as many reps as possible without coming off the bar. I managed to get 18 reps, which was enough to finish it the upper 50% of the competition but not enough to take home a trophy.

The pull-up contest had a lot more competitors and, as a lightweight (I’m barely 160 lbs. these days), my division went last. For this event, we were again given 2 minutes, but we were allowed to come down from the bar in order to rest. The judges were being lenient with form, allowing kipping and not enforcing a dead hang. They were, however, very strict about the chin clearing the bar for a rep to count. I managed 43 official reps in the two minute time allowance, as a few of my reps were not credited.

All in all it was a great day and I hope to participate next year. Watch the video below for more:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyKPrSPL8Gw

Pyramid Sets

Pyramid sets are a fun way to breathe new life into your workout routine. Without changing any of your exercises, you can use pyramid sets to shock your body and progress your training.

The term “pyramid set” typically refers to multiple sets of an exercise (or exercises) with descending or ascending numbers of reps in concurrent sets.

For example, you might only do 1 rep on the first set, then do 2 on the second all the way up to ten. Then you can start working your way down, like going up and down the steps of a pyramid.

You can do this with a circuit workout as well, performing increasing reps of several exercises in succession. (1 push-up, 1 pull-up, 1 dip; 2 push-ups, 2 pull-ups, 2 dips, etc.)

This type of pyramid protocol can become a serious endurance challenge after a few sets. It’s also a way to make a game out of building up your conditioning. Changing the number of reps not only mixes it up for you mentally, it also keeps your body guessing. But don’t forget, working out is serious business – it ain’t a game!

Pyramid sets are commonly seen in weight training as well. In this context, one will usually increase the weight as the reps decrease. In the weight room you might do your first set of squats with 95 lbs. for 10 reps, then 135 lbs. for 8, followed by 185 for 6, etc. This is a great way to build strength and size.

Check out this video of me trying a pyramid workout that I got from my friends The Bar-barians. The pyramid goes from 1-5 reps with pull-ups, muscle-ups and dips. Boy were my arms tired!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cl9EVomoGtM

All Kinds of Pull-ups

Neutral Grip Pull-up

The pull-up is my all time favorite exercise. It’s simple, effective and can be varied in an endless amount of ways. Pull-ups work the entire upper body, particularly the lats and other back muscles.

The Basics
The standard pull-up is performed while hanging from an overhead bar with your hands a bit wider than your shoulders and your palms facing away from you. Keeping your whole body tight, begin to pull yourself upward. When your chin passes the bar, you’ve completed one repetition.

Chin-ups
The chin-up is the most common pull-up variation; it’s the same as a pull-up except your palms are facing towards you. Changing the grip from overhand to underhand places more emphasis on the biceps.

Wide Grip vs. Close Grip
Feel free to vary the width of your grip with chin-ups and pull-ups. Wider grips will generally be a bit harder as they place more emphasis on the lats; a closer grip puts more emphasis on the arms, chest and shoulders.

Neutral Grip & Commando Pull-ups
You can also do a pull-up with your palms facing towards each other. This is typically done on two bars that are parallel to each other (commonly referred to as a neutral grip). There is also a variation where you do a neutral grip pull-up on one bar with your hands staggered, alternating which side of the bar your head passes on the way up. This is often called a commando pull-up.

Australian Pull-ups
If you’re still learning to do a pull-up, the Australian pull-up is a great way to work your way up. Check out my guide to Australian pull-ups for more on this modification.

Behind the neck pull-up

Behind the Neck Pull-ups
This is an exercise that I recommend being careful with. If you’re new to pull-ups or you’ve had shoulder/rotator cuff issues, it might be best to leave these out for now. However, for those of you who are comfortable with pull-ups and have healthy shoulders, going behind the neck can be a challenging and worthwhile variation.

Dead Hang Pull-ups
When performing pull-ups, you want to use a full range of motion. The dead hang pull-up ensures that you are doing just that. During a dead hang pull-up, your arms are fully extended at the bottom of each rep, bringing your body to a dead hang. Absolutely no momentum is used to pull your body upwards.

Kipping Pull-ups
Unlike the dead hang pull-up, when you do a kipping pull-up you are intentionally using as much momentum as possible to swing yourself over the bar – be explosive! There are a few different kipping techniques out there. Mine is a bit unorthodox but it works for me.

Plyo Pull-ups
Once you get comfortable with pull-ups and kipping pull-ups, try some plyometric variations. Any explosive pull-up that involves letting go of the bar is a plyometric pull-up. One of my favorite plyo pull-ups is the clapping pull-up.

Archer Pull-ups
An archer pull-up involves using a very wide grip and only bending one elbow as you pull yourself up. The other arm stays straight. The top of the rep looks almost like you are drawing a bow and arrow. The archer pull-up is a great technique to help practice towards the one arm pull-up.

The One Arm Pull-up
The one arm pull-up is the granddaddy of them all! It takes tons of practice and patience to acquire this skill, but if you are willing to work for it, it’s within your grasp!

A Life of Possibilities
This is by no means an all-inclusive list. There are infinite pull-up variations so feel free to get creative! Watch the video below to see demonstrations of these pull-ups as well as several other variations, such as the L-sit pull-up the “X pull-up.”

Advanced Muscle-ups

I know what you might be thinking, “Advanced muscle-ups? Aren’t muscle-ups already an advanced exercise?”

Yes, the muscle-up is a fairly advanced exercise by itself, but with practice, muscle-ups will eventually become manageable. That’s when it’s time to raise the bar!

Plyo Muscle-ups
If you know about plyometrics, it’s easy to figure out what a plyo muscle-up might look like. To do this move, keep pushing after you get to the top of your muscle-up and try to
get some hang time.

Muscle-overs
A muscle-over takes the plyo muscle-up to the next level. Instead of just getting a little hang time at the top, a muscle-over involves throwing your entire body over the bar. This is typically done by bouncing your hips off the bar at the top to get a little extra momentum (sometimes referred to as “casting off”). Psychologically, the muscle-over can be quite intimidating at first, but do not let your fear stop you from trying. If you can do a muscle-up and a vault, you can do a muscle-over.

Reverse Grip Muscle-up
Unlike the pull-up, which is typically easier with an underhand grip, performing a muscle-up with your palms facing towards you is much harder than with your palms facing away. In order to perform a reverse grip muscle-up, you need to generate a lot of explosive power by kipping from your hips and creating a large arc with your body as it moves over the bar. Since you can’t use a false grip when your palms are facing you, allow your palms to spin around the bar on the way up.

Circle Muscle-ups
The circle muscle-up begins like an archer pull-up. Once you get your chin over the bar, begin bending your straight arm and shifting your weight to the other side as you press your body all the way to the top. This move takes a lot of practice but if you are willing to put in the work, it is attainable.

Performing any of these moves requires strength, skill and grace. They’re all still works in progress for me. If you’ve read this far and you don’t know about the Bar-barians, check them out. I made up some of these names for moves but I didn’t make up the moves themselves. Make sure you’re comfortable with how to do a muscle-up before trying these advanced progressions.

Watch the video below for more:

Muscle-ups on Rings

Last year, I posted a muscle-up tutorial that explained how to perform the muscle-up on a pull-up bar. Since then, several people have inquired about learning to perform this skill on gymnastics rings.

Performing muscle-ups on rings may at first seem a lot harder to someone who is used to doing the exercise on a bar, but once one acclimates to the subtle differences in technique, the disparity should balance out.

Why Do the Rings Seem Harder?

The main difference between the bar and the rings is that the rings add a stability component. The other big difference is that because the rings are not in a fixed position, they allow you to rotate your wrists as you pull yourself up and over. While this may seem like an added challenge at first, the rotation actually makes the move less difficult.

The False Grip
While utilizing a false grip to perform a muscle-up on a bar is helpful, using the false grip to muscle-up on rings is essential.

A false grip involves cocking your wrist and putting your hand through the ring, so that the tip of your ulna (the bottom bone in your forearm) is in contact with the ring. This will likely feel uncomfortable at first. (You may get some bruising on your wrists, consider using wraps if it is an issue.)

The Technique

As you pull yourself up, think about bringing the rings towards your armpits and reaching your legs forward. Once the rings are below your shoulders, begin pushing your chest and shoulders in front of your hands while rotating your wrists so your knuckles wind up pointing towards the ground. From there, simply press yourself up, just like you would if you were doing a dip.

Watch the video below for more:

Thanks to Nimble Fitness for letting me shoot in their facility.

The One Arm Chin-up (May 2010)

The one arm chin-up has been my favorite feat of strength since the first time I ever saw one performed. It’s a beautiful display of strength, power and control. Anyone who can do a one arm chin-up has automatically earned my respect, for to perform this move takes discipline, patience and determination.

No matter how strong you are, you simply cannot acquire this skill without lots and lots of practice. In previous posts, I’ve discussed some effective techniques to utilize while training for one arm chin-ups , like the archer pull-up and one arm negatives.

Last fall I was still working towards getting a single one arm pull-up. Now, after nearly 3 years of working on this move, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can do two in a row!

Check out the video below for evidence that if you set your mind to something and dedicate yourself to it, you can make it a reality.

Dead Hang Pull-ups w/ Danny Kavadlo

Danny and IIf you’ve ever had a pull-up contest (or been asked to judge one), then you know how hard it is to ensure fairness. There are a lot of things to consider, such as technique, range of motion, hand placement, grip, etc.

I’ve heard a lot of people boast about how many pull-ups they can do only to find out that what they count as a rep is barely half the range of motion.

Last month, when I took the 20 pull-up challenge, a few readers even criticized me for “cheating.”

Using the dead hang pull-up is one way to make sure everyone is on the same page.

A dead hang pull-up involves fully locking out the elbows at the bottom of every rep. No momentum is involved during a proper dead hang pull-up. It’s a total 180 from the kipping pull-up.

I stopped by to see my brother Danny last week at his gym (he’s the personal training manager at NYHRC’s flagship location on 23rd street), and we decided to have an impromptu dead hang pull-up contest.

I went first, making sure to proceed slowly and deliberately between reps. Danny went second, and seemed more focused on trying to beat my number, rather than doing every rep with total precision.

Alas, I feel as though our pull-up contest ended ambiguously, but we both got a great workout, so in that sense we’re both winners.

Watch the video below to see for yourself:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9pofy0WWWk


For more information about muscle-ups, pick up a copy of my book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics.

Al Takes the 20 Pull-up Challenge!

Pull-upsAs you may know, pull-ups are my favorite exercise. So when I stumbled across the twenty pull-up challenge the other day, it was obvious to me what I needed to do.

For the purpose of this particular challenge, our pull-ups will be performed using an overhand grip on the bar, the legs will be kept straight and the movement will be performed with control.

There are lots of types of pull-ups, and I’m not usually a stickler, but I know some people are, so I’m hoping to avoid any confusion.

A couple months ago, I issued my own 50 pull-up challenge, but this challenge is different than that one. These twenty pull-ups must be done in one consecutive set.

I think that 20 consecutive pull-ups is an achievable goal for any able-bodied man out there. For women, 10 might be a more achievable goal. The potential to do incredible things is within all of us!

Watch the video below for more:


Update: One Year Later

I received some criticism on my first video from people who either claimed my grip was too narrow or that I didn’t complete a full range of motion. I took those criticsms to heart and made a new video:

All About Australian Pull-ups

Australian PullupThe bodyweight row or Australian pull-up places you “down under” the bar in a horizontal position to hit your muscles from a different angle than the traditional pull-up.

By hanging below a bar that is set just above waist height with your heels in contact with the ground, you’ll wind up at an angle that’s almost like an upside-down push-up.

From this position, brace your entire body as you pull your chest toward the bar and be careful not to bend your hips or shrug your shoulders. Pause briefly when your chest is an inch or two from the bar, then lower back down with control.

Because it is a different plane of motion, this exercise works the muscles from a different angle than standard pull-ups or chin-ups, placing additional emphasis on the muscles of the mid-back, as well as the biceps, abs and upper-back.

Using the Australian for Beginners
If you aren’t strong enough to do a pull-up, this is a great way to start to build toward your first rep. Once you can do 3 sets of 10 Aussies without struggling, it won’t be long before a pull-up is within your grasp.

Trainer Tip:
The higher up the bar, the better the leverage, so if performing an Aussie on a waist-height bar is too difficult for you, then start with a bar that’s closer to chest height instead.

Using the Australian in a Superset
The Australian pull-up is a great exercise to use in a superset with push-ups, since they work opposite muscle groups. You will get a great pump from doing this and it also allows you to keep your heart rate up. Due to the fact that you’re allowing certain muscles to rest while you are using others, you can maintain that elevated heart rate without burning out your muscles too quickly.

The Australian pull-up can also be used in a superset after the standard kind if you are trying to increase your reps on pull-ups.

Plyometric Australian Pull-up
As you progress with this exercise, you can turn the Australian pull-up into a plyometric movement by switching from a wide grip to a narrow grip on alternating reps. You can also switch back and forth from overhand and underhand grips in an explosive fashion to further increase the difficultly of this exercise.

Watch the video below for more about Australian pull-ups:

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One Arm Australian Pull-ups and More!

When doing a one arm Australian pull-up, you are down under the bar

When you do a one arm Australian pull-up,
you wind up down under the bar!

Last month I gave you some tips to get started on building up to one arm pull-ups. Here are three more tools to have in your arsenal along the way.

The One Arm Australian

The one arm Australian pull-up is a worthwhile exercise in its own right, though it’s never been one of my favorites. However, it can be a useful tool to help build towards a classic one arm pull-up. Since at least one leg stays on the ground, it is a little easier to perform than a regular one arm pull-up.

When attempting the one arm Australian pull-up, concentrate on engaging your abs and your back muscles–don’t just focus on using your bicep strength. Remember that when you do a one arm Australian, it’s natural for your body to roll a little bit in the direction of you arm.

Keep your whole body tight when performing a one arm flex hang

Keep your whole body tight when performing a one arm flex hang


The One Arm Flex Hang

The flex hang, which involves holding your body at the top of a pullup position, is commonly used to build strengh and endurance in the upper body. Female marines are required to perform a flex hang in order to prove themselves worthy of that title.

The flex hang can also be performed using only one arm. At first, I recommend keeping your legs tucked close to your body as it will allow you to engage more core strength. As you get better you can try practicing with your legs extended.


Weighted Pull-ups
Weighted pull-ups are another great way to build the strength that you’ll need to perform a one arm pull-up. Just like the one arm pull-down, pick a weight that you are only able to get around 3 reps with. Going for a one rep max on this is also beneficial, but make sure that you are warmed up first!

Don’t assume that you need to be strong enough to pull double your body weight with two arms in order for it to carry over into a one arm pull. Once you can do weighted pull-ups with around 65-75% of your body weight, that will roughly translate into a one arm chin-up.

Keep in Mind
It’s important to mention when discussing one arm pull-ups (of any kind) that your secondary arm does not touch your primary arm in any way. It can be stiff against the body or it can be out in the air, but if you are holding your arm or wrist you are not doing a true one arm chin.

The one arm pull-up (or chin-up) is a very elusive move and requires a lot of patience, consistency, and dedication. So the question you need to ask yourself is this: How badly do you want it?

Watch this video for demonstrations and more!
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmiv4tkyxK8

Muscle-Ups!!

Muscle-ups are one of the most intense body-weight exercises ever. They work so many different muscles and will get your heart and lungs pumping as well.

What is a muscle-up, you may ask? It’s almost like a combination of two of my favorite exercises: the pull-up and the dip, but way more intense than either of those on their own!

Muscle-ups are a pretty advanced exercise so I recommend that before you even try to work up to one, you get to the point where you can do 15 consecutive pull-ups and 20 consecutive parallel bar dips.

Close up of the false grip.

Close up of the false grip.

When doing a muscle-up it is important to note that the most effective grip is different than a traditional pull-up grip. Muscle-ups are typically done using what’s called a “false grip” which involves putting your hand farther over the bar, so that your palms are facing the ground and your wrist is cocked when you are hanging. This allows you a smooth transition from the pull-up phase of the movement into the dip phase.

If you want to work towards doing muscle-ups, it’s helpful to practice trying to get as high up over the bar as you can when doing pull-ups. Explosive pull-ups where you let go at the top can also be used as a precursor to doing muscle-ups.

When you perform a muscle-up, think about moving your upper body away from the bar on the way up rather than pulling straight towards it. Once you clear the bar, move your chest over it as you press yourself to the top of the movement. The arc of the body will create an S-shape pattern.

See my other muscle-up tutorial and check out the video clip below for more!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9w-xS2AudA

And if you’ve already got the hang of muscle-ups, check out my article on advanced muscle-ups.