Why you Can’t Muscle Up – 3 Things you are Doing Wrong

The muscle-up is an advanced bodyweight exercise, within the domain of Calisthenics. It is a combination routine of a radial pull-up followed by a dip. Variations exist for the rings as well as the bar.

The ring muscle up is consider to be easier than the bar muscle up, due to the increased range of motion provided by the rings. So, this is the variation we are going to use for this article.

Nevertheless, both variations are really challenging, as they require proper technique combined with explosive pull strength.

For this reason, the muscle up is one of the most rewarding exercises available, in terms of improving your upper-body strength. It targets a variety of muscles, including your chest, back, shoulders, abs, biceps and triceps!

It can, also, bee used as a transition move on the rings, in order to perform other Calisthenics skills, like the PlancheFront LeverBack Lever and even the Handstand too!

A Muscle up is, actually, a pull-up that transitions into a dip.

As you can see above, the muscle up consists of three parts. The pull up, the transition and the push.

The hardest parts are the end range of the pull up and the transition. This is, also, where most of the mistakes happen.

So, lets brake down the 3 basic mistakes you need to avoid :


The first mistake people do when they try muscle up for the first time, is losing the false grip while pulling up, which makes it impossible to perform the transition part effectively.

The false grip keeps your wrist in contact with the inside edge of the rings, providing you bigger range of motion, better form and balance.

There are two things you can do in order to keep the false grip during the muscle up:

  • The first one is using Magnesium Carbonate chalk, in order to help you with your grip and make sure that you don’t slip.
  • The second thing you can do, is practicing hanging in the false grip position. At first it would feel weird and uncomfortable, but with time you will get used to it and you might be able to hang from one hand too!


The second mistake and most important one, is that you’re not pulling high enough in the pull up phase.

This is, probably, happening because you’re not practicing the full range of motion on the pull up. You see, most people stop when their chin reaches their hands, but that’s not where you want to stop.

You want to reach the entire range of motion of the pull up. For that to happen, you should supinate your hands at the end of the range of the motion and try to touch the rings with your chest, as this is the position from which you start the transition part.

So, before attempting the muscle up, make sure you can perform at least 10 full range pull ups. You can see the proper pull up technique in the video below :


The third mistake is that you’re not practising the transition part enough.

The truth is you won’t achieve the transition, if you just do pull ups and dips. You have to work on that specific range of motion, when you pull the rings from your chest to the side of your body, leaning forward as much as you can and ending up in the low dip position.

Now, there are two exercises for working on the transition part of the muscle up, the Eccentric muscle up and the Russian dip:


The Eccentric muscle up is the hardest exercise of the two. This is when you jump into the dip and you go down trying to control the transition as much as you can.

The problem with that is that it is really difficult to control at the beginning, and it usually ends up looking like you just falling from the dip.

So before moving to this one you should try the Russian dip.


The Russian dip is a friendlier option, as it is performed on parallel bars.

This is an exercise that stimulates the muscle up transition very well, while eliminating the instability of the rings, which allows you to progress in the transition more gradually.

The best way to start this exercise is by using a resistance band and going as low as you can with your elbows. Stop right before you touch the bars and then go back up again.

Once you feel comfortable with that, try touching the bars with your elbows on your way down and then go back up.

And finally, once you feel comfortable with that too, try removing the resistance band and perform the same move.

Once you get to a point where you can touch the bars with your elbows, with a fully controlled movement and without using anything for assistance, then you can transition into the Eccentric muscle up.

At that point you would be ready to start dealing with the full range of motion of the transition and the instability of the rings.


That’s it!

Hopefully, with these inputs and corrections you will be able to achieve your first muscle up.

Remember, that it takes time to develop new abilities and skills. Learning the technique and developing the necessary strength and control isn’t easy.

So, be patient and enjoy the process!

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