For quite awhile, just the mention of bar muscle ups nearly had me running out of the gym.
So if you're entirely new the BMU's, don't be like me and let them intimidate you. The key is working on the correct bar muscle up progression, and making sure that you understand the movement. Let's walk through it.
WODprep's 6 Steps to Bar Muscle Up Progression
- The hollow body position: Jump up onto the bar, and establish a solid hollow body position while hanging.
- The extended (arch) position: Your back should be slightly arched, with your feet behind you and together, staying tight throughout your core and quads.
- Scoop legs & lever back: From the arch position, move to scooping your legs through (back under the bar) and then levering yourself back.
- The hip pop: As your knees and legs are lifting into the air with the elevation, think about aggressively popping your hips.
- Slide hands around the bar: Relax your grip, let both of your hands slide around the bar at the same time.
- Fast sit-up & lock out arms: Engage your core, and allow that torso to really pivot over the top of the pull-up bar, then locking out your arms at the top.
Now, let's take some time to dive into each step of the BMU movement a little bit more in-depth.
The Bar Muscle Up Back Story
First, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I've been CrossFitting now for several years, but didn't manage to grab my first bar muscle up until the 2017 Open. I had been working on them for over a year at that point.... and in 2016, after mastering kipping pull-ups, decided it was time to take on bar muscle ups.
Standing under the bar wondering if you're ready?
WODprep doesn’t recommend attempting bar muscle ups until you can do at least a few strict pull-ups. Don’t have strict or kipping pull-ups yet? Check out our pull-ups guide.
So when the 2016 opened rolled around, I thought that it was time to finally conquer my first bar muscle up.
I'll skip past the several failed BMU attempts, and let you know that I didn’t. I walked away from that workout with two ripped hands and broken pride.
To be really honest, I didn’t give bar muscle ups a shot for a long time after that.
2017 Open: My Second Try At Bar Muscle Ups
Fast forward a year. I hadn't really been practicing bar muscle ups, and had just stuck to my kipping pull-ups. Too many athletes around me made the movement look simple, and I just didn't feel like making myself look stupid again.
My internal thought process was "No point in embarrassing myself, right? I won't even bother..."
(Wrong - such a terrible mindset to have!)
When 17.2 was announced, I decided it was time to give it a go again. Except more tactically this time. I took a few days before the workout, watched every single video that WODprep has on bar muscle up progressions, and took time to break down the movement with my coaches at the gym.
I didn’t need the Open magic - I ended up getting 11 bar muscle ups total. They were singles of course, and they were pretty ugly, but I got them!
Now, enough of my bar muscle up saga, let’s talk strategy.
How can YOU learn bar muscle ups once and for all?
Why Not Try a Bar Muscle-Up Progression?
What did I learn during my BMU journey? A lot of things, but most importantly I learned that it's pretty difficult to obtain a new skill if you go into without much training, or practicing a skill progression.
It's pretty crucial to have a coach and a program to follow beforehand, or even just a free guide...
In order for you to build your bar muscle up knowledge before hopping into some drills, let’s talk through those six keys to a bar muscle up progression that WODprep recommends.
Bar Muscle Ups Step #1: The hollow body position
Similar to pull-ups, holding a hollow body position is key. Jump up onto the bar, and establish a solid hollow body position while hanging. Try playing around with your grip; I personally find that a slightly narrower grip is easier for me when it comes to bar muscle ups.
Bar Muscle Ups Step #2: The arch
Move into an arched position - or in other words, an extended position. Your back should be slightly arched, with your feet behind you and together, staying tight throughout your core and quads, with your shoulders open and active. Do not kick your legs back like a scorpion! Stay tight.
Bar Muscle Ups Step #3: Scoop legs & lever back
From the arch position, move to scooping your legs through (back under the bar) and then levering yourself back. Think of it as closing the angle between your arms and torso, while “pulling” the bar down. This will naturally elevate your body. The arms won't do much bending here, so try to keep them straight.
Bar Muscle Ups Step #4: The hip pop
Once your body begins to elevate, it’s time for that hip pop. As your knees and legs are lifting into the air with the elevation, think about aggressively popping your hips. This is what will really help to get your body over the top bar. Almost simultaneous with your hip pop, you should also begin to pull the bar towards your hips. We call this the "Pop & Pull" method in our Bar Muscle Up Mastery course.
Bar Muscle Ups Step #5: Slide hands around the bar
This is one of the most important steps to a bar muscle up progression, so listen up. You need to let your hands to slide around the bar.
This step is often missed by many athletes, who instead death grip the bar. Without the sliding motion around the bar, it’s pretty hard to let your body settle over the top of the bar! This mistake is what commonly leads to the dreaded ‘chicken wing’ - which can actually cause injury.
Think: relax your grip, let both of your hands slide around the bar at the same time.
Bar Muscle Ups Step 6: Fast sit-up & lock out arms
The final cue in this bar muscle up progression in order to get up and over that bar is ‘the fast sit-up.’
Think of it this way; if you were wearing a hat while doing your bar muscle up, you want to throw that hat off of your head as you come up and over the bar. Engage your core, and allow that torso to really pivot over the top of the pull-up bar, then locking out your arms at the top.
Remember: practice makes perfect!
More of a visual learner? Check out this full-length video on BMU progressions from Coach Ben.
I share my story to help give some perspective, regardless of what your gymnastic-savvy friend may tell you, or how simple Ben can make it look, bar muscle ups aren’t always that easy.
Luckily, WODprep is here to help give you that plan you need to either work towards your first bar muscle up, perfect your form, or start stringing them together. Be sure to check out our free guide below
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Question: Which step are you missing in your bar muscle-up progression?
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