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?In your own words, what do you think is causing this problem? Comment below and the WODprep team will help you fix it!
I can get them with bands but without bands, I can’t seem to get my hips high enough and my arch doesn’t seem powerful enough
Have you ever tried moving to a lighter band? That could help increase the difficulty, but not so much that you’re unable to do them at all.
Usually I’ll have athletes slowly work down in band size as they’re also practicing other drills
I got my first bar muscle ups a couple of days ago, but now I can’t be able to get any more.
Hey – don’t stress about it. The good news is that you got your first one! I promise if you stick with it, you’ll hit them more consistently. Definitely download the free training course if you haven’t yet >> https://wodprep.com/bar-muscle-ups/
I think I’m missing piping my hips open and maybe griping too tight. I can do a muscle up in a band. I can jump up and get my body over a shorter bar while standing on a box. But, when I try an rx bar muscle up I end up hitting my chest on the bar and not getting over the bar.
Poping, not piping.
Hey Monica! This might be what we call “the death grip”. Basically what’s happening is that you’re getting enough elevation and momentum, just not allowing your body to transition over the bar.
Definitely check out the free guide because we go over the intricacies about how to get rid of the death grip! Hope it helps you out!
My problems is that my hands are babies. I wear bear komplex grips that I have slipped off the bar once doing kipping pull-ups wearing them. Mentally trying to not fear falling off still. I use to stream 5/6 to now 2 because I feel like I’m going to fly again. I can’t hold on the bar without them. Long story short my hands slow me down tremendously. I sometime can get BMU with the band but, still struggle.
Hey Latasha! Question… do you keep your thumbs wrapped around the bar (like a barbell) or do you put your thumbs over the bar on the top?
If I had to guess, you might not be grabbing the bar properly -this is what I call the “suicide grip” and I don’t reccomend it!
I think its worth mentioning that along with the relaxed grip aggressive pulling, when you are closing the distance with the bar, you also need to lift your elbows , if not your wrists will stay under the bar, and will be holding you from towering over the bar.
Very true Vasilis – awesome point, thanks for mentioning that!
Great article Kait! can’t wait to try the info to improve my muscle up!
[…] ole’ Dave announces a movement like double unders, muscle ups, or some other high-skill movement during the Open, and the procrastinators crawl out of the […]
[…] Follow a specific program and keep track of how many sessions per week you complete. Standing under the bar isn’t going to get you anywhere… but a plan certainly will. […]
I’m having problems with the hip pop. I’m struggling with popping my hips to the bars. My hips are not are not getting up high enough, making it hard for me to get bar muscle ups down consistently. What drill(s) could help me to get this part down?
Death grip. I have done a bunch of the drills but seems like I can’t get past the death grip. Please help.
I got 2 bar muscle ups and then tried again yesterday with failure to finish the movement. My kip is really high but I for some reason am missing the pull the bar under me. It’s like a disconnect. I’m 7/8 above the bar and cant quite finish it.
Hey Julie! Don’t worry, lots of people struggle with this part. I’d suggest envisioning that you’re doing a “fast sit up”. Here’s a video where I talk about it even more:
[…] another bar muscle up article that breaks down the movement, if you’re looking for further […]
I’ve been able to do BMU since the open in 2016, but I’m still chicken-winging! 🙁 I think it might be because I death grip the bar, and/or because I can’t get my hips high enough without a band. I just don’t know why I can’t seem to get them after all this time – I have spent so much time drilling them!
[…] on. They may not need to work on “bar muscle-ups” per say, but they may need to focus on bar muscle-ups when paired with other grip-intensive movements like light power […]
I never know when is the right time to slide my hands around the bar
I can touch the bar with my hip but i never know when to turn
The hip pop isn’t timed correctly and probably isn’t even in the right plane.
I bend my arms too early…
I can do them with a light band but without the band I feel like my legs are too straight – the videos all have bent legs – and I end up in an arch rather than a hollow when I pull to the bar so I can’t sit up over it?
I don’t think I’m patient enough to alllow myself to get behind the bar, and pull the bar to my hips. I bend my arms too soon and it ends up looking very strict and very chicken wing-y. Would like to learn to string them together.