The No.1 Guide To The Muscle ups Exercise (Progression)

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Top Fit Buzz Bodies (Interviews)

 

Ok, so you’ve been mastering the pull ups exercise for the past several weeks, months or even for the past year. If you’re a recent Fit Buzz member, then you may have been using the Fit Buzz pull ups program. If not, then it’s never too late to learn by getting started HERE. (It’s one of the core ab exercises… remember) But if there’s one thing that will motivate you more than anything else, it’s witnessing real progress. I mention the benefits of mastering pull ups in the intro video here…

 

In short, you’ll build a strong and sexy back (for the ladies) as well as superior upper body strength, which of course adds fuel to the fire on the quest to get lean and strong. The beginning is always the hardest, but the order of progression goes something like this…

  1. 3 x 10 push ups
  2. 10, 8, 6 (3 sets) pull ups
  3. 3 x 10 reps of pull ups
  4. Weighted pull ups with a dip belt (This is where you add extra weight in the form of a weight plate to your waist, or a dumbbell between your ankles

             (5kg)

             (10kg)

             (15kg)

             Fast forward….

             (35kg) <==That’s how much I can add to date :). And… 45 kg on dips!

 

Ok, I’ll stop showing off. I only state ‘my’ numbers to show YOU what’s possible. Because Fit Buzz is all about YOU! If you want to see some video evidence,  just ask in the comments below and I’ll happily record a new video for you.

Back to business…

The above is what your progress will look like after several months of working out. However, most quit too early and rarely reach the 3 x 10 pull ups mark. But if you are one of those rare gems that have mastered pull ups and want to progress to the next step (muscle ups… on a bar), then the following guide will help you get there. (Ladies, this exercise is for you too. In fact, you’ll impress a whole lot of people if you perform this exercise in front of a crowd, as a female!)

 

#1 Fix your mindset

 

This is the one thing that you need to get right if you want to learn how to get yourself over the bar with nothing but raw upper body strength. In fact, you don’t need much strength at all to execute one muscle up. It’s more about technique + mindset then actual strength. The first thing that will help you here is that satisfactory feeling that you already have from being able to perform 0 to up to 30+ pull ups. This helps because success encourages self belief and makes you feel some what invincible.

The second thing that you need to do is change your mindset from executing a slow performing exercise (pull ups) to an explosive exercise (muscle up). When you approach the pull up bar to perform a pull up/chin up, your goal is to pace your strength for a series of reps with a focus on perfect exercise form. But for the muscle up your intention will be to jump onto the bar from the ground or a box and then to lift yourself up and over bar in one swift movement.

The mistake that most people make is limiting themselves to thinking that their body is not capable of performing certain movements. Heck, even I used to do this. The first step to kill this mindset is by finding a gym buddy to push you up and over the bar when you reach the top of the pull up movement. Once you get over the bar, you’ll realize that the muscle up is simply a dips exercise only with your hands in a more horizontal position. Nothing incapable about that exercise, right?

However, you won’t always have help at your disposal and you’ll eventually have to learn to get over the bar on your own. The best way to get there is by progressively getting there.

 

#2 Progress with the movement

 

The best way to start with muscle ups progression is by standing on a box, high enough so that your head can nearly touch the bar when you stand on it. This basically means that you would be cutting out 50% of the pull up movement from the dead hang position. Allowing you to focus the remaining 50% on getting yourself over the bar.

 

The goal

The first goal is to perform just one or two muscle ups.

Movement and technique

As I mentioned before, it’s all about technique rather than strength. Heck, I couldn’t even do one muscle up at one point, even though I was able to perform max reps with an added 34kg dumbbell at my ankles. Again, it’s all about technique.

Step 1 – Kick your feet forward

By kicking your feet forward, you instantly create a swing back and seated ‘like’ movement. This pushes your body back and away from the bar, rather than under the bar. Which then drives energy to your upper back.

Step 2 – Push your chest forward

Remember, this is one explosive movement, so your goal here is to use ALL of your energy and strength in one swift movement. This means that you’ll end up with your chin way over the bar at the top of the movement. In that split second, you will then push your chest forward, following on from kicking your feet forward. This then causes your elbows to point up and backwards. It is at this point that all of that built up kinetic energy will be ready to help you execute the muscle up.

You may have to pause for a second or two, but that’s ok, as you’re just learning the movement. But once you’re at this point, it’s safe to say that you’ve performed one muscle up on your own. :).

That’s the basic starting point. From this point, you simply keep practicing on a box until you’re comfortable to jump onto the bar and perform muscle ups from the ground. Once you’ve mastered the movement, you can start performing muscle up dips between each rep too.

 

Is there more to conquer after the muscle up?

There sure is, but I’ll leave that until another post. The only other thing I need to mention here is to make sure that you perform this exercise on a bar that has plenty of head room above. 

Push ups, pull ups, muscle ups… these are exercises that anyone can master, guys or girls. Just follow everything as I’ve described here, or in the program and I can assure you, you will master the bar and become a part of a very elite crowd.

 

You can view the full program here ==> pull-up-workout

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The Ultimate Pull up Strength Workout

The goal for many Fitbuzzers is to look lean, ripped, sexy and be ‘strong’. And if you look at any of the physiques over in the hall of fame, or from those we interview, that’s exactly what you’ll see. Not too muscular and not too soft. Just a nice balance of both.

Quite recently we have seen a lot of ladies getting into the pull ups exercise on and offline in the gyms that we train in. Which is great, because most people fear the pull up bar. Who knows, maybe girl power is evolving into new territory :). Nevertheless it’s a great thing. And we thought it would be a good idea to share an approach to pull ups progression that’s actually incorporated into your workout. Instead of just focusing on pull ups themselves, which we’ve covered before here.

Introducing…

 

The ultimate pull up strength workout (Strength training)

 

You all now know that in order to get the desired look as described, you simply have to incorporate weightlifting into your workout. Lift heavy and you will become strong, which will tone you up, giving you a hard body. However, today I will give you a plan that allows you to increase your pull up numbers within a structured strength training workout that will allow you progress from beginner to advanced, male or female.

  • Simple programs for novices
  • Complexed programs for the advanced

As a novice, you can literally train close to your limit on a simple beginner program, because the ability required is at a very low level. But that will change the more advanced you become. You will be challenged and you will have to adapt. It’s simple really, just try to keep increasing the weight every time you train.

A Beginners Training Rep Scheme

Perform 3 sets of 8 reps in each of the core movements for the first month. (A high number of reps can easily be performed here, due to the lighter weight being used. Therefore, an attention to exercise form, control and coordination can easily be maintained during the first 4 weeks).

An Intermediate Training Rep Scheme

For the second month, this should be increased to 5 sets of 5 reps (The rep count will have to decrease in order to make sure that control and coordination of each rep is maintained, well enough to ensure that you can perform the exercise to the best of your ability with your current strength levels for weeks 5-8).

An Advanced Training Rep Scheme

For the third month, 6 sets of 6 reps (At this stage you will be reaching your genetic max. Which may require some specialization to your program. This isn’t hard for most young people to achieve at which point you could be knocking out a total of 30+ reps of pull ups… even in 1 set!)(Weeks 8-16 and beyond).

The format above takes you from:

  • Low sets/high reps/light weight

To

  • Higher sets/lower reps/heavy weight.

Here are a few reasons for training this way when increased strength and tone is the goal.

1. Training with a heavy weight demands your respect and attention. It is also a lot safer and easier to perform low reps/more sets than trying to perform a similar or lighter weight with many reps/less sets. Which more often than not may lead to injury. The force production will be the same through in a high rep set, but actual control of the weight will fade which could sacrifice good form. Which is why a progression to lower rep sets wins as your strength increases.

2. Your muscles will experience less fatigue overall.
3. You will still be able to build great strength even without training to failure.
4. You may even start to feel re-energized and not totally zapped compared to performing a high rep set.

Now that you know how to lift throughout the program, let’s go into the actual workout.

 

The Ultimate Pull up Strength Workout (The workout plans)

 

The program will use the best compound exercises that target the body as a whole while performing them in the best way with different load variations as you progress. You don’t have to perform many different exercises to become strong. You can increase your strength by performing just a few key exercises or variations of those exercises.

The workout structure

The following will consist of 6 workouts (2 Beginner/ 2 Intermediate/ 2 Advanced). All of which can be alternated on a 3 day workout week for each of the beginner, intermediate and advanced time periods (4 weeks/ 4 weeks/ 6 weeks).

 

 

The push press variation of the press exercise (Which is one of the core compound movements)

Warm up factors

  • It’s better to warm up in a well heated training facility
  • You will need ‘extra’ warm up activity if you are training with a recovering injury
  • Maintain those muscles and bones, because they start to fade once you hit 20 years old! Basically, the older you are the more important it is to warm up prior to working out.
  • You will notice that there are warm ups to be performed for some of the exercises in the actual workout. This is mainly for you to practice your form first and to prepare your muscles for the upcoming heavier loads.
  • It’s ok to train with a recovering injury. However, if you perform a work set warm and that injured body part doesn’t feel any better, then perform with a lighter weight or simply hold off until you’ve fully recovered from that injury.

The Warm Up

Before you begin any program, it’s always a good idea to warm up. The following is an ideal warm up to perform prior to starting this program. Since this is a full body workout, it is important to warm up all of the limbs of your body for 3-5 minutes with the following movements.

  •    30 arm circles (15 forward/15 backward)
  •     30 stationary marches
  •     30 step jacks or jumping jacks
  •     30 squats  (3 x 10 sets)
  •     30 mountain climbers
  • (Riding an exercise bike is also a great warm up for the heavy squat that you will perform, due to your knees being exposed to a greater range of motion)
  • (Warm up on a rowing machine – Full range of motion involving the back, legs and arms)

Injury can be prevented by focusing on fewer reps/more sets and a heavier weight. But injury prevention starts with the warm up.

Your work set warm ups: (A work set is the actual set where you’ll perform your set loads of the specific exercise)

  • Pull ups (1 set/5 reps)
  • Bench press/ press variations (2-3 set/5 set warm up)
  • Squat (2 set/ 5 reps warm up)
  • Deadlift (1 set/10 reps)
  • Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps)

 

The ultimate pull up strength workout (Beginner workout No.1) (Follow this for 4 weeks)

 

  • The goal: Perform at least 1 full range of motion pull up each set by the end of week 4

How will you know how much weight to lift to begin with?

Follow this weightlifting guideline

  • If you can’t perform 8 reps of any given weight, (lower it). It is too heavy.
  • If you can perform 12 or more reps the weight is too light (Increase it).
  • Your weight for each set may change based on this principle
  • 10 reps is the standard to perform of any weight you lift.

(Before you begin) Warm up

1 – Push ups  

  • As many as possible till failure
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat

2 – Bodyweight only pull ups with controlled descent  (Count to 5 on your way back down to the dead hang position)

  • 10 reps (Your goal is to perform at least one full range of motion pull up. To then progress to the numbers listed. Check here for a more detailed beginner approach to increase your pull up numbers)
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat

3 – Bodyweight only pull ups

  • 10 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds

Barbell only squat (2 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

4 –  Barbell squat

  • 8 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat 2 more times (3 sets total)

 

Barbell only Bench press (2-3 set/5 set Work set warm up)

5 – Bench press  

  • 8 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat 2 more times (3 sets total)

Barbell only Deadlift (1 set/10 reps Work set warm up)

6 -Barbell deadlift  

  • 8 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat 2 more times (3 sets total)

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

7 – Barbell curls  

  • 10 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • repeat

Want to work abs? Perform these exercises at the end of your workout for 10 minutes only.

8 – Hanging leg raises

  • 10 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat

Warm Down

 

The ultimate pull up strength workout (Beginner workout No.2)

 

(Before you begin) Warm up

1 – Push ups

  • 10 reps
  • No rest

2 – Plank Hold – 30 second hold

  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat exercise 2 more times (3 Sets Total)

3 – Bodyweight only pull ups with controlled descent (Count to 5 on your way back down to the dead hang position)

  • 10 reps
  • No rest

Barbell only squat (2 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

4 – Barbell squat  

  • 8 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat 2 more times (3 sets total)

Barbell only standing press (2-3 set/5 set Work set warm up)

5 – Standing press  

  • 8 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat 2 more times (3 sets total)

Bent over rows (2-3 set/5 set Work set warm up)

6 –  Bent over rows 

 

  • 8 reps
  • Rest for 30 seconds
  • Repeat exercise 2 more times (3 Sets Total)

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

7 – DumbBell bicep curls  

  • 10 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

8 – DumbBell front raise  

  • 10 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat

 The ultimate pull up strength workout (Intermediate workout No.1) (Follow this for 4 weeks)

 

  • Longer rest periods between sets
  • Increased weights
  • Less reps and more sets on the core movements
  • The goal: Perform at least 5 pull ups each set by the end of week 4

(Before you begin) Warm up

1 – Bodyweight only pull ups   (If you can handle adding 5 lbs to your own body weight, do so, if not, just continue with your body weight)

  • 10 reps
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat 2 more times (3 sets total)

Barbell only squat (2 set/5 rep work set warm up)

2 – Barbell squat  

  • 5 reps
  • 2 minute rest
  • Repeat 4 more times (5 sets total)

Standing barbell press (2-3 set/5 rep work set warm up)

3 – Standing barbell press

  • 5 reps
  • 2 minute rest
  • Repeat 4 more times (5 sets total)

Bent over rows (2-3 set/5 rep work set warm up)

4 – Bent over row 

  • 5 reps
  • 2 minute rest
  • Repeat 4 more times (5 sets total)

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

5 – Lat pull down (or assisted pull ups with full range of motion) 

  • 10 reps
  • No rest

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

6a – Lateral raise 

  • 10 reps
  • No rest

6b – Rear Delt Raise 

 

  • 10 reps
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat both exercises

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

7 – Tricep Cable Extension (or tricep overhead press) 

 

  • 10 reps
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat both exercises

 

Want to work abs? Perform these exercises at the end of your workout for 10 minutes only.

8 – Hanging leg raise  

  • 30 second Hang
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat

 

 The ultimate pull up strength workout (Intermediate workout No.2)

 

(Before you begin) Warm up

1 – Push up 

  • 30 seconds
  • No rest

2 –  Pull ups (if you can handle adding 5 lbs to your own body weight, do so, if not, just continue with your body weight)

  • 10 reps
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat 2 more times (3 sets total)

Barbell only squat (2 set/5 reps work set warm up)

3 – Barbell squat  

  • 5 reps
  • 2 minute rest
  • Repeat 4 more times (5 sets total)

Barbell only Bench press (2-3 set/5 set Work set warm up)

4 – Bench press  

  • 5 reps
  • 2 minute rest
  • Repeat 4 more times (5 sets total)

Barbell only Deadlift (1 set/10 reps Work set warm up)

5 – Barbell deadlift

  • 5 reps
  • 2 minute rest
  • Repeat 4 more times (5 sets total)

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

6 – Stiff legged dead lifts  (Only perform this exercise if you are 100% confident with your form)

  • 10 reps
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

7 – Reverse Delt Raise

  • 10 reps
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat both exercises

Want to work abs? Perform these exercises at the end of your workout for 10 minutes only.

8 – Hanging leg raise alternating sides  

  • 15 second hold each side
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat

 

 The ultimate pull up strength workout (Advanced workout No.1)

 

  • Longer rest periods between sets
  • Increased weights
  • 1 more rep and 1 more set on the core movements
  • The goal: Perform at least 10 pull ups each set by the end of week 6 (If you have not reached this goal by the 6th week, don’t worry, just give it a few more weeks or possibly months)

Most people will be able to perform 1 set/10 reps of full range of motion pull ups at this point. The goal is to now be able to easily perform 3 perfect sets of 10 at will. And to then master the weighted pull up as you continue to train throughout your time in fitness.

1- Bodyweight only Pull up (regular shoulder width grip)

  • As many reps as possible & write it down
  • 2 minute rest

1b – Narrow grip pull up  

  • As many reps as possible & write it down
  • 2 minute rest

1c – Chin up  (palms facing toward the body)

  • As many reps as possible & write it down
  • 2 minute rest

Make a note of each test, how many reps did you perform of each? Ensure that you
follow this testing format as you go on.

Barbell only squat (2 set/5 reps work set warm up)

2 -Barbell squat  

  • 6 reps
  • Rest 2-3 minute rest
  • Repeat 5 more times (6 sets total)

Standing barbell press (2-3 set/5 rep work set warm up)

3 – Standing barbell press

  • 6 reps
  • 2-3 minute rest
  • Repeat 5 more times (6 sets total)

Bent over rows (2-3 set/5 set work set warm up)

4 – Bent over row

  • 6 reps
  • 2-3 minute rest
  • Repeat 5 more times (6 sets total)

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

5a – Reverse DB fly

  • 10 reps
  • No rest

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

5b – Lateral Raise

  • 10 reps
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat each exercise

 

 The ultimate pull up strength workout (Advanced workout No.2)

 

1 – Pull ups

  • 10 reps
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat each exercise 2 more times (3 sets total)

2 – Narrow grip pull up negatives (Count to 5 on your way back down to the dead hang position)

  • 10 reps
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat

Barbell only squat (2 set/5 reps work set warm up)

3 – Barbell squat  

  • 6 reps
  • 2-3 minute rest
  • Repeat 5 more times (6 sets total)

Barbell only Bench press (2-3 set/5 set Work set warm up)

4 – Bench press  

  • 6 reps
  • 2-3 minute rest
  • Repeat 5 more times (6 sets total)

Barbell only Deadlift (1 set/10 reps Work set warm up)

5 – Barbell deadlift  

  • 15 reps
  • 2-3 minute rest
  • Repeat 5 more times (6 sets total)

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

6 – Dumbbell row 

  • 10 reps
  • No rest

Assistant exercises (1 set/5 reps Work set warm up)

7a – DB lateral raise

  • 10 reps
  • No rest

7b – Reverse fly (DB rear delt fly)

  • 10 reps
  • No rest

Want to work abs? Perform these exercises at the end of your workout for 10 minutes only.

Hanging leg raises

  • 10 reps
  • 30 second rest
  • Repeat each exercise 2 more times (3 sets total)

 

Again the 6 workouts (2 Beginner/ 2 Intermediate/ 2 Advanced) can be alternated on a 3 day workout week for each of the beginner, intermediate and advanced time periods (4 weeks/ 4 weeks/ 6 weeks).

You can pretty much use that workout structure to get strong while at the same time getting better at pull ups.

Remember, once you get to an intermediate level, you will actually start to become stronger overall in all of your muscle groups training this way.

Why?

Well, as you can see, every workout consists of a big lift. You will perform the squat exercise for every workout as well as the dead-lift and bench press for that same workout.

You will then perform the squat, barbell row (Or power clean) and press exercise for workout no.2. Since this is a 3 day workout, it means that you you’ll do workout no.1 twice a week for one week and workout no.2 twice a week for one week. And you”ll perform the exercises in this order:

(Pull ups)
Fully body movement – Squat – Workout no.1 + Workout no.2
Upper body movement –  Bench press – Workout no.1 /Press – Workout no.2
Puling movement – Dead-lift – Workout no.1/Barbell row (hip extenders and lower back) or Power cleans (Helps increase pulling power to the dead-lift, which is better as a long term approach for better gains) Workout no.2

The reason for the specific order is because the squat exercise works 250+ muscles in your body, which will help warm your body up for the following exercises. The upper body exercises are performed 2nd to let your legs and back rest before performing the 3rd pulling exercise. And of course followed by any assistant exercises thereafter.

 

Hey, you still didn’t answer the question? Why will I start to become stronger overall in all of my muscle groups training this way?

Because of the order of strength progression…

Like I said, you’ll probably notice an overall strength increase once you get to that intermediate level. But another reason the exercises are ordered in such a way is due to the order where you’ll see strength gains first.

The larger the muscle mass required for a particular movement, is the movement where you’ll see the quickest gains.

So you’ll probably first see your squat no.s go up first, followed by the deadlift, then bench press. All of which will help you perform more pull ups!

 

Why are the pull ups in brackets before the squat exercise in the order?

I put pull ups in brackets because they are the core focus of the program and because the pull up is an explosive movement. The reason why the squat makes it first is because of the great warm up that it gives your body, which is why bodyweight squats make it to the warm up program provided above, which you will perform for 3-5 minutes prior to working out before kick starting with the pull ups exercise first.

 

Average weekly weight increases are as follows

 

Note: It is always preferable to slowy increase the weights over the 12-16 week progression period (And thereafter), than to push for fast and heavy increases and get stuck early.

  • Pull ups ( add 2-5lbs per week)
  • Squat (add 2-5lbs for women/ 10lbs for men for the first few weeks)
  • Bench press (add 2-5lbs)
  • Deadlift (add 2-5lbs for women/10-15lbs per week for the first few weeks)
  • Assistant exercises (You’re probably not going to see much of an increase in most assistant exercises)

 

To conclude

Once again, ladies, you’re not going to turn into she-hulk anytime soon. Unless you’ve been injecting yourself with some good ol’ males testosterone. 😐

Also, remember that you also have to simply listen to your body and see how it responds to certain exercises and rep ranges. For instance, you may find that your leg exercises may require you to perform more reps compared to your upper body exercises in order to see a change in strength or how they look. Nevertheless, performing this kind of workout structure will lead to gains. Your strength will increase and best of all, your pull up numbers will increase. If you do put on size, that may indeed be a side effect of increased strength (That will be a good thing for most ladies, because that will mostly result in looking hard and toned in the right places). That however is not the goal. Strength and performance is. Stayfitbuzz.com has always been about the lifestyle, and this maybe the best long term approach to maintaining that physique in terms of what you do on your non cardio days.

 

GET STARTED HERE <<<<<<<

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