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How To Do The Muscle Up For Beginners With Unique Exercises

3 elements you need to do, to achieve your 1st bar muscle up and avoid shoulder injuries.

Before the words in this article can help you, take a second to imagine yourself doing your 1st muscle up. Self-belief and the right guidance is what will drive you to the top of the bar.

Now that you’ve pictured yourself doing the muscle up, I will share my experience on how I’ve helped my students conquer the bar. In this article, I cover 3 elements you should add to your muscle up program. I will help you achieve your muscle up in a smart and safe approach.

Explosive Power

The muscle up is an explosive movement, therefore, requires you to train specifically for explosive power to obtain it. This will build fast-twitch muscle fibres which greatly increase your strength and speed capacity.

Explosive power refers to an individual's ability to exert a maximum amount of force in the shortest possible time.

Put another way, it's about putting in 100% effort in short bursts. The effort you put in is relative to your current level. As a beginner to this style of training, It might seem like you’re moving slow but, if you’re giving 100% effort you’re training your explosiveness.

As a trainer to assess whether my client is giving 100% or not I observe their face because when someone is being explosive, it doesn't look pretty. If the muscles in your face are calm, not moving, I know you can do more.

Here’s an explosive pressing exercise you can add to your program.

Perform 5 sets x 15s/ rest 3 mins/ 2-3 times per week

Chest Tap Push Ups

Place your hands in a slightly internally rotated position to maximise the height you can generate. Slap the chest aggressively and loud to recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibres but land on the ground softly, like a ninja, to protect the joints.

Before you can expect to achieve a complex movement pattern such as the bar muscle up, you must have a solid foundation that will support you as you progress. Build more explosive power with easier pressing drills and it will give you the potential to build even more explosive pulling power.

Here's an explosive pulling exercise you can add to your program. Once you can do 10 strict pull ups comfortably, it’s time to manipulate the movement so you can get closer to your target. Perform 5 sets x 12s/ rest 3mins/ 2-3 times per week

Hand Release Pull Ups

Pull up aggressively and release the hands as high as you can. When your hand makes contact with the bar again, it should be like a whisper, quiet. To get the full benefits, utilise the full range of motion, all the way up (chin over bar) and all the way down (arms straight). Aim to do as many reps as possible without compromising technique.

Make videos along your journey because with explosive training your mind can fool you into thinking you're not making any progress when you actually are. Videos are objective and you will be able to analyse your progress.

Protecting Your Shoulders

There’s no need to tell you how important training your joints is because I’m sure you already know. The question is how can I help you take it more seriously and to do it consistently? I like to keep it simple and use logic, hopefully, this can help you.

If you have niggling pains, you can't train at your optimal level, therefore it will take forever to achieve your 1st muscle up.

Or if you’re injured, you can't train, therefore you can’t progress to your 1st muscle up.

The muscle up is a complex movement pattern. This means it requires multiple muscle groups (lats, traps, rotator cuffs, chest, abdominals and more) and synchronisation among many neurotransmitters to complete the movement.

The joints allow us to be mobile but as a consequence they’re vulnerable. The shoulders are the most vulnerable joints in the human body, and when you’re training the muscle up, a vast amount of force passes through the shoulder joints. So now you can see how the muscle up and having underdeveloped shoulders is a recipe for disaster.

By strengthening the shoulders joints they will be better equipped to handle the force.

Here’s an exercise that will build a layer of protection around the shoulders. Perform 3 sets x 60s/ 60s rest/ 2-3 times per week

Passive Hang

There isn’t a list long enough that can cover all the benefits gained from the passive hang. I do this exercise religiously for general health and I would recommend this to everyone. In our daily lives, we’re in a forward, rounded posture which creates an imbalance in our shoulders and immobilizes the spine.

You can do your bit to counter that by being more conscious of your posture and hanging frequently. This will also greatly improve your grip and you will become more comfortable doing pulling exercises on the bar.

Here’s another exercise that will build a layer of protection around the shoulders. Perform 3 sets x 10-12 each side/ 4010 tempo/ 60s rest/ 2-3 times per week

External Rotation

The band external rotation is medicine for the shoulders. Training is not for everybody but this exercise is a prescription everybody needs due to our sedentary lifestyle. Do this simple exercise and you’ll notice a massive amount of strength gained. To progressively overload this exercise, move on to dumbbells.

The stronger your rotator cuffs are the better equipped your shoulders will become to handle the force passing through the shoulder joints. Strong rotator cuffs will prevent the shoulders from collapsing (chicken wing muscle up, where one shoulder comes up before the other) during the muscle up transition.

The Ability to Learn

The ability to learn is one of the 1st steps I teach all my students. If you can grasp this concept then you can use it to learn anything.

The ability to learn means being humble enough to accept where you are right now, accepting that no matter what level you get to you can always learn more, and being curious to explore the unknown.

The people who excel at anything are the ones who understand that each day, each session is another chance for them to learn something. The moment you think you’ve arrived is the moment you become complacent and decline.

Each training session you do is another chance for you to learn to understand the sensations happing in your body and how you respond to certain stimulations. It's a chance for you to learn more about yourself and how you handle progress and frustrations

Two things that will rob many of this ability to learn is doubt and ego.

Doubt is normal but if you let it consume you, it will paralyse you before you’ve even started.

The ego is there to protect us from harm but if you don’t manage it you will miss out on the joys of exploration.

The BodyMind is designed for incredible power and resiliency, that’s how we’ve developed and advanced in this world. I believe anyone can access this ability through learning. Talent is overrated and people use it as an excuse. To achieve something it’s through learning and effort. Put the effort in, be curious to learn, stick at it and you’ll conquer the bar for the 1st time.

Here’s an exercise that challenges your ability to learn. Perform 3 sets x 10 reps/ rest 60s/ 2-3 times per week.

Muscle Up Shrugs

Mastering this exercise will help you understand how to create momentum at the start of the muscle up. Squeeze the bar tightly in an overhand position, keep elbows locked and a hollowbody position while, allowing the shoulders to open (stretch the armpits) and close (engage the scapulas and lats).


Believe you can do it. Be curious to learn. Be explosive and protect the shoulders.

If you’re interested in an interactive muscle up program you can find more information here


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