Get Your First Bar Muscle-Up!

Bar Muscle Up
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Gymnastics is an important part of CrossFit as it develops coordination and body control. It also looks amazing when performed with good technique. Ring and bar muscle-ups are exciting to learn and totally worth practicing. Every athlete remembers the feeling when they got above the bar for the first time!

Today we are sharing a step-by-step guide by a CrossFit and Gymnastics coach on mastering the bar muscle-ups. Let’s go!

1. Check if you are ready

Muscle-ups are demanding on your shoulders and core. Before starting working on BMUs, make sure you have the strength needed to perform the drills safely.
The first benchmark is 5+ strict pull-ups in a row. They provide sufficient pulling strength and shoulder stability.
Then, test your kipping chest-to-bar pull-ups. You should be able to do several good reps in a row, with a powerful kip, touching the bar with your chest.

2. Understand the movement

Bar Muscle Up

Bar muscle-up is not a complex movement, it just requires catching on the mechanics. Here’re the steps to follow:


  • a. Hang in a hollow body position. If you jump on the bar into a hollow body, it will provide more momentum to get above the bar.
  • b. Get into a powerful arched position, doing your best to keep the legs straight, toes pointing from you.
  • c. From the arched position, go back into the hollow body, with increased momentum. Lever yourself back and up with the lats, have the arms straight. Unlike when performing pull-ups, where you pull straight into the bar, think about pushing yourself up and away.
  • d. Powerful hip pop and pull. Pop your hips, extending them fully and squeezing the glutes. The pop provides the necessary momentum before pulling yourself on the bar. The pop moves you up and the pull takes you over the bar.
  • e. Transition into a fast sit-up. While pulling, think about transitioning aggressively into doing a really fast sit-up.
  • f. Lock Out. After the successful sit-up, you’ll find yourself in the dip position over the bar. Tighten up and finish the movement by pressing out to lock out the elbows.

3. The Grip

Bar Muscle Up

An athlete needs to have a strong and confident grip to perform BMUs safely. Remember, that you’ll need to slide your hands around the bar to transit smoothly. A great tip is to have your hands wrapped far around the bar, so your knuckles look up, not back. In this way, your arms, core, and legs will work together.

4. Start from Jumping Bar Muscle Ups

Bar Muscle Up

Put a box under the bar. Start from a bigger height, lowering it later. The lower is the box, the higher you’ll have to jump.
Standing on the box, grab the bar and lean back a bit to mimic the hollow position. From there, go to the arch and again to the hollow body, pushing yourself up with straight arms and lats. Jump with legs as needed to get yourself over the bar, perform a quick sit-up, and lock-out.

5. Banded Bar Muscle Ups

The next drill to try is banded BMU’s. Try various bands to understand how much assistance you need. There’s room for progression, going from thicker to thinner bands. Wrap the band around the bar, and put your feet into the band. Get into a starting hollow position and initiate the kip. Go through the steps described above to get above the bar.
Banded BMUs are great for mastering correct technique, avoiding common mistakes, like the chicken wing. The bands also allow performing actual BMUs during the workouts.

6. Build strength

Bar Muscle Up

Besides practicing scaled bar muscle-ups, it will be helpful to include some strength exercises in your training.

Hollow & Arch Rocks. To strengthen hollow and arched positions on the bar, train them on the floor. Get into a hollow/arch position, keeping the core and the legs tight, start rocking on your back. Do 3 sets of 10 hollow and 10 arch rocks.

Single leg glute bridges. We need strong glutes for powerful hip-pop, sending the body towards the bar. Lie on the floor on your back, band the knees, raise one leg up, and raise the hips above the floor with another leg. Push through your heel to engage the posterior chain.

Slow Body Band Pull-downs. This exercise mimics the arms and lats engagement during a BMU. Wrap a band around a rig. Get into a hollow body position on the floor, and start with your arms straight in front of you holding the band. Pull the band down towards your body, finishing over your legs. Do 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps.

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Oksana Protsyk

Oksana is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer and Endurance Coach at an affiliate. 

Currently working on peaking competitors’ and recreational athletes’ performance for the CrossFit Open.

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