If I had a dollar for every client who has asked me to help them get a muscle-up…
When they ask for help, their tone of voice almost sounds as though they’re expecting me to give them one simple tip, and then boom, they’ll be able to string 10 muscle-ups together.
Instead, training to get a muscle-up is like two people trying to build trust in their relationship after one person cheats on the other: A tedious and delicate process, often frustrating and painful, that requires patience and commitment.
Nobody knows this better than expert gymnastics coach, and former Regionals and CrossFit Games competitor Louise Eberts, who works with many top-level athletes on their gymnastics.
Eberts can help just about anyone get a muscle-up, but the athlete must be willing to truly commit to the cause, she explained. She believes the five biggest mistakes muscle-up seekers make are:
5. They Skip the Strength Work
“So many people want to skip the strength work because it sucks. A lot of people get aggravated when I ask them to work on their strict strength first. I am usually met with eye rolling or a groan,” Eberts said.
She added: “Yes, strict strength is paramount. Strict chin-ups, strict pull-ups on bars and rings, ring dips, lat exercises, dumbbell exercises. Yes, bicep curls help. There is a reason Sam Briggs is called ‘Bicep Briggs,’ and her muscle-up are good!”
4. They Skip the Dirty Work
“Not learning progressions specifically geared toward muscle-ups is a very common mistake. A lot of athletes just keep trying to entire movement, throwing themselves toward the rings in hopes of success, and they keep failing, rep after rep after rep,” Eberts said
It’s important to do progressions and kipping and transition drills, and pieces of the movement, to help create correct muscle memory, strength, coordination and power throughout the movement, Eberts said.
3. They Avoid Structure
“A lot of people come to me after months, or even years, of just winging it, with no structure, zero program, or a coach that says, ‘Just do it,’ and that’s it,” Eberts said.
She added: “Looking up progressions is awesome, and doing strength work is essential, but if you do not know how to put it into an organized program, it can just end up being frustrating.”
By organized program, Eberts means following a progressive program—with pulling and pushing strength work, kipping practice, drills and accessory work etc—where each week, and each month, builds on the one before.
If you’re in this boat, talk to your coach about designing a program to help your get yourself strong enough to get through those rings.
2. They Skip Coaching
Even athletes who can do 10 muscle-ups in a row still get coaching on their muscle-up. It’s a technical skill, and there’s always room for improvement.
“Finding a good coach to create a solid program that is clear, concise and not overly time-consuming or complicated can make the process of achieving your first muscle-up way quicker,” Eberts said.
When she coaches her athletes, she uses a very hands-on approach.
“Spotting is huge and it gets you doing the entire moment for multiple reps,” she said. “I have coached gymnastics for seven years at every level, and all the athletes I have worked with, from age 2 to 40, get spotted for movements…over and over again.”
Spotting, like progressions, help with muscle memory, Eberts explained.
“And you gain strength throughout the movement because the amount of effort the spotter puts in can be lessened over time.”
- They Aren’t Patient and don’t Persevere
“Many talk the talk, or they say they want a muscle-up, but actually getting one takes a lot of time and effort,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many people messaged me during the Open (last year) in a panic because they wanted to get a muscle-up in four days. Four days!!! I always find that mind boggling.”
Instead, Eberts reiterates the importance of a long-term commitment, even after a muscle-up is achieved.
“I am always so excited for people to get the elusive muscle-up, but when they do (get one), I usually ask them, ‘Are you ready to keep this going?’” she explained, adding that just because you did a muscle-up once, doesn’t mean it’s time to abandon progression and strength work.
“Now you have to do one in a workout that might have 20 thrusters right before it…So keep getting stronger, keep getting better at the movement through routine, practice and progressions.”
The process never ends.