How To Do Your First Bar Muscle Up (Bar Muscle Up Progression)

Of all the Crossfit popular exercises, the bar muscle up is the one that strikes fear into the heart of both seasoned competitors and beginners a like.  Th key factor is that this is a movement based exercise, you literally have to move around the bar!


The bar muscle up can be a performance altering and physique boosting exercise if done in the right way. From your grip to your core, everything is going to be challenged in the quest to perform your first bar muscle up.


Step One: Get Strong And Build Muscle In The Base Muscle Up Movement.


The beauty of Crossfit is that the hardest exercises are simply just an advancement of basic movements. When you break down a rep of the bar muscle up you’re really just doing a strict pull up and a strict dip with a little bit of kipping in. Therefore beginners and seasoned folks who want to do more reps should both focus on continually getting stronger at pull ups and dips.


We’re looking for muscle growth in the lats and traps as well as triceps since they are the prime movers of this exercise. We've talked before about building muscle, here's a 4 day workout split for crossfit. 

 @lenaricther shows how to to keep your bar muscle up form efficient as she fatigues.


Let’s also not forget forearm and grip strength. The grip technique involved in each rep of a bar muscle up can be what makes or breaks the movement. Once you have your palm over the bar, your grip strength really can result in those last few inches.


Step Two: Core Strength


I don’t often see this discussed in Crossfit circles but core strength on the muscle up is severely under valued. L sits are a crossfit favorite but I’ve also programmed in hanging leg raises as well since the momentum of your legs can help carry you over the bar. Similar to our article about doing your first ring dip, you'll want to maximize core strength.


Knees up is an important technique that you’ll need to learn in order. Check out the video above.


Step Three: Over Head Strength


What part of crossfit doesn’t include over head strength and how is it exclusive to the bar muscle up? It’s not. But continually working on overhead strength, specifically more explosive movements such as the hang snatch. Your first bar muscle up or any there after, is going to be an explosive movement so it makes sense to use your entire chain to get a weight over head


Step Four: Momentum


This is one of those “ I know it but don’t use it” type of skill sets for a bar muscle up. What helps you to get your first few bar muscle ups doesn’t have to be the same technique you use as you progress. At the start I suggest a "violent", fast swing. Crossfit games athletes are going to have a minimal swing but for starters, I want you to create as much momentum as possible. This is also where core strength comes in.


Remember, it’s not a pull up. Use your momentum to pull you body up and back to get over the bar.

Here's a great video from @pamelagnon on the different types of momentum that you can use




Step Five: The Return

Focus on your dissent. How you drop from the bar is the beginning of how you get your second rep.


Do This For Your First Bar Muscle Up

1) Spend the next few weeks focusing on your pull up and dip form and strength. I know this sounds basic but train with purpose here.

2) After 4 weeks, start practicing with explosive momentum bar muscle ups. Try a glide and kipping bar muscle up.

3) Notice what area seems to be the single hardest. That tells you where to start! Is it a strength issue? Is it a form issue?