We have discussed muscle-up progression in the past, focusing on range of motion, scaling, and the ever-difficult transition phase. We neglected to discuss the starting point and initially most critical aspect of the muscle-up, which is the grip on the rings itself.
If you are able-bodied or if you can generate a kipping motion with your lower extremities, then you probably have the ability to do a kipping muscle-up, which is the kind you’re going to see most often in Crossfit gyms or the Crossfit games. HOWEVER…if you can’t do a kipping motion, congratulations. You’re about to surpass those squids with a strict muscle-up.
The grip we want is called a false grip. It is called false because you’re not holding the ring the way you would naturally by curling around your fingers and thumb, but instead wrapping your entire wrist around the ring. Why do it this way? For starters, because it hurts, so that must be a good thing.
Not really. In fact, the false grip is a basic gymnastics discipline because of the control it gives you over the rings and your own body. There is no way you can do a strict ring muscle-up with a normal grip; you will not be able to elevate your torso high enough, or shift it forward far enough, if you can’t control the rings to the point where you’re using your arm strength to move them underneath your own weight.
Like I said, this is going to hurt at first. Let’s watch a pro:
Now it is our turn. Roll that wrist over the ring so you feel like you’re 13 years old trying to flex your biceps. The top of your hand should be relatively flat; that’s how you know your wrist is curled far enough. If it isn’t, when you put weight on it your hand will slip.
You got one locked in? Now let’s do both hands!
It is time to put some weight on it. Keep the wrists locked in and your elbows in front of you. Doing so will allow you to drive your elbows toward your hips, which will give you maximum height in the pull-up part, which is critical if you want to move into the transition stage.
For now, let us just focus on getting as high into the pull-up as we can. Try to touch the rings to your pectorals.
Now, spend some time hanging so the photographer can really capture the anguish on your face. Yeah it hurts.
Work on controlled pull-ups in this false grip position. Slow on the negative movement, but explosive and powerful on the positive movement.
If you want to turn this into a mini-WOD, alternate this false grip pull-up with dips. You can do the same number of dips as you can with the pull-up, OR you can do inverted ladders. I.e. Start with 8 false grip pull-ups and 1 dip. Next round, 7 pull-ups, 2 dips. Then 6 pull-ups, 3 dips, etc.
You will start this process realizing how weak your wrists and hands really are. You will end it feeling like you can make your grip last forever.
Thanks to Joe Villegas for his coaching and photography and for making me hang on the rings for so dang long.