ParaWOD: Thou shalt not bear false witness, but thou shalt bear false grip

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.

Locked in!

You got one locked in? Now let’s do both hands!

Get a good grip with 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.

Can you do a hollow body?

Now, spend some time hanging so the photographer can really capture the anguish on your face. Yeah it hurts.

Now...hold for the camera

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.

5/18/15 WOD: Muscle-Up Progression, fight gone bad conditioning

Today’s workout consists of one of Crossfit’s benchmark movement, the muscle-up, followed by a fight-gone-bad style conditioning segment.


A. Muscle-up progressions

Skill/Volume: Slowly accumulate as many Muscle-ups as possible in 20min. Sub in weighted pull-ups, strict pull-ups, assisted pull-ups if needed. For scaled pulls, try to string together 3-5 reps each set and use a 31X2 tempo.

B. Conditioning: For four rounds, rotate to the next station on the minute. Try to accumulate as many reps as possible.
Row – Calories
G2O (75/55)

Remember, this is a STRICT MUSCLE-UP, not those kipping ones you often see in the Crossfit Games. The focus is on strength and full body control. Here is the interesting facet to remember – the strict muscle-up for the para-athlete is essentially the same as for the able-bodied athlete. Granted there will be more challenges, particularly with what to do with your lower extremities, but the strength component is going to be largely the same, and if you can master it, I contend you will be far ahead of the game vs athletes who elect to use the kipping motion to complete their muscle-up.

Fortunately, the progression for a strict movement will not be too dissimilar for para-athletes, so find a good guide such as this one.


For my own workout today, which you can see in the image at the top, the goal was to do accumulate a lot of work within a 20 minute period. To accomplish this, instead of getting 1-2 muscle-ups and then struggling the rest of the way, I used a banded muscle-up so I could chain together 3-5 reps at a time and then rest. An easy way to use a band is to tie it on the rig and then with assistance loop it under your arms, forming a harness. You can see the bands in the image above, which help with the elusive and difficult transitioning phase.

Conditioning component

4 rounds, 3 movements, 1 movement per minute, 1 minute rest in between.

Row – Calories = Row
G2O (75/55) = kettlebell clean/press
Burpees = parallette press

Each rep counts as one rep, and each calorie on the row counts as one rep. In total, I completed 188 reps in the 4 rounds.

Thanks to Justin Doran for taking the photo above.

Personal goal: the wheelchair muscle-up

From nearly day 1, when I first learned about the fabled “muscle-up” in Crossfit circles, I knew that it was something that I needed in my repertoire because of its useful functionality, basic testing of strength and mobility, and because it’s so dang hard to do, for anybody.

Shortly after I started training on it, I set myself a personal goal. Not only would I work to develop the muscle-up skill, but I eventually wanted to be able to do it while strapped into my wheelchair, which adds about 28lbs of additional weight (increase of about 17% total body weight).

I happened across another guy who apparently set his sights on the same goal, and he’s clearly well past where I want to get to, but it is good to see that this is a realistic challenge and this is what it looks like:

The lesson, as always – never be afraid to scale!

April 17, 2015 WOD: pushing, pulling, dipping, pressing

Today’s workout was comprised of 2 phases, which focus on strength and strict movements.

  • Bench press, 5 rounds, 8 reps per round (max reps final round), superset with ring rows (8-12 reps)
  • NFT 5 rounds of…
    -7 Muscle Ups or Tough Variation (working on this as a skill)
    -7 Burpees with 1ft target

This is a good workout that requires minimal modification.

Phase 1

Floor press adaptation. I worked up to 155lbs, concluding with a max of 10 reps in round 5.

Ring rows – 10 reps per round, finishing with 12 on final round.

Phase 2

In the past I have used banded muscle-ups to get that kind of volume. This time around, I adapted with Russian dips, which is a good approximation for the muscle-up transition, which is often the most difficult part of the movement for both para-athletes as well as able-bodied athletes.  The lower you can get into the dip, the greater the approximation to the transition phase of the muscle-up. Seven per round for 5 rounds.

Instead of a burpee, the goal was to get some vertical pressing in. For this, I adapted with kettlebell presses, doing 7 per each arm for 5 rounds.