Bar Muscle Up Tutorial

One of the most wanted CrossFit tutorials from our gymnast Carol Teixido. A complete guide to achieve one of the most complicated movements in this sport.

What is a Bar Muscle Up?

The bar muscle up (BMU) is a gymnastic exercise in which the athlete starts hanging from a bar or structure and by "kipping" and a good pull-up creates a force that lifts the body over the bar. This movement requires strength, power, explosiveness, technique and flexibility.

What muscles and joints are involved in BMU?

BMU is an exercise that involves many muscles and joints. The main muscles involved are the broad shoulders, the core, the biceps, the triceps, the deltoids and the forearms.
The most involved joints in this movement are the shoulders, the thoracic cavity, the hip, the dolls and the elbows.

Importance of joint mobility and flexibility

The BMU is a dynamic movement and the joint flexibility plays a very important role to get a good "kipping". This will allow us to achieve greater range of motion, control and strength in performing the BMU.

The thorax and shoulder are heavily involved in kipping and pulling, for the transmission of strength and energy. A good thoracic mobility will help us to have greater ease to perform any exercise with the arms above the head.

It is also necessary to achievea goodshoulder flexion forarching and locking of the body.

The hip is in charge of achieving a leg extension in the "arch" and "hollow" position. The feet should be in front of and behind the hips.

The myofascial work with the use of the "foam roller" and the ball will help us to inhibit pain points in joint flexion and extension; and gain degrees in the range of motion. This will reduce muscle tension and release the tissues that may have created the trigger points.

These are usually a natural consequence of the training and are the most common stress results to which we subject the muscles that cause the overloads. The trigger points contract us and create muscle stiffness causing a decrease in range of motion and flexibility.

For this I propose exercises to improve this mobility and flexibility of the main joints with the help of foam roller and/or ball and exercises with the body itself.

Strict pull force work for BMU

To have a BMU with kipping, it is first necessary to work on strength to achieve a strict BMU. It is essential to include traction exercises and even a partial or specific strength program depending on the athlete.

Working on your pull ups, chest to bar and tight dips will help to gain basic upper body strength, which is necessary for BMU. Especially at the beginning, strength is necessary to compensate for the lack of technique when the movement is not optimal.

This strength is also important to strengthen the previously mentioned joints and prevent injuries.

  • Beginner level: strict strength work is necessary.
  • Intermediate level: more dynamic strength with kippings and pull-ups.
  • Advanced level: perfection of high BMU input.

How to do a bar muscle up with kipping?

  • We stand in front of the bar or structure. With a separation of approximately 30 cm. It is important to be completely hanging without touching the ground with your feet.
  • We jump towards the bar to hang. The separation between the two hands must be equal to or slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • The position we adopt to hang ourselves initially has to be in "hollow".
  • From hanging in the hollow position, we immediately start swinging or "kipping" by bringing the legs backward and the chest forward to reach the "arch" position.
  • From the arch position, the pull-up is initiated. The legs together and under tension move forward while the pullback is used to bring the bar toward the hips.
  • It is important to think that the pull-up never ends until you are on top of the bar.
  • The more vertical and linear the pull, the more effective and efficient the movement becomes. It also requires more strength and technique.
  • Once the maximum hip extension is achieved, we will move on to the subsequent hip flexion. The feet are brought backward and the trunk forward to complete the transition.
  • To achieve the final position we will focus on performing the elbow extension or "dip".
bar muscle up crossfit tutorial

Now we are going to study each of the parts that make up this movement in order to focus on each one individually.

What is kipping?

Kipping is a swing that unites two positions, the "arch" and the "hollow". This movement allows us to achieve momentum, power and speed to perform gymnastic exercises hanging on a structure or a bar. It also helps us to link movements with greater efficiency and strength.

How is "Kipping" performed?

  • Hanging on the bar or structure, kipping starts in hollow positionwith the body locked, emphasizing core tension. Arms straight, head facing forward and feet forward. The body is in a semi-bow position hanging from the bar.
  • From this position, I undo the movement to position myself at arch position. To do this, I have to pull the legs together backwards and bring the thoracic cavity as stretched as possible. The arms are kept straight and extended, the head facing forward, and we seek to place the body in an arch.
muscle up crossfit

The main thrust is in the transition from arch to hollow positionwhere strength, explosiveness and speed are accumulated to achieve the impulse that helps us to lift the body and incorporate gymnastic movements.

This is why the importance of having a strong core.

Core specific strength

To develop control and strength in the positions through which kipping passes, it is important to go beyond the typical static core exercises, as it is a dynamic movement.

Here there's a guide to core exercises that involve the thoracic spine and hips in the kipping phase in order to gain strength in this range of motion.

Perform 8 to 10 repetitions.

Floor Humps

From plank position, with hands and feet resting on the floor, I arch my back and drop my hips towards the floor simulating the arch. From this position I contract the body and block the abdomen to reach the hollow position.

bar mu crossfit

Standing ring roll outs

I place myself in front of the adjustable rings a little below my shoulders. I grab them and let myself fall forward without moving my feet, in hollow position, bringing my arms extended above my head. Lowering in a controlled manner, I try to fully extend my body to simulate the arch position.

From this position I perform the controlled pull-up to contract the abdomen again and return to the initial position.

exercises to improve bar muscle up

Barbell roll outs

With the help of a loaded bar with two discs I stand in front of it from a kneeling position. I grab it with outstretched arms and roll it forward, maintaining the hollow position as far as my range of motion allows.

Next, I return to the back without losing the body lock by bringing the bar towards our body.

barbell roll outs

Overhead plate glide

We grab a disc, hold it above our head with our arms outstretched and simulate the arch and hollow position.

bar mu progressions

Overhead medball throw

With my knees on the floor, I pick up a medball, bring it over my head with my arms extended and arch my back carrying the ball backwards while my hips pull forward. From this position I contract my abdomen while throwing the ball towards the wall with my arms extended.

bar muscle up tips

What is the BMU pull?

A pull-up is defined as the force used with the arms extended to bring the bar to hip height.

It is important that the force is symmetrical with both arms to avoid the famous "chicken wing" in the BMU.

What is the chicken wing in CrossFit?

bar muscle up chicken wing

The chicken wing is when the athlete enters the BMU first with one arm and then with the other. This occurs because the pull is only performed with one arm while the other arm is bent without activating the dorsal. It is important to learn how to do the BMU while avoiding this to prevent certain ineffective movement patterns at the same time that can lead to shoulder injuries.

The pull-up is basic for a BMU and it is very important to do accessory work to gain strength in this range of motion. That's why I propose a series of exercises to gain strength in the dorsal and strengthen the pull-up.

Perform 8 to 10 repetitions.

Kipping positions with drawer

Place a box on the floor on the same line as the bar. We hang on the bar, with our arms at the same width as our shoulders and place the insteps of our feet behind the box.

We get into hollow position and bend our knees to go over the box and get into arch position with our heels in contact with the box.

muscle up exercises

With a partner at your side

We will hang from the bar and the partner will stand next to the athlete perpendicular to him. He will extend his arms leaving the athlete in the middle, with one arm extended in front and the other behind. The athlete will have to perform the kipping while managing to touch the partner with the back in the hollow position and with the thorax in the arch position to the partner's hands. To increase the difficulty, you can separate the arms so that the athlete has to make more force and mark more positions.

Kipping + Pulling

I perform a strong kipping and add the pull to bring the arms to the hips to lift the body. The head and shoulders must be above the hips and the feet below.

kipping muscle up

Dorsal strength work for bar muscle up

Standing Pull-up

  • We tie a rubber band to the bar.
  • From a standing position, we grab the rubber band with our arms extended forward, separated at the same distance as our shoulders, with our hands in pronation position and bringing our shoulder blades together.
  • We make force towards the floor until we touch our legs.
  • Perform the pull in a slow and controlled manner.
  • For greater tension we can use rubber bands with greater resistance or by bending our knees, resting them on the floor or even sitting down.
  • To resemble the movement of the structure we can place a spike on the rubber and thus hold it as if it were the bar.
how to get first muscle up

Pull-up lying in hollow position

  • We tie the rubber band to a bar.
  • We grab the rubber band and lie down on the floor in hollow position.
  • We extend our arms above our head, separated at the same distance as our shoulders and from this position, always keeping our arms extended, we perform the pull-up by bringing the rubber band/pike towards our legs.
muscle up technique

In this exercise we can add variations and difficulty to work the pull-up together with the core.

Pull up with tuck ups
Pull with V ups
Pull-up with scissors ups
Pull-up with hollow rocks

Pull plus push on the ground

  • Lying in hollow position on the floor, we perform 2 hollow rocks and with our arms free and extended we go and reach the floor.
  • We rest our hands on the floor, lift our trunk and push down to lift our hips off the floor.
  • The only points of support are the heels and the hands.
muscle up tips

Pull-up on the floor with discs

To increase difficulty by increasing the range of motion, the hands can be rested on top of a higher surface such as two discs, crates or low mats.

Pull-up on the floor with dumbbells

To recreate the grip we can make the reception of the hands on top of two dumbbells, activating the action of the hands in the support.

muscle up progressions

Pull-up on a bar

  • We seek to bring the bar towards the hips with the arms extended.
  • We place a box on the floor on the same line as the bar.
  • We hang on the bar with our arms at the same width as our shoulders and place the insteps of our feet behind the box.
  • Perform a pull-up by pushing the bar downward, maintaining the hollow position with the instep sliding along the drawer, upward.
  • Maintain the hollow up position for about 3'' and lower in a controlled manner the negative phase of the movement.
time for muscle up

Progressions for bar muscle up

Beginner level

Kipping with a box

We place a box under the bar. We hang on the bar and rest our feet on the box. With our feet on the box we simulate kipping by marking the hollow position and the arch position, holding the final position for a few seconds.

The higher the box is, the easier the exercise, since the movement and the path to the bar is shorter. Before changing to a more complex movement, I can try lowering the height of the box.

Kipping with box and jump at the end of the hollow

We perform the same exercise as the previous one, but at the end of the hollow we perform a jump together with an arm pull.

muscle up crossfit progression

Kipping with box and jump to final position BMU

We perform the same movement as the previous one, but as soon as we perform the jump and pull-up we bring our hips towards the bar and do the dip until we are on top of it with our arms extended, staying in the final position of the BMU.

muscle up bar with rubber

Intermediate level

Kipping with box and jumping to BMU end position on one leg

We increase the difficulty, since we only rest one leg on the box. This way you have to use more strength in the pull-up to reach the final position.

Bar muscle up progressions

Negative bar muscle up

With the help of a partner, we get into the end position of the BMU with hips touching the bar and arms extended. The goal is to undo the movement by lowering the BMU in a controlled manner until we are completely hanging from the bar.

It is important to keep the bar very close to the body and perform the movement slowly. The more seconds it takes to lower the bar, the more difficult it is and the more force we generate.

The partner may use less and less force as the athlete controls the movement until he/she is able to perform the exercise alone.

Pull-up by sliding legs on roller or medball

We mount a weightlifting bar on a rack at hip height.

crossfit fixed rack bar
Attach a bar to the rack

We start sitting on the floor, holding on to the bar and with our legs on top of the medball.

We lift our hips off the ground and I try to slide on top of the element trying to bring the legs as far as possible extending the shoulders simulating the arch position.

From this position I perform the pull-up and try to force myself to lift my shoulders over the bar, bring them forward and get to the BMU end position.

bar mu crossfit

Advanced level

Pull with the help of a partner

The athlete hangs from the bar in an L-sit position with legs extended and spread apart.

  • The partner stands between the athlete's legs and grabs them by the tibias.
  • It is about coordinating with the partner the swinging of the "kipping" with the arm pull until the final position of the BMU is reached.
  • The athlete performs the swing trying to bring the hips towards the bar with the support of the partner's legs until he/she comes to rest on the bar.
  • The partner will help to support and accompany the athlete in the movement so that he/she can support him/herself and make it easier for him/her to perform the pull-up.
  • One idea is to do 3 controlled and coordinated swings with the partner and on the 4th attempt perform the full pull-up until the movement is completed.

BMU with elastic band support

  • We attach an elastic band to the bar, we choose the resistance of the elastic band.
  • The more resistance you put up, the easier it will be.
  • We hang on the bar and put our feet on the band.
  • We try kipping + BMU with the BMU support.
  • To increase the difficulty we can lower the resistance of the band, or we can support only one foot.
  • It is important to emphasize that although the elastic band can help us in the execution of the exercise, we must continue to respect all the positions through which the BMU is reached.
bar muscle up tips

How to link bar muscle up

Once we have learned how to make a BMU, the next step is to link them.

It is complicated at first, but is as simple as getting to the initial kipping position. dropping from above the bar.

  • From the end position of the BMU starts the link to perform the next BMU.
  • We stand on top of the bar, with our hips supported, arms extended, shoulders forward and legs hanging slightly back.
  • From this position we have to bring the shoulders back, dropping the trunk, we bend the elbows while at the same time we bring the legs forward, extended, adopting the hollow position.
  • We drop our body and lower down until our weight causes us to extend our shoulders, at which point we have to adopt the arch position, bringing our chest forward and legs backward.
  • From this arch position the pullback starts again to perform the next BMU.

It is very important to know how to reposition the hands in the grip while roping the next BMU. There are many times that we fail to link due to loss of grip. The moment to reposition the hands to have a good grip is at the moment of dropping.

As soon as I bring my shoulders and body back, before the weight falls back on our hands, I have to reposition them with a flick of the wrist. This will bring the grip back to the optimal level for a new BMU.

The grip

The grip is a basic point for any barbell gymnastic movement.

Depending on the diameter of the bar, one grip or another is recommended. In a thin bar like the one used in CrossFit the most recommended is the grip with the thumb around the bar, that is to say, underneath. This ensures a better grip. The inner area of the knuckles, in the palm of the hand, should be placed on top of the bar and the thumb below it.

That said, it is up to the individual to choose the grip that is personally the most secure. Comfort gives security, and if the grip is secure there is less danger of accidentally coming loose. However, if you start from 0 in CrossFit is always advisable to use the thumb.

Which grips to use?

The use of grips, as well as the grip, is very personal and requires time to adapt and get used to. There are several types of grips for different needs.

  • When the hand sweats a lot and even with the use of magnesium you slip.
  • When every day or almost every day you hang yourself, wounds open up.
  • When you can't get a good grip

In this article we discuss more extensively about the types of grips.

What kind of grips?

  • Grips as a second skin (without folding them): it adapts to the palm of the hand, protects the skin and favors a better grip. Recommended for those who sweat a lot, those who open wounds very easily.
  • As a grip point (with fold): longer grip, which provides an extra grip point. The grip has a fold at the top in the finger area, this fold rests on the top of the bar and is gripped with the fingers.

In Velites you have several models with and without holes to choose from according to your preferences.