Coaches Corner: The Muscle Up with Coach McKenzie

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Coaches Corner: The Muscle up with Coach McKenzie

Introducing: the Coaches Corner.

Every month, we’re going to feature one of our tip top coaches, sharing tip top fitness advice or general merriment. Whether it’s their favorite lift, their favorite workout, their favorite drill, or maybe just a story about their fitness journey – it’s gonna be awesome.

First coach up? Me. Talking about muscle ups.

For pretty much my entire childhood, gymnastics was life. 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, 100 weeks a year.  So as an adult CrossFitter, I am definitely trying to relive my glory days. I looooooove kipping, swinging, walking on my hands, being upside-down, and I especially love muscle ups. For the first Coaches Corner, I wanted to give those of you actively working to master the muscle up some tips and drills that are simple and effective.

It’s easy to understand the general concept of muscle ups, but unless you practice the movement and build that muscle memory *cough OPEN GYM cough*, you’ll never get one.

And that’s a promise, folks.

Before you read on, watch this video on bar muscle ups. The first half is about technique, and the second half talks about common mistakes people make. A few key things to take away from the vid, and keep in your brain for your next attempt:

  1. As you keep your gaze fixed forward (pick a place you can focus on that’s forward and slightly down), start to harness a powerful kip. Arch first, then hollow. If you haven’t mastered this yet, watch this quick tutorial for some pointers.
  2. Swing back, engage your lats and pull the bar down towards your hips as hard as you can while simultaneously popping your hips up towards the bar.
  3. Make sure to pull the bar into your hips and not into your chest. Think about leading with your hips, not with your legs, feet, or shoulders. This will help create enough space to pop your shoulders up and over the bar.
  4. When you’re in that moment of weightlessness and you’re ready to transition over the bar, sit up, find your toes, throw your shoulders over the bar, and end in an upright position with your arms locked out and a SMILE ON YOUR FACE.
  5. Remember: the higher you can get your hips up, the more momentum you will have to get your shoulders up and over into the catch position. The higher the hips, the straighter your arms, the more efficient the movement.

As you can see, muscle are all about your core, shoulders, and hips. That magical trio does 95% of the work and with their powers combined allow you to float over the bar like the CrossFit angel you are. Remember, strength comes from the shoulders, power comes from the hips. 

Here’s a simple drill to work on all the mechanics:

  1. Loop a purple band around the rig.
  2. Dominant foot in band, cross other foot over to secure.
  3. Practice getting BIG kips – press that bar away from you on the hollow and try to lay flat
  4. If you are comfortable, let go of the bar for a second on the hollow. This will help you feel your weightlessness and show you where to start sitting up.
  5. Once you master the big kip, move towards throwing your shoulders over the bar to practice banded muscle ups.

It’s probably not going to come on the first time, or the second, or the 10th, but maybe on that 100th try, things will click and you will find yourself at the top of the bar. Start with drills, and then work your way up to the real thing.



Who wrote this post...

Mckenzie Souther

Mckenzie Souther

McKenzie is a North Carolina transplant (go Heels) who’s been coaching and attending Renew since 2016. Her favorite benchmark workout is Isabel, ‘cause quick power snatches are her jam. But as a former gymnast, she’ll also settle for any workout that requires her to be upside down. When she’s not coaching or working out, she just wants to be where her friends are -- preferably somewhere on the greenbelt with lots and lots of dogs!

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