Today was eye-opening for many members at our gym. For the first time in years, we programmed Bar Muscle Ups. Some surprised themselves and were able to perform their first BMU unassisted. Others who could normally perform unassisted Kipping Chin-to- Bar Pull-ups couldn’t come close at all. The general consensus at the end of class was that their lack of strength was the missing component.

Disclaimer: These movements are not the end all be all for learning how to do a Bar Muscle-Up (BMU). The cold hard truth for many athletes is they lack the basic requisite strength to even come close to doing this movement unassisted. The issue isn’t that they haven’t found the right drill to magically learn this exercise. What we need to do is spend more time getting them ridiculously strong while helping them reduce their body fat percentage. It’s not what they want to hear but it’s our job is to tell them the honest-loving truth.

This 4-step progression is the most inclusive series you can use in a group class to meet all levels of athletes:

1.JUMPING CHEST-TO-BAR (CTB)

The Jumping Chest-To-Bar (CTB) is used for beginner athletes to better help them understand the minimum range of motion required to do a BMU. There is a big difference between to CTB Pullup and the common Chin-to-bar pullup you see in most CrossFit workouts. This drill should NOT be used to replace more transferable strength building exercises like the strict pull-up, bicep curls, and barbell rows but can still be used effectively under interval training to preserve the stimulus of high-intensity workouts. \

2.JUMPING BAR MUSCLE-UP

The Jumping BMU is the next logical progression that helps athletes learn how to simultaneously rotate their wrist around the pullup bar while traveling upward. Getting to the top of the bar also allows them to train the press out of the dip and get comfortable dangling over the bar with feet off the ground. Likewise, this drill should NOT replace other strength building exercises. No amount of Jumping BMU’s will ever get them strong enough to do these unassisted.

3.ONE-BANDED BAR MUSCLE-UP

The One-Banded BMU is a great skill transfer exercise for athletes that are on the verge of doing Rx Pullups but need a little assistance getting those few extra inches over the bar. In our experience, these athletes are disproportionately training chin-to-bar pullups and not enough strict and kipping CTB Pullups. Make these athletes ONLY do CTB Pull-ups from now on and you’ll be surprised how quickly they get strong enough to do a BMU unassisted. (Note: If an athlete can’t do this drill with ONE band this is not their modification. Using more than one band is only making them believe they are close to doing these unassisted when they are not).

4.UNASSISTED BAR MUSCLE-UP

The unassisted BMU is a right of passage in CrossFit. It is the gateway exercise to the Ring Muscle. In my experience, the minimum necessary skill required to do this movement is 2-5 Unbroken Kipping CTB Pullups. If they can do that their issue isn’t strength is a technical error most often cause by FEAR. There’s nothing normal about releasing your grip mid-pull-up. Help them recognize the importance of the turnover with a few jumping BMU and focus only on simultaneous wrist rotation. For athletes who are only used to training the kipping chin-to-bar pullup will be quickly disappointed when they come to realize they aren’t strong enough to perform more than 1 CTB Pull-up in a row.