Proper Foundations: A 5 Step Progression to the Bar Muscle Up

The Bar Muscle Up Program

Bar muscle up is one of the most effective exercises for building upper body strength. It’s great exercise for developing grip strength, core stability, and overall physical fitness. The bar muscle up is not only good for improving your grip strength but it also helps in increasing your hand speed which improves your ability to perform other movements such as pull ups or dips.

There are two types of bar muscle ups – traditional and kipping. Traditional bar muscle ups involve holding onto a fixed object while performing the movement. Kipping bars allow you to do the same thing with less risk of injury since they don’t have any pins or other objects at all. Both methods require proper form and technique, however, there is some difference between them.

Traditional Bar Muscle Ups

These type of bar muscle ups are usually done using a barbell. They involve gripping the bar tightly and then slowly lowering yourself down until your hands touch the ground. You must keep your elbows straight and locked throughout the whole process. Some variations include doing these with dumbbells, kettle bells, or even just a bagel!

These types of bar muscle ups are very safe because you’re not putting any extra strain on your joints or muscles during this exercise.

Kipping Bar Muscle Ups

These types of bar muscle ups are a little different since they involve more momentum and “flicking” yourself up to the bar. This movement is commonly referred to as a kip. You can perform this using either a fixed or hanging bar. To get yourself onto the bar you need to do a backwards kick with your legs, then straighten your arms quickly before flicking your body towards the bar.

As you move up and towards the bar you can also use your arms to give yourself a little extra momentum. This method is great for building explosive power and also great for getting your body used to the timing of the movement.

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Once you’ve mastered the kipping bar muscle up, it’s time to master the strict version!

Strict Bar Muscle Up

These types of bar muscle ups are the “purest” form of the bar muscle up and require real strength and power to perform. Due to the requirement of strength and power they are usually harder to master than their kipping counterparts. In order to perform these types of bar muscle ups you must pull yourself up until your chest reaches the bar, and then push yourself back down. The best way to start working on a bar muscle up is to begin with the false grip.

The false grip involves holding onto the bar with your palms facing you, rather than facing forward. This means that your wrists are in a more natural position and there’s less strain on them. To practice the false grip, simply hang from the bar and then slowly raise your body up and then lower yourself down. Try it with both hands before trying it with one hand to see how it feels. Once you’re comfortable doing that then it’s time to practice!

How To Practice

Begin by standing under the bar and gripping it with a false grip. Your arms should be fully extended with your body straight. From here, push your body up as high as you can. Your goal isn’t to get up to the bar, just get your body as high as you can without using your legs.

This will help strengthen your shoulders and build up strength for the next step. Next, from the starting position, begin lifting your body up until your chest reaches the bar. Slowly lower yourself down. As you lift up, use your legs as little as possible and focus on using your shoulders and back to pull your body up. Do this repeatedly and focus on keeping your body straight throughout the whole movement.

Working on Your Technique

Now that you know how to practice a bar muscle up, it’s time to focus on perfecting your technique! To begin, stand under the bar and perform the movement similar to before. This time though you’ll have your partner stand on your feet and gently pull down on them to prevent you from using your legs. This is called spotting and it’s a great way to get extra feedback on your form since you’re limited.

With your legs slightly restricted, lift your body up as far as you can and try to keep your body straight. Focus on using your back and shoulders to lift up, not your arms or legs. By focusing on using the right muscles you can prevent injury and get yourself in the habit of using the proper muscles for this movement. Focus on each repetition and work on lifting your body up as far as you can. Be sure to take breaks if you start to feel any pain in your shoulders or arms!

If you still find yourself struggling with building up enough strength for the muscle up, try performing negatives. To perform a negative, begin by standing under the bar and gripping it with a false grip. Just like before, begin by pushing your body up as high as you can without your legs. Once you reach the highest point that you can, have your partner help you lift your feet off the ground.

Once your feet are off the ground, quickly exhale and then have your partner gently lower you down as far as they can. Try to use the strength in your arms to pull yourself up as you fall and don’t let your body momentum bring you down. Continue to do this for as many reps as needed until you feel that your arms can no longer lift you up high enough. This is a great way to build up strength quickly since each rep is being lifted up all by yourself!

Proper Foundations: A 5 Step Progression to the Bar Muscle Up - gym fit workout

Once you’ve got the false grip and the muscle up down, try working on your transition. The transition occurs when you bring your other arm over the bar. To practice this, set up as you would if you were doing a bar muscle up. Instead of bringing your other arm over though, bring it under and then over the bar.

This is often referred to as a kipping muscle up and is a little bit easier to do for most people.

Beware though; once you’ve got this down, you may find yourself addicted to this movement!

Tips and Tricks

Here are some quick tips and tricks that should help:

To get better at pulling your body up, try jumping up to the bar. This will force you to explosively pull your body up quickly. These are great for building up the strength in your arms and back. Do this until you can jump up to the bar consistently and then practice the movement slowly from there.

Try not to look at your arms or legs when practicing. Keep your vision focused on an area just past the bar so that your body can move as one unit.

Remember to keep your neck neutral and your head aligned with your spine. This is very important when it comes to building up strength in your neck. Always keep this in mind and you’ll be fine.

Try to limit the amount of kipping muscle ups that you do. The more you use them, the weaker your core will become. While they’re great for building explosive power, they aren’t the best for getting yourself strong enough to do a proper bar muscle up.


While the muscle up is a great skill, there are some downsides to it. Most people end up developing a few different issues with their shoulders since the movement requires such a wide range of motion and often hyper extends the joint. Although they’re great for building strength, they can be bad for your joints if you do them all the time. Limit them to when you’re trying to get your reps up and then switch to strictly traditional ones.

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If at any point in time you feel sharp pains shooting through your arms, shoulders or back, stop working on them right away. You may be doing too much or you may have strained a muscle. Either way, you’ll want to rest and let your body heal before trying again.


The bar muscle up may seem like a complicated and difficult skill, but it’s really quite simple if you have the right knowledge. By following the tips in this article and by putting in the required practice, you’ll be able to master this skill in no time at all. So get to it and start working on those reps!

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