How to Do a Muscleup
Here’s your 6-step plan for mastering one of the most difficult upper-body exercises

June 25, 2015

“The muscleup is the hardest pull-up you’ve ever done combined with the most difficult dip you’ve ever done,” according to Sean Garner, a contestant on the US Men’s Health Next Top Trainer, who wowed the judges with his muscleup skills during the competition

Ready to become a muscleup master? Follow Garner’s six tips below. Work these into your routine two or three times a week, and you’ll amaze onlookers in no time.

1. Get mobile

“Shoulder mobility is a limiting factor of the muscleup,” says Garner.

If you sit behind a desk all day, chances are you won’t have the range of motion needed to pull your chest to the bar and push your way out of the deep dip. Lacking shoulder mobility makes the exercise even more difficult and increases your risk of joint and ligament injuries, he explains. The fix: Add wall slides to your routine.

Do it: Lean your head, upper back, and butt against a wall. Place your hands and arms against the wall in the “high five” position, your elbows bent 90 degrees and your upper arms at shoulder height.

Keeping your elbows, wrists, and hands pressed into the wall, exhale and slide your elbows down toward your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Inhale, sliding your arms back up as high as you can while keeping your hands in contact with the wall. Your arms should form a “Y.” That’s 1 rep. Do 10.

2. Pull like a pro

Before you attempt a muscleup, you should be able to do 5strict pullups, bringing your chest to the bar with every rep, says Garner.

Do it: Grab a bar using an overhand grip that’s hip-width to shoulder-width apart. Hang at arm’s length, pointing your legs slightly in front of you to form a wide C.

Now press your thighs together and brace your abs. Your body should remain rigid for the entire movement. As you pull yourself up, imagine that you’re pressing down on the top of the bar, and focus on bringing your belly button up. Both steps will help engage your lats and core to boost stability. Look straight ahead and pull until your collarbone touches the bar. Reverse the movement to lower back to a dead hang.

3. Demolish the dip

Just like the pullup, you should be able to do 5 deep triceps dips before trying a muscleup.

“Go as low as your shoulders will allow,” Garner says. “As soon as they start to round or tip forward, stop and press yourself back up.” Pausing at that point maximizes the amount of work your upper body does without risking injury to your joints or connective tissues.

Do it: Grasp the bars of a dip station and lift yourself so your arms are completely straight. Slowly lower yourself by bending your elbows until your upper arms dip just below your elbows. Pause when your shoulders begin to round forward. Push back up to the starting position.


4. Prime the pattern

The pullup and the dip are tough, but the most challenging part of the movement is transitioning between the two movements, explains Garner.

“It takes a lot of coordination and timing,” he says. “So it helps to rehearse the motion.” You can do this by practicing on a low bar while the floor supports the majority of your body weight.

Do it: Grab a low bar or set up a barbell in the middle of a squat rack. You can use a set of low-hanging rings, too. Kneel underneath the bar with your toes curled under. Sit your glutes back on your heels and the bottom of your feet. Grab the bar above you with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. You should have a slight bend in your elbows.


Lift your chest to the bar as if you were performing a pullup. At the same time, press the tops of your feet into the floor and raise your glutes off of your heels so your knees come off the floor.

Immediately go into the bottom of the dip by pulling your arms behind you. Pretend as if you’re tearing off the front of your shirt. Your chest will tip forward on a slight angle and your shoulders will be below your elbows. Only your toes will touch the floor. Now press your body up until your arms are straight. Your feet will come off the floor.

5. Add a jump

Once you’ve nailed the transition starting on your knees, gradually increase the height of the bar until you have to jump to reach it. You’re improving your muscle memory each time you do this.

“You’ll still get extra help from your legs when you launch yourself off of the floor, but your upper-back and arm muscles will carry more of the weight,” says Garner.

6. Put it all together

Once you can crank out a few reps of the jumping muscleup in a row, start the movement from a dead hang.

“If you allow your legs to separate or kick out, you’ll ruin your momentum,“ says Garner. Keep your core tight and your legs pressed together. Your torso and lower body should form one solid unit.