I want to give out a virtual high-five for a second. A few weeks ago, one of our members, Justin, hit his first muscle-up. Well, he actually did several, but we only caught one on video.
Two weeks later, he hit his first handstand push-up! Two PRs, one month.
Muscle-ups, handstand push-ups, handstand walking, ring dips…all of these exercises fit into the same category. They’re all advanced gymnastics skills that require a ton of relative strength, coordination, and core control. That’s not to say they’re impossible to master! Not at all. They just require constant dedication and practice.
Justin is a stellar example. Coming in to CrossFit Undeniable, he had limited experience with CrossFit. But, he has attended 4-6 classes per week for month after month working with our coaches, and it’s paying off!
Today, we want to chat a bit about what it takes to hit that coveted first muscle-up or finally get your head wrapped around handstand push-ups. Hint: hard work is involved! (But there’s more to it than that)
I remember when we first joined CrossFit Undeniable and went through the CrossFit Open. Workout 16.4 gave you 13 minutes to complete as many reps of the following as possible:
55 Wall Ball
55 Handstand Push-ups
This workout sticks out because I spent ~2 minutes flopping against the wall trying to get a handstand push-up. I couldn’t do a single one. Needless to say, it was a frustrating experience.
Let’s say you’re at that point – you want to nail a movement so bad you can practically taste it. Maybe you’re so so close to your first muscle-up, or you’re finally comfortable enough in a handstand to try a handstand push-up. What should you do next?
Break down the fundamentals of your big move.
There’s a lot going on in a ring muscle-up. You have the false grip on the rings, the kip, the transition, and the dip (just to name the major components). Sure, you could work on all of them at once, but you’re probably going to have more success breaking them down individually.
For example, if you’re struggling with the false grip, maybe you start each practice session with some false grip KB carries. If the kip is your problem, there are dozens of drills you could try like these. For the transition, you could practice this drill with your feet on a box. You get the idea.
When you work on your muscle-up then, it’s not “try to get a muscle-up for 10 minutes.” It could look like this:
3 sets of 50m False Grip KB Carries
5 sets of 5 ring muscle-up kips
5 sets of 5 muscle-up transition drill
3 sets of 3 ring dips
You’re working on each piece of the muscle-up individually. Then, maybe once a week you try to put it all together.
If you’re stuck trying to figure out what to work on, sign up for a 30-minute skills session with one of our coaches. They’ll help you break down the movement and set up a plan moving forward.
Build strength outside of the main exercise.
Handstand push-ups are a great example. Sure, you could kick up against the wall and do single reps as you build strength, but it’s important to realize you’ll build your handstand push-up strength with other exercises as well:
- Seated dumbbell strict press
- Box handstand push-up
- Strict press/Push Press/Push Jerk
- Turkish Get-up
- “Box Walking”
Handstand push-ups require strength and stability throughout the shoulder joint (along with coordination, balance, flexibility, etc). Don’t get stuck thinking you have to do the specific exercise to get stronger.
Set up a consistent plan to practice.
You know that saying “Practice makes perfect”? Vince Lombardi set it straight – only perfect practice makes perfect.
The day we do 75 pull-ups during the workout might not be the best day to work on your ring muscle-up. With tired shoulders, you’re bound to leave frustrated. But, you understand that the transition requires immense amounts of core strength so you knock out some GHD sit-ups instead.
When you do get the opportunity to work on your muscle-up, you’re dialed in. You aren’t just flailing around on the rings. You know exactly what you need to do. You have a towel between your feet to keep them together during your kip. You don’t get lazy with your grip. You’re focused.
Set up a routine you can follow before or after class several days a week. It doesn’t have to be long (maybe 5-10 minutes). Drill down on the specifics you need to work on. When you’re working on the specific skill, focus intensely, don’t just go through the motions. It will pay off down the road!
Get a coach to hold you accountable.
Consistency is huge. Our coaches are 100% invested in your success. They want to know what you’re working on, and how they can help. Keep them in the loop!
Better yet, sign up for a 30 minute skill session. They’ll go into detail about the specific move you want to master, break down your technique, and show you drills to focus on before and after class.
This is one of my favorite videos of all time. Okay okay – I love any video where someone hits their first muscle-up or handstand push-up.
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This is what it looks like when you nail your first ring muscle-up during the CrossFit Open! Big congrats to our athlete Heather. Hard work pays off!! (P.S. She went on to hit several more 🙌) #hardwork #crossfitopen #community #intheopen #firstmuscleup #gymnastics #18point3
It’s just so awesome to see all of that hard work finally paying off. The feeling of pride and excitement is amazing (and do you hear all those people cheering her on). We want everyone to get that feeling whether you’re trying to get a muscle-up or your first pull-up. It’s the main reason we are starting to offer our 30-minute skill sessions to help you finally nail that movement. I promise we’ll give you the biggest high five when you do!