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The Slow Muscle-up – How to Conquer One of the Most Difficult Muscle-ups

The explosive muscle-up is one of the most sought after moves in calisthenics and the exercise I’ve taught most.

But what if I told you there’s an even harder challenge that will give you greater strength gains and looks just as flashy..?

Enter the slow muscle-up!

False Grip Slow Muscle-up

Before attempting this you must be able to perform 10 strict chest-to-bar pull-ups and 10 chest-to-bar straight bar dips at an absolute minimum.

The false grip makes the slow muscle-up easier by removing the requirement to move your hands around the bar; it also means you’re starting that much higher than you would with a normal grip.

Fill in the form to get a free video showing how to get a chest to bar pull-up

False Grip Hang

The first stage for the false grip involves building up the strength in your false grip.

  • Place your hands on the bar as shown, make a tight fist.
  • Keep your shoulders engaged (pull the shoulder blades down into their sockets throughout.
  • Do this for 5 sets with 1-2 minutes rest in-between.
  • Once you can do this for 5 sets of 30 secs, you’re ready to move on.

False Grip Flex Hang

The next progression is to hold the top position of a false grip pull-up.

  • Place your hands on the bar in a false grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Pull yourself up as high as you can, focusing on taking the elbows back rather than out.
  • Do this for 5 sets with 1-2 minutes rest in-between.
  • Build this up to 15 secs and try to get a little higher each workout.

For some people, these progressions will be enough and you’ll have already gotten over the bar on one of your flex hang attempts.

Either way, the next progression will help improve your slow muscle-up.

Negative Muscle-up

The negative (eccentric) phase of any exercise actually gives you about 10% more strength than the positive (concentric) phase.

We can use this to improve your strength with all slow muscle-ups.

  • Get on top of the bar either by doing an explosive muscle-up, a pull-over or jumping.
  • From this position go down as if you were going to do a regular straight bar dip.
  • Once your triceps are parallel to the ground, start to slowly and with as much control as you can, bring the elbows down.
  • Try to keep the elbows in, if they flare you will lose stability and most likely drop down.
  • Keep going until you either drop or have controlled down into a pull-up.
  • Build this up to 5 sets of 5 reps with 1-2 minutes rest in-between.

Keep practising both the flex hang and negative until you can get over the bar.

Pseudo False Grip Muscle-up

Once you can rep out 5 or so reps of the false grip muscle-up, then it’s time to move onto the next progression.

The pseudo false grip is a more difficult variety, requiring really strong triceps.

Pseudo False Grip Flex Hang

Just like the false grip muscle-up, before attempting the move you should hold the top position as high as you can.

  • Place your hands on the bar in a pseudo false grip, wrists shoulder-width apart (hands will be closer, due to the nature of the grip).
  • Pull yourself up as high as you can. With this movement, you may find your elbows do flare out a little.
  • Do this for 5 sets with 1-2 minutes rest in-between.
  • Build this up to 15 secs and try to get a little higher each workout.

Negative With Pauses

By now the negative muscle-up should be getting a lot easier. To make this more challenging, you’re going to add pauses, starting with just one, adding more as it gets easier.

The first pause you’re going to add is just before we take the elbows down. Hold here for a couple of seconds, then continue the negative muscle-up.

Once you can perform 5 sets of 5 of this, then add your second pause; this one is a really challenging one and will really help improve the transition phase of your muscle-up.

When your elbows are parallel with the bar hold for another couple of seconds; before continuing the negative muscle-up.

Keep practising both of these drills until you can get over the bar.

Slow Muscle-up

Once you’re getting very proficient at the pseudo false grip muscle-up, it’s time to get into the strict slow muscle-up.

Before performing any other drills, do a test to see where you’re at with the slow muscle-up.

I advise you to start on a thin bar for this, it will make it easier to get your hands around the bar which will result in a stronger grip.

Start in an L-sit Pull-up position and pull as high as you can; once you reach the top part of your pull focus on pulling the elbows in and up.

Flex Hang

If you’re not yet there, then as with the previous drills, hold the top position. You will find you get higher with practice.

Transition Drilling

Perform your eccentric as if you were going to do a pause, only this time instead of pausing we’re going to push back up.

Over time go lower with your eccentrics, ensuring you get over each time.

Combine these two drills along with the previous progressions of the slow muscle-up and with time and practice, you will have mastered one of the hardest strength exercises in calisthenics!

Sydney Training Options

If you’re looking for further help with your muscle-up, we offer the following options in Sydney and Sutherland Shire.

One-on-one training with a specialised coach to help fast-track your muscle-up.

Regular small group training working various skills on the bar including the muscle-up.

Muscle-up workshop with drills to get you over the bar – subject to availability.

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