I’ve recently switched to doing the muscle up on rings, and ditched the straight bar muscle up. Here’s why…
The bench press and push ups are considered to be the kings of the upper body exercises for the pectorals and triceps. However, for many people, the front deltoids take up a brunt of the work, and pecs don’t get stimulated enough.
“Dips build the outer flair to the pectorals—something no bench press will ever do!”
— Vince Gironda on dips, The Wild Physique
The “Iron Guru” Vince Gironda was one of the best known trainers of champion bodybuilders and movie stars in the 1950s, including Arnold Schwarzenneger. Vince felt that regular bench pressing was an inferior exercise to develop the pecs, when compared to dips. Lets face it, they are also much harder — you might be able to do 50 push ups, but how many full-range bodyweight dips can you do?
So perhaps the dip is now the new king of the upper body exercises?
However, if you focus most of your training on just dips, then you’re neglecting your back, which is responsible for giving you that V-shape and the illusion of a smaller waist. The best exercise for this is of course the pull up.
Now what if you could combine the two exercises together? Eureka! I give you the real king of the upper body exercises, the muscle-up.
Straight Bar Muscle Up
I’ve been doing these for a while now. Boy are they tiring! After a set of these I’m panting like I’ve just sprinted 100 metres.
The hardest part is the transition…moving from pulling, to getting over the bar and pushing. Initially it’s a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time. 🙂
You might be able to do dips and pull ups already, but get stuck on the transition part for months. However, with the right tuition, most people can be taught to kip themselves above the bar in a single session.
Muscle Up On Rings
Mrs Fitness’ parents have a holiday home near a beach. We haven’t stayed there since the winter, but soon it will be the official start of British Summer Time, with lighter days and warmer weather. Great for weekend breaks at the beach, to top up our vitamin D levels.
You see most Calisthenics performed on bars. So when I’m on holiday, I usually look for a local park and train really early in the morning before all the kids get there, and wonder why I’m using their stuff. “Mummy, what’s that man doing?”
There’s a kids playground only a minute from our holiday home. Hooray! Unfortunately there isn’t anything remotely useable as a pull-up bar. Groan. No muscle ups then. 🙁
The solution is gymnastics rings. They’re compact enough to stuff in a small backpack or handbag, for a great workout anywhere. So easy to use on swings, climbing frames, trees, the turret of a tank, and I’ve seen someone use them in a stairwell (although that looked a little dangerous to me).
At the park, there’s an A-frame for a zip wire about 15 feet up. Impossible to do a pull up on, but the ribbons on the rings are really long…so I just throw them over the top of the frame, secure the straps, and voilà — I can now do muscle-ups, and a whole host of other super-human exercises. Problem solved. 🙂
Muscle Up Technique
A muscle up on the rings is a very different beast to straight bar muscle up. On a bar, it’s relatively easy to kip a little in order to get through the transition point. However, unless you’re a experienced competitor in the CrossFit Games, then kipping on a ring muscle up could lead to a nasty injury for most people, with all that flailing about.
Before you start a muscle up on the rings, you should train for pull ups and very deep dips on the rings. The rings are very humbling. Most people shake so badly, they look like they’re having a fit — and this is before they even bend their arms to do a dip. You should be able to do at least 10 quality reps of both exercises before starting work on the muscle-up.
Firstly, you need a false grip. Instead of hanging onto the rings with the weight on your fingers, place the ring so it runs from the crook of your thumb to the heel of your hand and to turn your wrists to horizontal. Most people (myself included), don’t have the flexibility to hang with completely straight arms when using the false grip — so a little bend in the arms is ok.
With the rings facing each other in the neutral position, pull the rings to your chest. Keep the rings reasonably close together. Then imagine that your hands are magnets, and simultaneously sit forward / headbutt a ball, whilst your hands slide around your chest and ribs to reach the bottom of the dip. Then the easy part, press into the support position.
Your hands will have moved into a neutral grip. So when you reverse the movement, move back into a false grip as you go through the transition point and start to hang.
And for the downside of the ring muscle up…
I haven’t been doing a huge volume of ring muscle-ups, but you can see a sore patch on my wrist caused by the ring rubbing during the false grip.
Despite that, I’m still enjoying doing them on the rings. I’ll be honest, after a month of doing them on the rings, I can only do about 6 consecutive reps at the moment — so I’ll probably carry on with the rings until I can notch that up to 10 reps, then alternate the bar with the rings.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you of how useful a set of rings can be for your training.
George D. Choy
Personal Trainer & Calisthenics Instructor
Gymnacity in Oxted, Surrey, United Kingdom
|Click here to access the Calisthenics Equipment — Beginners Guide in my Secret Library|
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- Skin the Cat — Exercise Tutorial
- How to do the Back Lever — Tips and Video Tutorial
- Muscle Up On Rings | Why I’ve Stopped Doing Straight Bar Muscle Up
- How To Do Pistol Squats
- Fitness Equipment — What My Wife Lets Me Take On Holiday