Bar muscle up 4 week program

A couple of weeks back we discussed the role that the “bench press” can play in the development of all its sister movements: push ups, handstand push ups, burpees, ring dips and the like.

We also have noticed a great link between the relationship of peoples bench press and their pull ups and provided a basic program for you to follow in order to consistently work the bench press in and around your CrossFit training for 12-16 weeks.

Today we will discuss the bar muscle up and some of the benchmark requirements that allow you to excel and attack it with confidence.

I myself began CrossFit with a basic level of strength, I wouldn’t say no upper body strength, but it was certainly basic. 3 Strict pull ups in the early days was the best I could do and if you asked me to jump straight up again, i would be lucky to get 1 on that attempt. Long rest periods were required and I had never dreamt of doing a chest to bar pull up or muscle up and had certainly never seen kipping or butterfly movements.

Fast forward 6 years and I have experienced first hand the benefits of kipping pull ups in terms of developing fitness, core stability and a strong pair of shoulders. I have also worked hard to develop key strength benchmarks that help clients to understand what is a reasonable target to reach before muscle ups appear in their CrossFit weaponry anytime, anywhere.

I believe total skill mastery is the ability to execute a movement anytime any where under low to moderate levels of fatigue.

The bar muscle up can be done strict or kipping. Most people newly embedded in the CrossFit program don’t care how they do it, they just want to get one and get it on video for their mates. Once they have one, then they realise they need a stronger base, more practice drilling the movement under low levels of fatigue and patience to complete them in workouts consistently.

3 benchmarks key to lasting bar muscle ups: 5 x consecutive kipping chest to bar pull ups 1 x Strict chest to bar pull up 1 x 10-15kg weighted pull up

These 3 benchmarks put you well and truly in the mix for being ready to attack bar muscle ups.

5 x consecutive kipping chest to bar pull ups: will demonstrate that you are getting great use of the hip drive necessary for muscle ups. The first chest to bars will be easy but by the fifth one when fatigue sets into the arms, the force required in your hips to send your chest up to the bar will be similar to that of a bar muscle up.

1 x strict chest to bar pull up: will demonstrate great strength and muscle activation as you pull yourself from the deadhang position all the way up to getting a chest touch on the bar (under the collar bone, make contact chest on bar). The range of motion required to pull the chest to the bar is also a key piece in achieving a strict muscle up.

1 x 10-15kg weighted pull up: A weighted pull up does not have the same range of motion requirement as a strict chest to bar pull up however due to the additional weight you have added to yourself (via weightiest or weighted belt), you are now required to create more force and this activates your muscles fasters

Today, I have 20 consecutive bar muscle ups, a weighted pull up of +55kg and 10 Strict chest to bar pull ups.

Ive coached and witnessed many CrossFit 3018 athletes getting there first bar muscle up before they reach all 3 of the previous mentioned benchmarks and shared the excitement with them. What I have also noticed that those athletes that have a clear understanding of the relationship between weighted pull ups, strict chest to bar pull ups and muscle ups and make a consistent effort to progress all of them seem to establish better muscle up mastery than those that come in 2-3 times per week over the course of 1-3 months and only focus solely on bar muscle up drills.

Bar muscle up drills are great and have their place once the previous mentioned 3 benchmarks have been met or bonus playtime each week after you have completed you strength program around the other movements.

The following program can be applied for up to 12 – 16 weeks by completing the 4 week program over 3 -4 cycles.

Week 1: 7 sets of 3 Weighted pull ups


30 – 50 pull ups in as few sets as possible. If more than 10 sets are required, add assistance bands to help you do the remainder of the reps. If the movement standard cannot be met, use bands for all sets.

8 minute EMOM 5 – 15 Kipping on bar

Week 2:

6 sets of 2 Weighted pull ups


10-20 chest to bar pull ups in as few sets as possible…If more than 10 sets are required, add assistance bands to help you do the remainder of the reps. If the movement standard cannot be met, use bands for all sets.


Accumulate 30 Chin ups. *If the movement standard cannot be met, use bands for all sets.

Week 3:

4 sets of 1 Weighted Pull up


4 x 1 complex: Strict Chest to bar + 1-4 Kipping Chest to bar


10 minute EMOM 1 Kipping Chest to bar *Aim to clear the bar by as much as possible, belly to bar would be ideal over time

Week 4:

5 Sets: Max reps Strict Chest to bar pull ups. Scale to pull ups and use bands if necessary


50 Ring rows – If it becomes easy, elevate feet to ring height and add weight vest as needed.


Accumulate 2 Minutes worth of hollow holds.

*The program is designed to be done 1 day per week and can be supplemented with your normal CrossFit programming.

Enjoy and be sure to record your workouts in comments.

Thanks Tristan

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