The Bar Muscle-Up

Every movement in a CrossFit gym lends itself to another. The bar muscle-up to me is the same thing as the push jerk. The push jerk is one of CrossFit’s 9 foundational movements. We learn these 9 specific movements at seminars because they have a tremendous amount of carry over to other movements and they’re essential for everyday life. 

In order to learn the push jerk though we must first teach a person to strict press. We must have them become competent in the strict press and develop some strength. What movement is the equivalent of this in order to be able to learn and perform a bar muscle up? Yup, you guessed it. The strict pull-up. We cannot and should not ever have a person attempt a bar muscle-up until they have spent countless hours working on and developing their strict pull-up. The basic strength required to turn a strict press into a push jerk or a strict pull-up into a bar muscle up cannot be understated. An athlete must have a baseline level of strength before adding speed and complexity. Both of which come in abundance during the push jerk or bar muscle up. A good number to strive for would be 10 unbroken strict pull-ups. 

Once that milestone has been reached the next step in the progression is the kipping chest to bar pull-up. This is the push press. There’s more hip drive in both. There’s more force exerted with the arms in both. In order to move on from the push press to the push jerk and athlete should strive to have the bar move from the shoulder to overhead as quickly as possible. If there’s even the slightest moment spent with arms bent at lockout, the athlete must continue to refine the timing of the drive and press before moving onto the push jerk. The same thing goes for the kipping chest to bar pull-up. An athlete needs to ensure that they spend so little time actually pulling. The hip drive should be so powerful and timed so perfectly that the athlete rises to the appropriate height without ever engaging the bicep. 

Once these milestones have been hit now it’s time to drill the actual mechanics of learning the movement. Jumping bar muscle ups. Transition drills on a lower bar. All these things must be drilled over and over and over until they become 2nd nature. It is then, and only then, that an athlete is ready for a bar muscle up. 

The checklist is strength first. Build strength to a point where you think you don’t need anymore and then build some more. Drill some complexity and learn how to master the hip drive. Finally, drill the transition and then put it all together. This is the process for learning the bar muscle up. You wouldn’t push jerk without first learning to strict press and do it well. 


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