Muscle Ups: The Man Makers

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
March 15, 2016

A lot of people outside the world of calisthenics aren’t familiar with muscle ups. And if you haven’t, it’s essentially a pull-up combined with a dip.

“Well that’s easy,” the uninitiated may say. “I can do a pull-up and a dip. How hard can it be?” Boy oh boy are you in for a humbling treat.

We’ve told you before about Willy O’Toole, the 64-year-old man from Ireland who challenged fellow countryman and UFC superstar Conor McGregor to a muscle up contest. O’Toole was able to do seven in his challenge video, while McGregor was only able to do six in his response, which is now McGregor’s second most surprising recent upset.

It just goes to show you don’t need to be a world-renowned athlete to do muscle ups. Heck, you don’t even have to be human.

Red pandas are famous for being lazy, but one adorable red panda finally decided to do something about it. She (yep, it’s a girl) can perform muscle ups with the best of them and looks twice as cute.

But again, that doesn’t mean they’re easy — far from it. They’re a highly advanced calisthenics movement and they take practice. A lot of practice.

The Guinness World Record for muscle ups is held by Australian Jarryd Rubinstein, who executed 25 muscle ups. Not the high number you expected? That should tell you how difficult a technically sound muscle up is. Each muscle up had to be perfect — no kipping, no swinging of the knees for momentum, and it had to be a fluid motion from pull-up to dip.

There are even some who feel that the muscle up isn’t a safe enough exercise due to the position of the joints necessary to execute the movement. In fact, they are such a challenging exercise that when they were they included in CrossFit competition, there was a lot of controversy with people claiming the muscle ups would exclude beginner and intermediate competitors.

But in gymnastics–the sport always keeng to serve the rest of us a heaping helping of humble pie–it’s considered a “basic gymnastics maneuver”. Yikes, let that one sink in for a moment.

No matter how you view their difficulty, there are progressions you can follow to successfully execute the muscle up. Take a look at these steps and soon you may be sending your own challenge to your favorite MMA fighter.

Knee Health Score 1


Make sure you can do 10 to 15 reps of each of these progressions before attempting the actual muscle up.

Regular Pull Ups

Parallel Bars Dip

High Pull Ups

Straight Bar Dips

Muscle Ups


Ring Muscle Ups

One arm Muscle Up



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