Should You be Bothering With Muscle Ups?

When it comes to ‘showy’ exercises that you can use to demonstrate your strength and power, there are few more exercises more impressive than the muscle up.

But is this exercise all show and no go?




What is a Muscle Up?

A muscle up is essentially a pull up combined with a dip… sort of.

Basically, you grab a bar overhead as though you’re about to do a pull up (with an overhand grip), you pull yourself all the way up and then you keep going so that you’re on top of the bar and so you can push yourself up above the bar.

This looks pretty awesome and it’s something that requires a lot of strength and technique to pull off. Most people simply can’t perform a muscle up and you probably shouldn’t even attempt one unless you can do 10+ strict pull ups first.

The movement is also a good one in that it works a lot of different muscle groups all at once. Of course it starts out by offering the benefits of both a pull up and a dip. That means it will work your lats, your biceps, your pecs, your triceps and your shoulders. Meanwhile, you need to keep your legs and lower body very straight to ensure you can generate the momentum and thus your core and abs come into play a great deal too.

But many physical therapists don’t like it so much… why?


When you do a muscle up, you’re required to quickly move your wrists over onto the top of the bar from underneath. This requires a lot of very rapid flexion of the forearm, places a lot of strain on the wrists and also places a lot of strain on the medial elbow – this is a big problem if you suffer from golfer’s elbow.

Then you have internal rotation of the shoulders which are also very important for quickly switching shape and also happens to once again be a bit of a recipe for injury.

Risk vs Benefit

What you need to look at then is the risk vs benefit. There’s a little risk with the muscle up sure but then there is with the deadlift as well. If it provides serious results, then does it really matter?

But the bad news for muscle up lovers is that this exercise doesn’t offer that much reward. Actually, the muscle up is mainly about generating momentum in order to get yourself over the bar and requires little actual strength.

Moreover, all the muscles worked by muscles ups can be worked more effectively in other ways. Case in point: explosive pulls ups and dips.

Explosive pulls ups are simply pull ups that involve bringing your chest above the bar. This is the part of the muscle up that requires real strength and you can practice that with no need to go over. If you follow this up with some dips, then you’ve worked all the same muscle groups but without getting fatigued early.

Also, muscle ups in the gym make you look like a bit of a prat…


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