How I Got My First Muscle-Ups with Basic Calisthenics Training

Hi! I am the author and founder of Old School Calisthenics
how to do muscle-ups

Muscle-ups are damn cool and because of their complexity too, they inspire people to start bodyweight training as it happened to me. Even though I intended on doing calisthenics mostly for physical fitness and getting muscular, doing muscle-ups was also one of my greatest aspirations.

A long time ago [when I was a beginner] I saw some guys doing muscle-ups and, motivated by them, I jumped on a bar to see if I am able to do at least one. I didn’t know back then what was required in terms of raw strength or technique. I was skinny, untrained and physically pretty weak. As a result, I failed in my attempt. Heck, I wasn’t even able to do 15 correct pull-ups at the time, but I assumed I could muscle-up over the bar instead.

If you tried too and failed then you’ll agree with me that they are tougher than they look. Of course that athletes with years of dedicated training will make muscle-ups look easy. This is only because we see their results without understanding the effort to accomplish that. It was foolish of me to believe I could muscle-up without knowing the details and without being well-trained.

However, my failure was soon filled with the ambition to train and master the skill properly. I was mentally prepared for what was going to come and my only hope was to be successful fast while putting in the work. I didn’t master the technique in the span wanted, but I eventually obtained it.


What To Do for Your First Muscle-Ups

First of all, muscle-ups will come faster for you if you are lighter. However, you can see me muscle-up easier at the end of the video even though I am a bit more heavyset. The reason is that over time and with constant basic training, I enhanced my strength and performance. I bulked up wisely by keeping a low body fat percentage whilst also maintaining my overall body mobility. So each pound gained meant more power and functional strength.

Now, if you are heavy because you are fat, then that will never help you do muscle-ups unless you’re strong enough to compensate that surplus. In this case, you have to get lighter first by cutting fats (read here how you can target fat loss rapidly). But you must also do calisthenics training to increase your basic strength or lose weight as well with it. Some athletes lose weight with bodyweight training while others [like myself] do it by including cardio workouts too.

Going back, the physique from the beginning of my video I attained with basic calisthenics training. However, before that, I was also running long distances, almost every day, to get fit and light. These two activities allowed me to achieve the level of fitness required for my first very-bad-form muscle-ups. 

You have to develop a solid basic strength. You have to pull-up and dip with perfect form in order to muscle up. Don’t try muscle-ups unless pull-ups, pushups, and dips feel easy enough.

It took me more than an entire year to lose weight and to increase my fitness level only for doing muscle-ups the way you see in the first clips. You may do it faster or longer depending on many distinct variables and also depending on how consistent you are with your training. Then, it took me another few months to a year to be able to muscle-up with a clean form. Performance comes with time.

My training schedule was to train 5 times a week and included at least two workout sessions for pushups, dips, and pull-ups. My training log though wasn’t designed for doing muscle-ups. I essentially planned to train for hypertrophy and strength. But, once in a while, when I felt it was right, I gave it a try. I failed almost every time I tried until it happened. The problem was that I could only muscle-up on the same bar I did the first time. It required continuous trial and error until I could do it every time and on every type of bar.

You have to understand that you have to get stronger, but I think it is best if I give you some numbers too.

At the time I was able to muscle-up with a decent form I could also do 20 straight and correct pull-ups, more than 50 correct pushups and more than 30 correct dips on parallel bars [1 set, without stopping]. Take this only as a reference. It might be different for you, I know that.

I’d say that if you can do over 100 pull-ups in a single workout (under 20 minutes), and 100 dips with over 200 pushups in another workout then you should have the required strength and endurance for muscle-ups.

Therefore, these are my numbers or at least how I see strength converted into something more practical. Obviously, your particular set of skills, sports background, training regimen, and body weight are all variables that might influence those numbers. One thing to note is that I saw guys that were able to muscle-up easily without being able to do 15 straight pull-ups or 100 pull-ups in a workout. But here we must take a closer look at something else like the weight in their legs, arms-length, etc.

To conclude, train to enhance performance and then you know for sure that you’ve got what it takes.

You Don’t Need Dedicated Training

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It's curious how jacked I've become this season although I eat after 11 pm, take all the carbs necessary, eat my fruits, take regular quantities of protein, and train with the basics . I did all naturally, without Intermittent Fasting, ketogenic diet, powders, supplements, aggressive detox things, etc. I also enjoyed pizzas and chocolate once in a while . I am here to show you the natural ways that lead to success! Did I tell you that I do not qualify in any field whatsoever, but maybe I possess more practical and theoretical information than the majority who got a diploma? When you are confused and seek the right information, remember that I've there too, and perhaps I want to help you. So don't hesitate to reach me! . . . . . . #jacked #latenightsnack #intermittenfasting #keto #ketodiet #nodiet #protein #natural #naturalbody #naturalphysique #naturalphysiquesciences #pizza #success #calisthenics #muscleups #legraises #abs #pullups #muscles

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Maybe those guys that can do muscle-ups without fitting into my recipe are the ones that constantly do dedicated training. I haven’t done any, even if all the YouTube recommends me doing negatives, straight-bar dips and different techniques to use inertia and momentum to your advantage. Those came naturally to me from a point on.

I think I could have achieved the skill faster if I integrated some dedicated exercises as well. But then again, I had to train for hypertrophy too and skill training doesn’t work out the muscular system as best.

You may not need dedicated training, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to try muscle-ups anytime you feel it so. The technique is something you have to figure out through trial and error. It’s like trying to cook the perfect meal. You will fail at the beginning even though you have the recipe and ingredients to hand.

Master the Following Exercises

I would strongly recommend you train with wide pull-ups, clapping pull-ups, chest-to-bar pull-ups or even weighted pull-ups. These variations will enhance your dynamic and maximal strength. The list goes on and you must also include dips, maybe weighted dips, diamond pushups, and skull-crushers.

The rest of your workout routine can include other pulling and pushing variations. You can do cardio and HIIT workouts too, they will help. With time, your performance will increase and you will want to give those muscle-ups a try.

I suggest you warm up very well before attempting, usually after jogging 20 minutes. I usually feel a lot stronger after a running session. I also don’t think you should use elastic bands to help you out because the elastic bands eliminate momentum. You need momentum from that swing on the bar to generate enough force for your first repetition. 


If you bulk up, then you might lose your mobility. You have to make sure you gain strength while keeping your elasticity. To ensure you do this right, you can integrate some mobility work too at the end of your workouts and also, when you do any bodyweight exercise, train in good form and full range of motion. 

I remind you that strength is a skill so the more often you train, the stronger you become eventually. 

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