September Gymnastics Skill Tip with Coach Rachel: Getting Your Ring Muscle Up

The ring muscle up.  A holy grail movement in CrossFit.  Are you looking to get your first one or wanting to improve your efficiency?  Maybe you would like to work the transition drills for something different in your workout routine.  Coach Rachel and Coach Blace recently put together a video covering all you need to know about the ring muscle up.  They break the discussion into three parts:  The kipping swing, pulling the hips to the rings, and the transition phase.

 

Know Before You Go

First, though, let’s talk prerequisites to the muscle up.  If you are looking to execute this move and not just work transition drills, you will need to have a kipping pull-up, a chest-to-bar pull up, and an unassisted kipping ring dip.  This doesn’t mean you can’t practice the elements of the muscle up while still learning these other movements, but having these under your belt will make execution of a full ring muscle up possible.  See earlier blog entries on these movements here on our website or review the related skill tips videos on our youtube channel for tips and drills.

Tension on the Rings and Kipping

In order to get a ring muscle up, you must first understand the components of the kipping swing on the rings.  The first element that is important in the kipping swing on the rings is tension.  This is because tension, when created and maintained properly, creates power.  Tension is created and maintained throughout the kipping motion.  For example, when the athlete is in his or her backswing, or extended superman position, it is crucial that he or she is contracting the glutes and pointing the toes, which contracts the quads, creating tension in this position.  At the same time, the athlete should also think about pressing the rings away from the body with the palms facing out.

A way to visualize this position is that the hands are as far out in front of the body as possible, palms out, while the feet are as far behind the body as possible, toes pointed.  There should be no bending of–or a break–in the elbow, hip, or knee in this position.  Any bend or lack of extension will decrease tension, in turn decreasing power.  This unbroken position should be maintained as the athlete moves from the extended position into a position of flexion, moving through the hollow body position.

Press Away

At the same time, the athlete should also think about pressing the rings away from the body with the palms facing out.  A way to visualize this position is that the hands are as far out in front of the body as possible, palms out, while the feet are as far behind the body as possible, toes pointed.  There should be no bending of–or a break–in the elbow, hip, or knee in this position.  Any bend or lack of extension will decrease tension, in turn decreasing power.  This unbroken position should be maintained as the athlete moves from the extended position into a position of flexion, moving through the hollow body position.

This unbroken position should be maintained as the athlete moves from the extended position into a position of flexion, moving through the hollow body position.  In this part of the kip, the athlete is still pointing toes and squeezing glutes as the feet move in front of the body and the head and torso rotate so that the athlete if more parallel to the ceiling.  Additionally, the hands will rotate to that the palms are facing each other as the athlete’s body is parallel to the ground. If the athlete breaks at the knees, hips, or elbows during any part of the kipping swing, he or she reduces tension, which reduces the power generated by the kip.

Getting Hips to Rings

After you have established a very tight, long, powerful kipping swing, you are ready to think about getting your hips to the rings.  In order to make this happen, the athlete will get a strong kipping swing going.  When he or she is in the hollow body position with head and torso mostly parallel with the ceiling and palms facing each other, the athlete will pull the hips into the rings.  One obstacle for athletes being able to pull their hips to the rings is impatience.

Be Patient

Many athletes want to pull too early, before the power needed to pull into the rings has been generated.  When working on this element, be sure to wait until your hips are more parallel to the rings/ceiling before pulling the hips to the rings.  Think of it just as we discuss when talking about Olympic lifting–hip pop, then pull.  Let the natural momentum generated as you drive your belly button towards the ceiling make you weightless.  The moment your belly button is at its highest point and you feel your lightest is the perfect moment to pull your hips into the rings.

When practicing hips to ring, pull to the hips every time.  However, be aware that when we actually transition into a muscle up, the rings will be hitting higher, more in the stomach or sternum area.  Pulling to the hips while practicing will help us have a good turnover position for when we actually execute our ring muscle up.  Focus on getting your timing just right.  The lighter you are at the moment you pull into the rings, the easier it will be for you to transition into the press-out portion of the muscle-up.

Transition and Press Out

Once you have perfected your kipping swing and your hip pull into the rings, you are ready to transition into the dip-press-out portion of the muscle-up.   While many athletes master the kipping swing and hip pull, they can struggle with the transition over the top of the rings.  Often, this is because they are not aggressive or quick enough when transitioning.  It is essential that as you practice transition drills, you focus on speed and aggressiveness.  If these are not mastered on the ground or in drills, it will be very difficult to complete a successful ring muscle up.  Don’t settle for getting a drill correct slowly.  Repeat transition drills over and over until you are very fast and aggressive.  This muscle memory will be an essential tool in getting that muscle up.

Foot-Assisted Transition Drill

One of the best ways to practice the transition portion of the ring muscle up is a simple foot-assisted ring drill.  To see this drill in action, check out our youtube video.  In this drill, it is essential that the athlete has the rings low enough to place feet flat on the floor.  Also, this is a great opportunity to be practicing your false grip on the rings, so don’t get lazy with your hand position.  In this drill, the athlete will mimic the position of hips-to-ring that we discussed earlier.

He or she will use the feet to drive up to the rings and then execute the fastest possible sit up, landing with head over toes, on top of the rings. He or she will be in a position that is essentially the bottom of a dip.  The athlete will finish the drill by pressing out of the dip into a fully locked out position, feet in front of the body.

Areas of Focus

There are some elements to focus on in this drill to help make the muscle up successful.  First, when pulling the hips to the rings, visualize your belly button being the highest part of your body.  It is easy to cheat in this drill and just jump off your feet.  This will not translate to the muscle up because it happens off the ground.  You must be able to generate enough thrust with your hips to pull them to the rings.

Make sure to practice this on the floor by forcing your belly button to get as high as possible.  In this drill, you will find the rings not hitting at hip level, but more in that rib cage area.  Be sure to force the rings as low as possible and avoid pulling to your neck or face area.  The lower the rings on your body, the easier to get over the top of them.

Keep the Rings Close

Second, as you execute your sit up, keep the rings as close to your body as possible.  They will try to fly away from you, and in the air, there is nothing to stop them.  One way to make this happen is to think about elbow position.  As you pull the rings to your body, your elbows should be tucked to your sides and pointing generally down towards the floor.

As you execute your sit up, keep the rings as close to your body as possible.  They will try to fly away from you, and in the air, there is nothing to stop them.  One way to make this happen is to think about elbow position.  As you pull the rings to your body, your elbows should be tucked to your sides and pointing generally down towards the floor.  As you transition over the top of the rings, your elbows should still be close to your body, but now they will be pointing straight behind you.  Activate your lats to keep the rings close.

What’s Next?

Following these tips will help you master the technique of the ring muscle up. Additionally, Coach Rachel has suggested several movements and drills you can add to your routine to increase both your strength and efficiency.  Look for them in an upcoming blog entry.