Just wondering why there are no muscle-ups in the CrossFit Football programming? I’ve heard that if you can do heavy weighted pull-ups (like 100 extra pounds) then you can do a muscle up no problem but I don’t know if this is true. Does this have anything to do with the program doing a ton of weighted pull-ups and chin ups?
Jay, before I go threw the reasons you won’t see muscle-ups in the CrossFit Football program, you need to understand the different between pull-ups, kipping pull-ups and muscle ups.
Pull-ups, and when I say pull-ups I mean strict pull-ups. Before CrossFit, when someone said they were doing pull-ups there was no violent hip drive pushing them to the bar, it was a upper body pull. Pull-ups are a back and shoulder exercise designed to create musculature in the shoulder gridle. The reason CrossFit Football programs pull-ups in the routine is to create a strong, stable shoulder platform to place the bar. If we can create a more stable platform to place a bar then we should be able to support more weight and thus squat heavier. And if you read post called Deadlifts & Viagra then you will understand the back squat is the foundation of CrossFit Football and power athletes around the world.
In addition to creating a more stable platform for the squat, the increased strength developed in the latissimus dorsi or lat muscles by the pull-up is key for the bench press and press. The lats function as a stabilizer for the shoulder girdle when the shoulders are retracted for a heavy bench press. When the shoulders are retracted they are in a stable position, thereby reducing the chance of injury.
Hopefully, you will begin to understand a program without strict pull-ups is incomplete. If we ask you to squat, bench, press and deadlift heavy but do nothing to aid in strength and structural development by creating a strong platform for you to squat, bench, press and deadlift heavy then our program won’t meet the demands of our athletes.
*On a side note, I got an email from an interested party that asked me about my strength when I was playing. I had a few measures of strength that allowed me to gauge my off-season progress. I never worried about getting stronger each year, it was more about getting back to my all time PR’s. Since I never had enough training time to set new PR’s, I just wanted to get back to even. So when I hit certain marks in my training I knew I was ready to rock. Squat 500 x 5, bench 440 x 5, RDL 585 x 5 and 10 strict pull ups with 90 lbs between my waist…two iron 45’s hanging from a chain around my waist for 10 reps was my best indicator that I was ready. If I could do those 10 pull ups + 90 lbs I knew I was strong enough to squat 600+, bench 500+ and break an opposing defender’s chest with a punch.
In contrast, kipping pull-ups play in the realm of metabolic conditioning. While a kipping pull ups does take strength and shoulder flexibility, the violent hip extension pushing you to the bar makes this a conditioning tool and less of a strength movement. Kipping pull-ups crush my wind with my forearms and hands fatigue long before my back. When I come off the bar I am usually gasping for air and trying to get rid of the pump in my arms.
Now we have two tools to use in the vertical pull. Strict pull ups allow us to create a more stable platform for all our primal lifts. A kipping pull, as a metabolic conditioning tool, allowes us to incorporate violent hip extension, flexibility so we can display our strength in a workout.
But…what about the muscle-up?
The muscle up is a skill that is a pull up followed by a dip. It is used to take yourself from below a set of rings or bar to above the rings or bar. The site Beast Skills has a great write up on muscle-ups. If you watch the video below, the gymnast starts still on the rings and performs a controlled muscle up to get into position to begin his ring routine.
Notice the controlled and smooth nature of the movement. The skill, strength and musculature has been developed over his 15+ years of training to perform a controlled elegant movement. Notice there is no violent hip extension propelling him up into position. The problem I see with the kipping muscle up is the rings. They are not stable and there exists too great a risk for slipping off and injury. Now add to the kipping ring muscle up a 300+ lbs athlete and what will happen to his shoulder if he doesn’t keep his hands tight to his chest on the roll over and the ring shoots out? The result is a shoulder surgery and a missed season at the worst. The best we can hope for is two weeks loss training to recover from a strained AC joint.
As a strength & conditioning coach imagine the head football coach’s face when this 300+ athlete tells him that he wont be able to practice or train because slipped off a ring and separated his AC joint during one of your ring routines. You see so many 130+ kilo gymnasts on earth this is a completely understandable injury.
Now if you tell me the muscle up develops a level of strength that cannot be developed with weighted pull-ups and weighted dips I would say you are living in fantasyland.
However, I don’t want you to think I do not like the muscle-up. But for me to like it enough to program it, it must be done on a bar.
I like the idea of a violent kip followed by a big vertical pull on a stable bar. It is very simple…if you do not pull yourself high enough on the bar muscle up then you will not make it. The bar is stable in contrast to a set of rings that are moveable. If you do not kip high enough on a set of rings you can use flexibility and whacky ring position to make the MU happen by just slipping into it.
In the end the bar is stable and you dramatically reduce the chance of injury.
CrossFit Football is a strength and conditioning program for power athletes. This includes contact sports and any sport where the time domain is short and the need for big horsepower is paramount. A ring muscle up is not a unique skill or movement that can be found on the football field, and the risk of injury is too high.
Last week I visited with Carl Paoli, coach at San Francisco CrossFit and former Olympic Gymnast. When our conversation turned to the ring muscle up the analogy was given that NFL players need to perform muscle ups for their sport as much as Olympic gymnasts need to be able to perform One of One pass pro.
Offer to work One on One pass pro drills into Bela Karolyi’s Olympic training program. I am sure that will be met with the same response Bell Belichick would give Mike Woicik if he told him he had his athletes doing ring muscle ups. Tom Brady misses a ring muscle up and dislocates a shoulder…imagine how long that coach will have a job. Actually, he might not be able to work again in an English or Portuguese speaking country.
Am I against the muscle up? No
Do I think the risk versus reward is too high for power athletes? Yes.
If you are doing CrossFit and planning on competing in a sectional or the games will you have to be able to do muscles ups? Yes.
If you are training in CrossFit and you cannot do muscle ups then your skills are incomplete. It would be the same as being a high level CrossFit athlete that cannot do a handstand push, thruster or climb a rope.
Nicely said Big John. Truer words never spoken…now just give me a reason to NOT to OHS and I will be set! hahaha. Happy New Year Brotha!!! ShaneP
“Pull-ups are a back and shoulder exercise designed to create musculature in the shoulder griddle.” Is that a different cut of the mcdonald’s McGriddle? Sounds delicious.
Grape Smuggler…I bet you would love something gold & brown in your mouth. Hope McGriddle isn’t code word for Raphael
Hahaha well played.
For a very good instructional on fixed bar pullups and variations on the muscle up, check out the youtube site of The BARTENDAZ.
I could think of a reason. I believe it was addressed by John in a post called “Be Smart”.
Anyone else notice the face plant at the end of the gymnastic video?
Great article, it’s very important that people understand this. Kipping muscle ups aren’t ‘just another tool in the box,’ they’re a high risk movement that I wouldn’t program for anyone except competitive CFers.
Labral tears suck, trust me.
AWESOME discussion on the pros and cons of what most CFers consider a baseline skill (not having a muscle-up yet, I just follow the commentary!) Thanks for your insights on the why’s and hows, and for the awesome Weider ad. ¡Muy Fantastico!
McQ, your xrays back in that article were disgusting.
I am not 300# (measly 235#) and I can do strict pull-ups (didn’t know there was another way until I saw some CF.com vids) and ring dips all day long. No desire to try a MU. Saw a guy (skinnly little bastard) put his shoulder on backwards repping MU’s at last years Sectionals here in UT. Not pretty.
[…] MU – TTMJ […]
Kipping Muscle-ups, Kipping Pull-ups, Dead Hangs of all variety’s? All good as far as I’m concerned. Show me a guy or gal that can do a bar-muscle-up and I’m impressed.
In my case, my skills on the bar I can do at most 5 reps in set, whereas on the rings I’ve almost done 15(had been practicing a lot). My muscle-up development took from early 2007 till now. My best initial time on 30(ring) muscle-ups was past 25 minutes. My best current time at present 5:14( doing the first 20 in 2:54.) I’ve done WOD’s with 30,rest 20 rest 10 reps with 3 minute rests. That was a challenge.
I believe in my line of work (military special operations) ring and bar muscle-ups are extremely useful for developing an athletes sense of his body in time and space. I’ve never in real life had to do a bar or ring muscle-up in a combat zone on a mission, but the skill and athletic development I gained from that, helps with climbing walls, up ladders and structure’s on the side of a ship or building.
Kipping vs Dead hang pull-ups became major issue in my early years as a Marine. The USMC switched from allowing kipping to only pure dead-hangs. I liked dead hangs purely until I got into Crossfit and I realized the real world usage of more than just the pure-upper body strength was very real and mission applicable. If you can kip yourself up a wall or us some type of jump/kick up/kip/slash dead hang in full body armor frequently with a 3-dag patrol bag and a full combat (ammo,frags etc) load-out then you have a positive adaptation for fitness in my judgment.
Where kipping pull-ups and muscle-ups help is with the athlete that isn’t strong enough to do 20 dead hang pull-ups for a USMC Physical Fitness Test. These service-members male or female have to be able to do things like the climbing or maneuvering just mentioned above.
Is there a risk, yes, but in moderate sized athletes without many dead hangs I do like to see kipping at least for athletic development. As a means, I think done properly with coaching it will facilitate along with copius amounts of dead hang practice, higher numbers (rep-wise always looking for 20/USMC) sooner than without. At last check I did 37 kipping pull-ups and on another day I did 20.5 dead hangs. I practiced dead hangs very little this year
I think John has a point with Football players and serious impact related sports, at least those with no prior competence in muscle-ups.
Some baller as gymnastic work. Check it.
That guy is rad. Not to one up but check this…
I really like this post. I have to agree that when programming for athletes for sports that are not the sport of crossfit, it is dangerous to use advanced ring exercises. Speaking from personal experience the first time I tried a muscle up on the rings 2 years ago my hands didn’t stay tight, my right arm shot backwards and I ruptured my biceps tendon at the elbow. Surgery and 6 months of rehab later I was able to do 1 pull up. To this day I have no interest in ever trying one again and will only do them on a bar. Like Johnnie said, if you are training kids for football or whatever and you have to tell the coach you ruptured a kids tendon trying something on rings, you will be unemployed.
Travis – Sorry for your injury. Nothing like rupturing a tendon and setting yourself back one calendar year. I ruptured my patellar tendon and it was almost one year to the day that it I was 100%.
Excellent point Travis. I feel much the same way.
I understand your apprehension on ring muscle ups. I was wondering your take on the Bar Muscle up. I have been doing the Bar muscle up for a while now as I do not own rings, and you need a place to attach them, but I can find a bar at any gym or playground in america. Though I can do ring MU’s, I prefer the bar because of two reasons. 1) I believe it is more difficult 2) I feel it is safer.
I have just begun using the CF FOOTBALL site. I have been doing crossfit for a few years, intermitently doing your workouts. Having been a division 1 lacrosse player, I identify with the explosiveness and strength focus of your program. I am now in the Special Operations community and find your site a good balance for my background and current job.
I guess the bottom line is, do you feel the same apprehension for the Bar MU as the Ring version? I do plenty of strict dead hang pull ups, but believe the explosion required for bar muscle ups is worthwhile as well.
Chris – Did you read the whole article?
“However, I don’t want you to think I do not like the muscle-up. But for me to like it enough to program it, it must be done on a bar. I like the idea of a violent kip followed by a big vertical pull on a stable bar. It is very simple…if you do not pull yourself high enough on the bar muscle up then you will not make it. The bar is stable in contrast to a set of rings that are moveable. If you do not kip high enough on a set of rings you can use flexibility and whacky ring position to make the MU happen by just slipping into it. In the end the bar is stable and you dramatically reduce the chance of injury.” – from Talk To Me Johnnie “MU”
This was towards the end. Not sure you understood or the read the whole article but I am a fan of a stable bar. Or I am taking crazy pills and only wrote this in my imagination. I am going with the first one.
Fair enough. I think your clear. Thanks.
“Now if you tell me the muscle up develops a level of strength that cannot be developed with weighted pull-ups and weighted dips I would say you are living in fantasyland.”
This is what I figured and assumed that’s why the muscle up was left out yet there were weighted pullups/dips often. It makes sense that muscle ups on the rings would be more dangerous than just weighting pullups and dips.
Thanks for the thorough answer.
As someone who has done a weighted muscle-up on rings with a 45lb plate, I can attest to the danger. With the rings you need to know exactly where you and the rings need to go and not fight an attempt which isn’t going there. I’m 185lbs and had plenty of callous from regular muscle ups but 3 attempts was all my skin survived for.
My opinion is that for 95% of the movement the strength required is similar to a weighted pullup (albeit a dynamic one) and weighted dip. There is a small piece of the transition that neither pullups or dips train, but if you’re not really geeked out on gymnastics or you kip your MUs you’re not missing out on much.
[…] MU – TTMJ […]
[…] Muscle Ups – John Welbourn Thoughts on the Kipping Pull Up – Greg Everett This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Workouts by Colm. Bookmark the permalink. […]
[…] Another point, most gymnast are less than 150lbs and the average male crossfitter is 185lbs. Gravity plays a huge part in this motion, there is a reason small guys do these and big guys play football. And there is a reason why female gymnasts do not use the rings. Just saying. John Welbourn on why athletes do not do MUs. […]
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