Ring Muscle Up 101

5 steps to your first Ring Muscle Up

The ring muscle up is one of the most common goals we get from new members.

Here are the top 5 drills we teach in our Calisthenics classes that have helped dozen of members gets their first ring muscle up.


1. False Grip


The muscle-up is a combination of a pull-up and a dip, but being able to simply do pull-ups and dips doesn’t make one capable of doing a muscle-up.

We need to be able to master the ‘false grip’ in order to turn a strong pull-up into a position where we can do a dip.

Spending time hanging in the false grip will help you develop the strength & mobility through your forearms, biceps and wrists to be able to hold the false grip throughout the whole muscle up.


Training the False Grip:

  • Aim for 5 sets of 15 second hangs in your first session.
  • Progress to 5 sets of 30 seconds hangs without losing the false grip and you should have the false grip strength required for your first muscle up.

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 2. False Grip Pull-ups

Once you have a strong false grip the next step is the pull.

This gets you from the hanging position to the start of the transition.

It is important to complete a full pull up from straight arms at the bottom of the hang to thumbs touching the chest at the top.

You need to maintain the false grip for the entire pull to your chest.

*If you are unable to do this without slipping out of the grip, then still continue to train the false grip and do pull-ups without the false grip to keeping working on your pulling strength until you can do false grip pull-ups.


Training Ring Pullups:

Do 5 sets of 5-10 reps with full range of motion. Emphasis is on perfecting the full pull to the chest whilst maintaining the false grip.

Advanced Option

If you’re looking for an extra challenge try the following:

5 rounds of 5 chest to ring pulls with a 5 second hold at the top on each rep. Don’t let your thumb lose contact with the rings!

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3. Transition

The transition is what turns a strong false grip pull-up into the beginning of a dip.

Without being able to master the transition there is no muscle-up so we need to make sure we are super strong in the transition!


To train the transition:

  1. Feet on the ground with the rings held tightly to your chest in the false grip.
  2. Lean back while holding the ring to your chest and trace your thumbs down your sternum, around the bottom of your pectoral muscle and then pull the rings into your armpits.
  3. Reverse this movement by tracing your thumbs back along the bottom of your pectoral muscles, up your sternum and then finish hanging under the rings with your thumbs still in contact with your body.
  4. Use your feet as much as necessary to reduce your weight and ensure your thumbs do not break contact with your body.


Eventually we want to be able to do the transition without having our feet touching the floor, when the transition starts to become easy with our feet on the floor then we can start to work towards this.


Programming the Transition:

  • Repeat Steps 2-4 above and aim to stay in constant motion for a period of 1 minute.
  • Do 3-5 sets of 60 seconds and progress the movement by slowly reducing the reliance on your legs.

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 4. Dips

When you get your first ring muscle up you will likely be in a very deep position after the transition.

It is important to practice very deep dips in training to allow for this ‘low catch’ when coming out of the transition.


Programming the Dip:

  • Start with low rings around waist height and get yourself into the deep dip position. Press up and use as much leg assistance as required to get the feeling for it.
  • Progress the movement by reducing the leg assistance until you can do 5-10 deep dips unassisted.
  • Set the rings to head height and practice jumping into the deep position and pressing out.
  • Do 5 sets of 5-10 deep ring dips unassisted

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5. Ring Support

This is the final piece of the puzzle that ultimately turns a strict ring muscle up into a thing of beauty!

It can also be the hardest component of the strict ring muscle up to master for many people because it requires external rotation of the shoulder joint with all of your bodyweight.

The ring support position is where we are above the rings at the top of the dip. The hands are turned out and the rings pulled into the hips.

The ultimate aim of the ‘Ring Support’ position is to be able to hold the position with your feet off the floor, hands fully externally rotated.

However to start with it is normal to need to have your feet on the floor for some if not all of the support holds until you develop the necessary strength and stability required to hold the position comfortably.

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Training the Ring Support:

  • Aim for 5 sets of 15 second holds in your first session.
  • Progress to 5 sets of 30 seconds support holds with straight locked arms and rings beside the hips

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Putting it all together


Once you can complete all 5 of the above training drills comfortably it’s time to start putting it together if it hasn’t already happened during the course of your training.



Use a spotter to assist you through your attempt at a Muscle-Up so you can get the feeling for the full movement pattern.

Resist the temptation to transition early!

Pull to below your chest and the transition will be much easier.

*There is one note of caution with training the ring muscle-up, as great as it is to be consistent and really push for goals, please do not attempt to train for the ring muscle-up every day.

You might feel strong enough to do this but our joints, ligaments and tendons take longer to strengthen than our muscles do.

If you do overdo it you can risk developing tendonitis or what is often referred to as ‘golfers’ or ‘tennis’ elbow.

Always listen to your body peeps!

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Jason Ahipene
Calisthenics and Bodyweight Coach

Jason Calisthenics Perth

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