The road to my first ring muscle up
I didn't do gymnastics as a child, I learn all this stuff as an adult. Now I can complete a ring muscle up, cold, anytime. It's easy. There is no magic at play here. The process is easy but it takes dedicated, consistency and patience.
Its been almost 5 years since I decided to leave my secure corporate job and pursue my lifelong passion and hobby of coaching and sport.
Five years ago in the fitness industry in Perth, if you had a sound knowledge of using external weights, cardio training AND you could perform and teach a strict muscle up and a free standing handstand, you where made. You where immediately in demand as a trainer. This fact, coupled with my love of a good challenge and the simplicity of body weight training, sealed the deal. I was going to find people to teach me these skills. And so began my journey through chronic elbow tendon problems to a ring muscle up.
Initially I attended an Ido Portal workshop here in Perth. It was an excellent 2 days of discovering how weak I was with regard to control over my body. I was a beginner. Excellent. The start is always the best place to begin. At this workshop I met Harry and over the follow few years we trained with many people around Perth including Paul who taught me the training style that would become the backbone of my practice for years to come. Harry quickly overtook me with his practice (honestly check the fella out, he's focus, determination and progress is impressive), and my practice continued at a pace better suited to my lifestyle.
At this stage I could easily complete pull ups and dips but had not managed a ring muscle up.
Quickly I discovered that a lifetime of lower body dominate sports had not set my elbows up for dealing with rigors of upper body strength training, particularly using the gymnastic rings. For about 12 months I was crippled with chronic elbow tendonitis. My pull ups and dips where regressed to ring rows and push-ups and eventually though trial and error and endless collaboration, I resolved my elbow pain and moved forward with my practice. I'll write about tendon pain and how I fixed it another day.
Once my elbows where better I began training for my rings muscle up in earnest. I mostly completed false grip pull ups and ring dips at the start. I used the following template to develop better strength around the pull up and dip:
False grip pull ups
Begin the false grip pull up from a false grip hang. Initiate the movement by pulling your shoulders down and back before bending your elbows and pulling yourself up. Continue until your thumbs touch your chest. This range of motion is very important as it sets up the position to complete the transition.
Reps: x 5
Ring dips with turn out
Begin in support position above the rings with the rings turned out (palms facing forward). As a beginner, make sure you keep the rings very close to your body. The further away from you they move the harder you will have to work. Turn the rings back to parallel and lower down through the dip. Continue until the rings touch your shoulder. For many people this will feel like a very deep dip. From here push back up to support and turn the rings out to finish the rep.
Reps: x 5
Sets: Complete 3 - 5 sets of 5 x false grip pull ups and 5 x ring dips
Once these became easy I began adding eccentric muscle ups to my practice in addition to the pull-up and dipping work:
Tempo eccentric ring muscle up (down)
Begin the movement above the rings (jump or use a box to get into position). Lower through the dip slowly for a count of 4. Once you reach the bottom of the dip, lean back slowly bringing your thumbs around your chest until you are hanging at the top of the pull up position in false grip. This part of the movement is the hardest portion of the exercise. From here slowly lower down to a hang position in the rings while maintaining false grip. You have completed 1 rep.
Reps: Maintain a tempo such that each rep takes 10 seconds
Sets: Complete 10 single reps, rest as much as needed between reps to ensure the movement quality is maintained.
I practiced this way every second day for what seemed like forever (in reality it was probably one summer). To make life easier I installed a set of rings in my apartment. I do not recommend attaching your rings through your manhole. I take no responsibility if you do and pull you house down!
Eventually, after a night out with friends, we all returned to my apartment. One of my mates asked if I could do anything on the rings. Perhaps it was the drinks that night or the pressure of mates, but I completed my first ever strict ring muscle up.
Since then, I have coached many people through their first ring muscle up. There are many things I would do differently if I had my time training myself again. Working on my mobility, especially through my wrist would have saved a lot of heartache when it came to establishing my false grip. If you are struggling with false grip give this mobility drill ago:
Work hard, and importantly 'listen' to your body. Pushing hard is good, but not if you end up hurting yourself and loosing training days in the future. Consistency with your practice is key.
If this article has left you wanting more, check out my very first E book:
This training guide will take you through beginner, intermediate and advanced exercise progressions and workouts to develop your upper body strength and mobility that will lead to your first strict ring muscle up.
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*6 levels from absolute beginner to advanced
*60+ Photos describing each exercise progression
*20+ Instructional videos so you can completely understand the movement
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