Can you lift your arse over a wall in a hurry? Pull ups, Kipping, Butterfly and Muscle Ups – tell me straight

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gemma pullups

By Coach Gemma

Functional strength movements are movements that are natural to the body: Squat, Deadlift, Press, Pull. The question is, can you lift your arse over a wall in a hurry? No? So why are you trying to do a Muscle Up? Let’s discuss the aspects of upper body strength, how to progress the pull up and graduate to earning a Muscle Up.

You don’t need to learn to butterfly kip. Seriously, stop it. You are going to hurt yourself and you’d be much better off working towards a bodyweight press and increasing your strict pull ups.

How can I get one strict pull up?

You start with negatives, assisted or unassisted. Negatives will help your arms get used to supporting the weight of your body.


To do a negative, stand on a box or get a member to get your chin over the bar. Once you’re holding that position, slowly lower yourself down under a 3-5 second tempo until you’re in the the dead-hang position. Aim to complete 5 reps or work towards being able to complete 5 reps at that tempo for 3 sets, resting 90 secs between each set.

To do an assisted negative, get your chin over the bar, lower yourself down under a 2 second tempo until you hit the dead hang position and ask someone to lift you back over the bar so you’re back to the chin-over-bar position. Aim to complete 12 reps for 3 sets, resting 90 secs between each set.

Work on your pull ups 3 times a week. Set small goals for yourself and build on those.

Once you have 1 to 5 pull ups (well done!), it’s time to start increasing your numbers. A great way to train number increases is through the pyramid system.




Look at the pyramid image above – these are the repetition numbers to be completed. Complete 1 pull-up, rest, 2 pull-ups, rest, 3 pull-ups, rest, etc. When you reach the top, your reps decrease starting at 4, 3, 2 and then back to 1 pull-up. Rest for 60-90secs between reps.

You can adjust the number of reps in the pyramid once you start to get comfortable with hitting 1-5 reps.

Practise your different grips: regular, reverse (chin-up), close, wide and commando. Practise dead hanging from a bar, train single arm hangs.

Kipping Pull Ups

They aren’t cheating and they are necessary for CrossFit workouts that require a higher rep range. They should be used for efficiency, the same way we would use a push press rather than a strict press in a WOD. They are an explosive variation of a traditional exercise – the pull up. Kipping pull ups won’t grow hypertrophy, the strict pull-up is better.

Muscle Ups

The Muscle Up is a complex move where you pull yourself up from a hanging position. But instead of pulling to your chin, throat or upper chest, you actually pull as low as possible and flick your arms at the top of the move as you end up in the low position of dip. Then you push up.

There are several ways to grow and develop the Muscle Up – make sure you check out the next blog to learn the Muscle Up progressions. First master pull ups and grow your strength, become comfortable with being up at the bar, progress to getting your chest to the bar (not just your chin) and be sure you can complete at least 5 strict pull ups and 5 strict ring dips before you entertain the idea of Muscle Ups.

Small daily improvements are key to staggering long-term results.

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  • Pip

    Really helpful and interesting article. This is my main goal at the moment and I’m feeling so weak!!

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