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How to Get Your First Bar Muscle Up

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” 


Step one: Believe you can do it. Tell yourself that with the right program and a boatload of consistency, your first-ever bar muscle up will come. 

Step two: Get to work. (And that’s where we come in. 😉 ) 

To make your life easier, we created a program to help you get your first bar muscle up. It’s structured and progressive, and it takes the pressure off of you to create a training plan from scratch. 

But for those of you who want to create your own plan, we compiled a list of five perfect exercises to help you get your first bar muscle up. 

These five exercises are targeted to help you finally ascend to the top of that bar. Perform these exercises with consistency, and you’ll get your first bar muscle up before you know it. 

  1. Hollow Jump to Support
  2. Jumping Bar Muscle Up 
  3. Banded Transition Drill 
  4. Low Bar Box Transition Drill 
  5. Seated Belly to Bar Press

Let’s dig in! 

Five Exercises to Get Your First-Ever Bar Muscle Up

Hollow Jump to Support

Why: To get your first-ever bar muscle up, you need coordination. You must learn when to transition from the “hollow position” to the “support position.” The Hollow Jump to Support drill helps you practice the timing of going from under the bar to over the bar.

Prescription: Aim for 3-5 sets of 5-7 reps. And no rush—use this as an opportunity to feel the transition. 

Jumping Bar Muscle Up 

Why: The Jumping Bar Muscle Up lets you get the feeling of the full movement without all the required strength/skill. And to get your first-ever unassisted BMU, you need to take your body through the full movement so it can learn the pattern. Remember: The higher the box, the more assistance you’ll get. Work towards a lower box as you get stronger/more skilled. 

Prescription: Perform 3-5 sets of 3-4 reps. These are harder/more taxing than they look. (High volume might lead to tears on your hands. Consider gymnastics grips.) 

Banded Transition Drill 

Why: The hardest part of the bar muscle up is the transition—going from below the bar to above the bar. The Banded Transition Drill allows you to more easily feel the moment when your body is weightless, aka the moment when you pull yourself from under the bar to over the bar. 

Prescription: Shoot for 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps. No need for high volume here. 

Low Bar Box Transition Drill 

Why: Much like the Banded Transition Drill, the Low Bar Box Transition Drill helps you practice going from below the bar to going above the bar. You might find that one of these drills is more effective than the other, so try both. 

Prescription: Complete 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps. 

Seated Belly to Bar Press 

Why: To perform your first-ever bar muscle up, you need to build your upper-body pulling strength. The Seated Belly to Bar Press targets the exact muscles you need to perform bar muscle ups. You’ll strengthen your lats, biceps, upper back and forearms. 
Prescription: Complete 5-7 sets of 5-8 reps. Higher volume is okay with this movement.