Muscle-Up Progressions

By Carl Paoli

Video Article

Join Carl Paoli of San Francisco CrossFit and Naka Athletics as he coaches SFCF athlete Lucas Robinson through progressions for developing a powerful and efficient muscle-up.

The muscle-up is one of CrossFit’s more advanced gymnastics movements, but its roots start in basic body positioning and the kipping pull-up. With the kipping pull-up, Paoli seeks straight-legged global flexion and extension to generate the most power, which means eliminating the local flexion and extension of the hip and knee.

After refining the kipping pull-up, Paoli moves on to the dip. To place Robinson’s shoulders in the best position and to show full lockout at the top of the dip, Paoli cues him to turn out his thumbs. A ring push-up can develop this skill.

In Part 2, Paoli demonstrates band-assisted muscle-ups as a training tool for working the false grip into a muscle-up. A key concept is keeping your hands and feet in front of you.

“If the feet drop or go behind you, you’re never going to be able to do that transition nicely,” he says.

Robinson progresses to ring pull-ups and finally the muscle-up. Paoli makes connections between the shoulder and the hip to better understand the anatomy of the movement.

“Everything is the same and once we start seeing that (connection). All the movements just start making really good sense, and we’ll know where to go in order to assist our faults,” he says.

Part 1
10min 45sec

Part 2
11min 51sec

Video by Again Faster.

Additional reading: The Muscle-Up by Greg Glassman, published Nov. 1, 2002.

Free Download

Part 1:
Part 2:


29 Comments on “Muscle-Up Progressions”


wrote …

"Does that make sense?"


wrote …

I learned some good information that I am going to add in for my muscle up progression.


wrote …

Great piece! and just in time, thanks Carl!


wrote …

Good explination, I think this might help me, Thx.


wrote …

Great info.
I think this makes sense...


wrote …

Not working on iPad for some reason.


wrote …

Love it!!!!


wrote …

another great piece of info!! thanks Carl


wrote …

I'm so damn close to getting my first muscle up. Going to try some of the cues in this video tomorrow.


wrote …

If you want more really great videos and progressions from Carl, check out Gymnastics WOD. It's awesome. Plus, there's programming on top of the main site programming everyday.


wrote …

So many different progressions and so many questions. Would a "default" into a pike position considered a lack stregth development from the transition position of a strict muscle up? I was taught to start low with rings and continiously increase the height as I develop pulling strentgh to chest. My feet were initially touching the floor then eventually I was to end up on my toes. Also I was taught to practice the negative from the finish of the muscle up(support)so as to develop control strength which would later transition to pulling strength. Suggestions would greatly be appreciate so I can finally get my first strict muscle up. Which I would gladly trade for 10 wild kipping!


wrote …

Awesome video, Carl! This is definitely fills in some of the gaps for developing my first muscle-up!


wrote …

More quality coaching from C-Pao! The tip with the bands is genius.


wrote …


On the money as usual.

That band set up is great for front levers too.


wrote …

Carl has to be one of the best coaches I've ever seen on video.


wrote …


Great, great coaching! Loved it. The 'bandmove' and .. and .. and.. are a definite help.


wrote …

After 18mths of trying, gathered four MUs to my name last week. There was much celebration ! But now completely unable to pump them out with any consistency....clueless as to what I did that got me across the line with the 4 completions.

Hanging high hopes on all the hints and tips here, Carl. Many thanks, mate. SG


wrote …

awesome education!!!!


wrote …

Love it Carl thanks!

I always wondered why my feet shot forward in my muscle ups, I thought it was because I wasn't as strong as I needed to be, now I know I've just been practicing good positioning and staying tight. I'm definitely going to try kipping pullups as described.

Thanks again for the wealth of useful information that's going to make us better in the long run.


wrote …

Excelente! Gracias Carl, todos estos videos nos ayudan mucho para atacar nuestras debilidades.... Saludos de CF PerĂº.


wrote …

The Carl Paoli videos are just great quality!


wrote …

Thanks for all the positive feedback. I am inspired by all of you out there making it happen. Let's keep setting the bar higher so we can all get more insight on making what we love better.


Cody Limbaugh wrote …

Carl- very useful as usual!

One request? Another stupid-human-party-trick I would love to learn is the "Flag". Any chance of getting some regressions to work toward that?

Thanks for your work in the journal! It's been very enlightening and inspires me to be a better coach!


wrote …

Best instruction I've seen on muscle ups ever!


wrote …

Awesome stuff Carl! The comments made at the end about just chucking your head through are right on the mark. It is really refreshing to hear and see a coach that is concerned more about control the entire movement from top to bottom, then just doing it. And the gymnastic wod site is incredible. Throw it into the mix everyday. Thanks a million from the snowy white north! Canada. Cheers


Andrew Stemler wrote …

thanks carl, its always great to get more stuff for the "muscle up tool kit"


wrote …

Very clear and concise instruction on a movement that gives me fits. Thank you!


wrote …

Carl, you bring style to Crossfit. Cant wait till you come to the East Cost for a
seminar. i love your ideas and instruction. Thank You.


wrote …

Man, that last 1:00-1:30 was awesome. It's cool to throw down in competitions and it's cool to get newbs doing fun movements quickly, but "chuck your head through" will only get you so far. I love when coaches take the time to do it right. Much respect to Paoli.

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