The Muscle Up is a very cool bodyweight exercise…it’s a two-part movement that basically has you doing a pull-up then a dip/pushdown type movement to get your body up over the bar.
It’s a TOUGH exercise, requiring a lot of strength and co-ordination (and high ceilings) but the results you can get in your back, arms and shoulders are phenomenal!
So what do you do if you either don’t have the strength to do a full-on muscle-up or don’t have high enough ceilings to do one either (which is my problem).
You do THIS modified version of the exercise, which takes up some of your bodyweight and lowers the height so it can be done even in a basement. And, when done using a power rack, also has the advantage of being able to roll the bar forward as you transition.
This modified version will primarily hit the triceps (you could almost call it a bodweight pushdown). By setting the bar higher, you can do the pull-up part of it better but you won’t be able to push yourself up over the bar with your feet set on the bench (you’ll see with the setup).
Here’s how the setup goes…set the rails in the power rack to about the level of the bottom of your ribcage. Set a bar on top of the rails. Set a bench parallel to the bar just a few feet back from the bar.
You can adjust the bar height and bench distance once you get doing the exercise.
Set your hands on the bar about shoulder-width apart (palms down) and stand up on the bench.
Now, keeping core tight, lower yourself down, bending at the elbows and knees. Your arm position will look like the top of a pushdown (which is also the top of a reverse grip pull-up!), knees should be bent with toes on the bench.
Now, using tricep power (and a little leg help, if you need it), push yourself directly up as though doing a bodyweight pushdown.
As you push yourself up, the bar will roll forward a little (which is why the rack is so useful for this). Come all the way up until your arms are fully extended and locked out.
Lower yourself down, reversing the movement and repeat.
As you can see, doing it without the bench would make it a LOT harder. Doing a “free” muscle-up requires tremendous strength in the upper body. This variation makes the benefits of the exercise a bit more accessible if you either don’t have enough strength for the full movement or don’t have high enough ceilings (which is what I run into with it).
Nick Nilsson is known in the fitness industry as the “Mad Scientist of Muscle,” and for good reason! For more than 28 years, Nick has been creating unique, new exercises and training techniques and putting together some of the most innovative muscle-building and fat-loss programs available anywhere.