Have you ever noticed how people who perform those controlled, strict muscle ups, tend to grip the bar with their wrists almost on top of the pullup bar? This technique of hand placement is called a ‘false grip’, and is one of the most important teaching points to learn if you want to control your movement and perform a strict muscle up.
At first the grip feels counter intuitive and seems clunky. But by using this grip, your hands will always stay on top of the bar. This enables you to gracefully move through the transition phase at the top of your pull up where you gradually transition into the bottom of your straight bar dip, then press yourself up to complete the muscle-up. Maintaining the false grip helps you advance upward by giving you leverage on the bar without twisting or turning your hands around. The false grip allows you to lock your elbows over the bar and “tilt” your bodyweight over the bar, leading with the chest, through the transition.
Without the false grip, the transition phase is awkward and virtually impossible, unless you kip – which is when you forcefully swing your legs, which creates momentum to hoist you over the bar. *Note that kipping is popular in CrossFit and is perfectly acceptable by many standards, but does not demand the same level of strength, dexterity nor technique that the strict muscleup demands.
To train yourself, get used to hanging on the bar in the false grip with your wrists sitting on top of the bar. This is not easy, and may very well only be possible for a few seconds. RubberBanditz resistance bands to get the hang of it (pun intended). The next step is to do negatives. This means that you want to start the exercise from the top of the straight bar dip (with arms fully extended), and then slowly lower yourself down until your chest touches the bar.
From here, squeeze the bar, maintain the false grip (with wrists on top of the bar), lower your elbows and chest beneath the bar all the way down to a dead hang so that your body is completely perpendicular to the ground (still using false grip). Feel free to use your resistance bands for all of these variations. Start with a stronger resistance band for more assistance and then advance to lighter workout bands when you feel stronger.
Once you can do negatives without any help from your resistance bands, and have trained both your pullups and traditional straight bar dips, you should be well on your way to performing a strict muscle up.
There are few more invigorating feelings than sicking your first unassisted strict muscle up. Joint the muscle up club!
*This article was written in conjunction with Henrik Deleuran. Henrik is a master personal trainer who travels internationally offering seminars and health workshops on lifestyle interventions, diet planning, fitness, and anatomy and physiology. Check out his Instagram @henrik_deleuran for more great learning.