6 Benefits of Bar Muscle Ups


by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

While it might seem easy to watch an Instagram video, stroll into the gym, and effortlessly execute bar muscle ups, the reality is quite difficult. Sure, there are individuals with the strength and coordination to pull off a bar muscle up casually, but for many, it’s a challenging combination of strength, fitness, power, and practice.

The muscle up stands out for its iconic yet challenging nature, showcasing raw muscular power and the skill to maneuver one’s weight against gravity. Achieving this impressive feat goes beyond upper body strength alone.

In this article, we will learn more about bar muscle-ups and their benefits. Perhaps it’s even something you’ll want to try the next time you’re in the gym.

Disclaimer: It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

What Are Bar Muscle Ups?

Muscle ups are a tough exercise that works many parts of your upper body at once. They’re intense and usually done in low numbers to build strength and power. Sometimes, athletes use them for isometric strength or other athletic skills.

If you’re new to this type of workout, muscle ups might be too hard initially. Beginners often focus on easier exercises like pull-ups and chest dips to build the strength and skills needed for muscle ups.

Whether you’re working towards your first muscle up or already doing them, you’ll need advanced training plans unless you’re following a full-body calisthenic workout.

What Are the Muscles Worked in Bar Muscle Ups?

The muscle up is a full-body move that relies a lot on momentum. However, it may not be the best for building muscles because it doesn’t keep the muscles under tension for long, and it depends a lot on momentum.

For more muscle growth, it’s suggested to go for less bouncy versions, like the strict muscle up.

The muscles worked during a muscle up include:

  • Biceps
  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Core (including rectus abdominals and obliques)
  • Glutes
  • Posterior chain
  • Back (specifically the latissimus dorsi)
  • Forearms

The Benefits of Bar Muscle Ups

Beyond just getting stronger, conquering the bar muscle up can give you a leg up in competitions, providing a valuable edge in competitions.

Below are some of the benefits of doing bar muscle ups:

1.      Increases strength

By honing the proper mechanics of the bar muscle up, you naturally develop both strength and confidence on the high bar. In CrossFit and calisthenics, mastering this skill is crucial for tackling more technical movements and advancing from scaled to RX and even elite RX divisions.

The engagement of various muscles, from the upper back and shoulders to the hip region, ensures that the strength gained translates seamlessly into other exercises like thrusters, which involve squatting and pressing, and activities like handstand walks.

2.      Better grip strength

If you’re dreaming of lifting heavier weights and breaking your own rep records, it’s time to give your grip a power boost. A solid grip isn’t just key for muscle ups — it’s the secret for acing other CrossFit moves like rope climbs, deadlifts, and pull-ups.

Sure, a sprinkle of chalk on your hand grips helps, but the real magic happens when you throw in regular exercises such as pull-ups, chin-ups, and some inverted rows.

3.      Power up

The explosive aspect of bar muscle ups, essential for transitioning from under the bar to on top, stands out as the trickiest part. While strength plays a role, it’s the momentum and power generation that make it sustainable in a workout.

Boosting explosive power in the bar muscle up not only improves this skill but also spills over into other gymnastic movements in CrossFit — like toe-to-bars, chest-to-bars, pull-ups, and even exercises such as wall balls and handstand push-ups.

4.      Core body impact

During bar muscle ups, your arms take the lead, but the entire upper body plays a role. With each rep, you’ll notice your upper body, particularly your core muscles, engaging. This effect is akin to the benefits of planking.

Over time, as your belly fat melts away, your abs start to reveal themselves. If you have a bit to go in the midsection, muscle ups can be a game-changer, helping you build core muscles and accelerate fat loss around the belly area.

5.      Better coordination

Nailing the bar muscle up in CrossFit demands a precise and controlled swing, coupled with a robust and forceful press down throughout the entire maneuver. A key element here is tension — keeping your body in the right, tight position so that the correct muscles kick in at the right time. This isn’t just about supporting your body weight; it’s about avoiding the infamous “chicken wing” move.

With the proper coordination and skill, you sync up your upper and lower body, creating a seamless ‘snap’ into the hollow position without the feet soaring too high, propelling the trunk up and over the bar.

6.      Better joint mobility

Performing bar muscle ups requires a good range of motion in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Regularly practicing this exercise can contribute to increased joint mobility in these areas. Improved mobility is crucial for preventing injuries and maintaining overall joint health.