The Sequential Muscle-up: A Missing Link in Your Muscle-up Training?

The sequential muscle-up is an important stepping stone towards achieving a true muscle up. Most people training in gyms nowadays have difficulty doing pull-ups, let alone muscle ups. If you are reading this site however, this is soon going to change for you. If you haven’t read it yet, you may want to start with the article on the sternum pull-up.

There are several reasons why I’m writing a tutorial for this exercise. The cool thing about the sequential muscle-up is that it builds confidence quickly – a thing that is needed when trying to achieve goals that seem “impossible,” such as the real muscle-up. The move also builds strength needed for the transition phase in the real exercise.

Here is a video we shot of the sequential muscle-up. You can clearly follow the three major phases: 1. pull-up, 2. shift of the weight and rotation of the free arm, another shift of the weight with rotation of the first arm.

Note: it is essential to train both sides in this movement – although the video doesn’t show this. As soon as you are able to do the move with the weaker arm (most people have a weaker arm), start practicing it this way.

Speaking of sequences, I chose this completely unrelated photo of a beautiful girl doing the moonwalk on a sandy hill at the beach. I’ve been into haiku lately and found this Basho haiku poem to fit quite nicely with the photo.

I recently finished the last level of my German language classes and was browsing in the German section of a bookstore when I stumbled on this book of haiku poetry translated in German. I was shocked that the translations were so good. Anyway – back to the sequential muscle-up.

So What Exactly is the Sequential Muscle-up

  • Muscle-up variation. Although not a true muscle-up, this exercise is as close as it gets.
  • No kipping. No leg action is used here. This develops more upper body strength.
  • No swing. Unless you are super strong, the real muscle-up is done with a swing in which you pull yourself up when your body is behind and not below the bar.
  • One arm at a time. Here you pull yourself up, and transition to the top of the bar one arm at a time. Hence the name sequential – which I made up by the way.

How to Do the Sequential Muscle-up

  • Pull-up. The first part of the move is your basic pull-up
  • Pull hard with one arm. Next you want to flex hard one of your arms while at the top of the pull-up. Shift your weight towards this arm so that the other one is free.
  • Rotate the other. Now you simply rotate the other arm on top of the bar and push hard.
  • Transfer weight. The next step is to shift your weight towards the arm that is already on top of the bar.
  • Rotate first arm. Finally bring this arm on top of the bar too.
  • Push up. Finish the move by pushing up as if finishing a parallel bar dip.

How to Train

  • Daily volume. Do single repetitions and strive to do more each time your train. Train often – at least 2-3x per week. More is better.
  • Switch sides. This is crucial. You will likely first master the move with one of your arms – the stronger one. As soon as possible start practicing with the weaker side. Always do equal number of repetitions and alternate the sides.
  • Focus on speed. You will soon find yourself getting better and better. Strive to increase the speed. At this point the sequential muscle-up will be almost like a real muscle-up, because you will be doing it so fast.

Note: The final article in this series will teach the real muscle-up.
image credit