Muscle Up On Rings – CrossFit Exercise Guide with Photos


Muscles Targeted: The muscle up on rings is an extremely challenging exercise that is a true test of upper body strength. The primary muscles targeted are the latissimus dorsi, biceps, deltoids, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and the triceps. The motion of the arms is mainly facilitated by the deltoids (shoulders) while the smaller rotator cuff muscles of the shoulders rotate the humerus which provides stability to the shoulder joint. Along with the back and biceps being key muscles used to pull the body upwards, the triceps and forearms muscles are also involved. The triceps, located at the back of the upper arms, are powerful arm extensors that are used at the top of the exercise when the body is fully extended above the rings. The forearm muscles perform two functions in two separate groups. One group that facilitates the wrist movements and another group that is responsible for moving the fingers and thumbs. Some other key muscle groups that benefit greatly from this exercise include the large back muscles and the important abdominal muscles of the core. This exercise is very difficult, but it provides many benefits including improved flexibility, explosive strength and overall endurance and coordination.

Exercise Instructions: There are two ways to perform the muscle up on rings. You can do it with a normal grip or with a false grip. Below are the instructions for both:

Muscle Up on Rings with Normal Grip

  • Place a firm overhand grip on the rings and hang freely beneath them while fully supporting your body weight.
  • Swing your legs back and then forward to create momentum so you can pull your body up to the rings.
  • The goal when you are at this point is to generate enough power to pull yourself up high enough above the rings. After doing the pull-up, slightly lean forward at your waist and position yourself above the rings in a “dip” position.
  • Using your chest, shoulders and triceps, press your body all the way up into the top position above the rings with your arms extended.
  • Slowly lower yourself back down until you attain your original starting position, then repeat for your desired number of repetitions.

Muscle Up on Rings Using a False Grip

  • Grasp the rings with both hands, ensuring that you hold them using the false grip which is basically a thumbless grip. This is a slight change in the thumb positioning which changes a regular grip into a false grip.
  • Pull your body up using the same sequence as described earlier until your upper body is even with the rings.
  • Now it is time to do the transition phase using the false grip. This type of grip is used by many people since they feel it is much easier to complete the transition from pulling the body into position and then extending the body above the rings. You can try executing the muscle up on rings with both grips to see which one works best for you.

Things To Avoid:

  • Don’t hold the rings too tightly. When you squeeze the rings too hard, you will tend to lose the proper function that both the false grip and the normal grip provide in the transition phase.
  • Do not limit your range of motion. This is due to poor mobility and often results in difficulty when trying to get the elbows back far enough so that you can get into a stable position above the rings.
  • Failure to use the large back muscles at the beginning of the pull-up. This puts a lot of unnecessary strain on the joints and the tendons.

Reps and Sets: The frequency at which you are able to do this exercise depends on your strength, coordination and overall level of fitness. Since this is a very challenging exercise to execute, your repetitions will most likely be on the lower end unless you are a very well-trained CrossFit athlete. Shoot for 1-3 reps when first starting out and then progress to as many as 10-12 reps per set.

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