So, after 5 years of CrossFit I finally got my first ring muscle up on Saturday. It wasn’t expected, it wasn’t beginners luck, it wasn’t “my time”, and it certainly wasn’t pretty. Luckily, I was able to do a few more and was able to catch a bit higher and clean up that dip. But, I want to make a few notes here about perseverance and how I worked for that muscle up. Additionally, I want to post the video of my first ring muscle up (actually this video is of my 2nd ever because the 1st was so unexpected that no one was prepared to video it!). As I said, its not pretty ... but I earned it!
I want to be clear that though I harp about form and the need to work toward “perfect practice” in the gym, I do want to also recognize that its ok to work toward it … it takes a lot of time to make progress and to achieve that goal. As an observer, a coach, or a movement specialist, you may see 10 things that an athlete could improve upon in order to achieve their goal, but remember that they might already know those things and be working toward them. I KNEW my hips needed to come higher and I needed to turn my elbows over faster and symmetrically. But, just because it wasn’t happening, doesn’t mean I wasn’t trying!! At some point, its okay to let that person just keep working on it.
steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success
Honestly, this took me over 2 years to achieve. Why is this movement such a big deal in CrossFit? It is a Holy Grail movement for many CrossFit athletes. And, let me tell you the ways in which I wasn’t ready to do this movement when I first started making attempts. I couldn’t do a proper ring dip, I chicken-winged every bar muscle up, and I had massive shoulder pain from a weird barbell hand-off maneuver I was required to do in competition (probably a small tear in my rotator cuff to be honest). But, because I was doing fairly well in general at CrossFit, could do practically a belly-button-to-bar chest-to-bar pull up, and had been able to weasel my way over a bar for a bar muscle up for about two years, I started feeling like I should be able to do a ring muscle up. Other athletes and coaches felt the same. I started making attempts but was never close to success. (I take that back – ONE TIME, I landed on top of the rings but was stuck and couldn’t manage to dip out.) And, every Open season would come and go and I would end up MU-less!! I felt like I needed to just give up. I said I didn’t care… and to an extent, I didn’t. I was tired of feeling defeated and hurting myself. But, the real problem was that I didn’t have a plan... I was just willy-nilly trying to attempt a muscle up every now and again. I was acting like a total ding-dong … and we all do it!
When my shoulder got so bad that I could no longer press a blank bar overhead, I took a little time off, focused on my PT exercises (yeah, yeah, boring but effective), and slowly returned to the gym, definitely NOT working on muscle ups. Even dips were excruciating. But, as pain eased, I started working on some drills. I finally was able to be efficient in my dip and for about 18 months, I drilled a muscle up transition where I popped my hips and drilled the turnover/catch. I also cleaned up my bar muscle up so that I turn over my elbows symmetrically and catch really high. With consistent work and a respect for good form and minimal to no shoulder pain, it STILL took time. Lots of time.
So, without going into drills I like or picking apart the muscle up (as I am far from an expert on this), I just wanted to throw it out there that this took PRACTICE! It took perseverance. It took patience. Its true, some people can just muscle (pun intended, of course) their way into certain achievements. Good for them! I do not have that kind of athletic background or propensity. I needed to practice. So, I say, keep working athletes. I am here to help you with individual needs or injury screening, but sometimes you already know what it is you need to do and you just need to keep doing that thing. Lots of it. Good luck!
Pictured here is the necklace my sweet friend gave me to celebrate. She had bought these necklaces for us as motivation during the 2014 CrossFit Open. I didn't know about them until a year later when I still hadn't earned mine.... but she kept the necklace in her car for 2 years, waiting for the time to gift it to me. Though we joke that they look crazy and we will never wear them, the gesture is amazing. She believed that it would be possible and would happen at some point. She never wavered and took the necklaces out of her jockey box because it was taking too long. She will likely argue that she forgot about them but I maintain that she felt that necklace was going to be earned at some point. And finally, 2 years later ... it was. I got to put that damn necklace around my neck!