Bar Muscle Ups — Are You Doing Your Kip Wrong?

Written by Jack

What if one simple shift could take you from struggling with Bar Muscle Ups to being able to turn them over almost at hip height?

Most people I see struggling with Bar Muscle Ups don’t lack strength. They’ve worked through kipping pull ups and chest to bar. They’ve got plenty of zip in their kip. Yet still they end up spending more time thumping their their ribs against the bar than smoothly turning over and pressing out on top of it.

So if you’re struggling to get your first BMU… or you just wish you could hit them with more consistency and less effort… this will help a lot…

The secret to an efficient kip for the Bar Muscle Up is to think about projecting DOWN rather than projecting up. Let me explain…

There are essentially 2 phases to your kip. The first part creates momentum both back and up. You probably do this part just fine. Most folks do…

However it’s the second phase of the kip that throws most folks off… because it’s a bit counter-intuitive. You actually have to think about actively projecting your feet DOWN towards the floor in this second phase.

That downward thrust will actually cause your shoulders to rise so that you can pivot around the bar. Think of it this way…

If you take a length of PVC pipe or a broom handle, toss it into the air so it is parallel with the floor, and then slap one end of it downwards, what happens to the other end? It goes up right? Same thing with your kip…

Take a look at this side-by-side illustration. In one example the second phase of my kip continues in an upward direction. And in the other I actively send my feet downwards in the second phase of the kip.

There’s a caveat though… you MUST maintain tension in your core for this to work. The force you create in your kip has to be translated through your midsection. If you don’t stay tight you lose that force and it just skips out into the universe rather than propelling you around the bar.


About the author


My grandfather gave me my start in fitness. He said he just wanted to keep me out of trouble. But he shaped the person and the coach I am today. Sport quickly became the center of my life.

I competed in Laser Class sailing at an international level, as well as skiing, football, hockey and more. My first coaching passion was alpine skiing where I spent 20 years as a coach, instructor and ski school director.

But my greatest passion has always been helping people get fit. I’ve devoted my life to study and intense personal practice. I’m a firm believer in practicing what I preach, and in testing my theories on myself. I’m obsessed with the world of health, fitness and nutrition.

Then a few years back I stumbled — grudgingly — on Crossfit. To be honest I started out as a “hater” who believed the negative hype. But after giving it a try, I became increasingly hooked. I dabbled for a couple years, and then in the Spring of 2016 I really started taking it seriously.

I now consider myself a Crossfit Masters Athlete. I’m immersed in it completely. And I want to share my journey here at Smooth Is Fast.

NCSA-CPT, NCCP 3, CSIA Lvl 4 Course Conductor, CSCF 3,
Biosignature Certified, MAT Lower Body Certified, AKC Certified Coach


  • I am not trying to troll your post. do not consider myself and expert, but I can string together 10-12 BMU’s on a good day, and have worked with several high level gymnasts. I think this concept sounds good, but is faulty in reality. I believe the biggest difference in your side by side BMU is the complete loss of your core stability in your first attempt. Immediately following your arc as you return hollow instead of maintaining hollow and propelling back and up from the forces generated from your arch, you loose the hollow and tension, and immediately begin a knee drive. In the second you maintain a better hollow position allowing you to rise or of your kept at which time I believe your thinking of “down ward foot drive” begins. This can also be considered the turn over, which is essentially the end of your upward momentum, not beginning. Take your pvc pipe example. By slapping one end you do create downward force, this force is turning on an axis, the axis though is not rising. The axis rising is your arch to hollow momentum with a pull added from your shoulders and lats. That axis only creates more momentum with a bigger force generated out of your arch and strength. You are right on about keeping a solid core though. When you loose this, you loose all force generated from your arch. Think of your arch as this. Put your hand on your leg and lift your middle finger and try and slap it back down as hard as you can, without using your other hand. Then use your other hand to pull the finger back as hard as you can, creating tension for it to slap. That tension energy is what you want to create or if your arch. That’s how I was taught anyway. 🙂

    • That’s cool man… totally welcome the discussion. 🙂

      I’m comfortable with my conclusion though… and I have run it by some pretty high level gymnastic folks to validate it. However… there are definitely multiple ways to skin a cat. And I’ve seen folks with awesome BMUs that do it more the way you are describing…

      • Yes there are definitely more ways than I described. I should of said that. I guess I was relating to your example of the pvc. Physics do not allow that rise from just a shift in momentum at the axis.

    • Then that energy is maintained while staying keeping a hollow core, then adding strength with the pull. This is what allows you to rise. – forgot that

      • Agreed on the tight hollow transferring the energy from the first part of the kip… however the reversal into an arch (while thinking of driving the feet down) is what shifts the shoulders up and allows you to then return to a hollow and pivot around the bar.

      • Not momentum – rotation. My wording is horrible. What I’m saying is, just by rotating at an axis, regardless if it’s a broomstick, you, or an airplane propellar. The axis will not move. You have to add force to that axis to get it to move. Physics.

        • Agreed. I’m not really convinced we are in disagreement on this. When I say drive the feet down it’s a simplistic way of talking about the transition to an arch which initiates the rotation around the axis of the bar…

  • Totally not trying to disagree about this method. It obviously worked for at least one person, so why would it not more. Just my view of what I think changed in in your bmu. And no problem! You put it out there, and I love talking CrossFit gymnastics.

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