How To Get Better At BJJ: Learn The Muscle Up

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What is the toughest bodyweight exercise you can do? Well, that depends on one thing – whether or not you have access to any equipment. If you don’t and you can only use your bodyweight, my choice would be the straddle planche. However, if you do have access to a pull-up bar, though, then that answers shifts directly to the muscle up. If there is just one exercise to help you develop incredible overall athleticism it is the muscle up. When you’re wondering how to get better at BJJ, from an athletic standpoint, you shouldn’t think about it too much – just learn how to do muscle ups.

The muscle up is an exercise that uses your entire body and requires you to be coordinated, agile, and not to mention, very strong. By strength here I do not mean being able to bench three times your body weight or other nonsense like that. IN this sense, strength is the ability to move your body through the air, while hanging off a pull-up bar in a controlled and precise manner. It is the ultimate bodyweight exercise and the answer to the burning question of how to get better at BJJ.

What Is A Muscle Up?

How to get better at BJJ? Just show up for class and train. Then train some more. This is the best advice I can give you but it won’t be enough. Sure, you’ll become extremely technical and well-rounded, but you’ll be missing a crucial ability. When we look at BJJ as a sport, it means that there’s an athletic component to it. That means being able to actually use all the techniques you know (or think you know) during rolls and matches. Achieving this requires strength, conditioning, coordination, and agility, among other things.

how to get better at BJJ - muscle upA muscle up is the one exercise you need to develop all of the above qualities and more. When I say that it is the only exercise you need, I really mean it. When it comes to bodyweight exercises for grapplers and fighters, muscle ups are an absolute must. The thing to consider, though, is that it will take a lot of time for you to be able to execute at last one if you’ve never done them before. Moreover, you’ll need to go through several progressions in order to learn how to do a single, full range of motion muscle up.

A muscle up is when you do a pull-up, but don’t stop when your chest reaches the bar. Instead, you need to keep pulling, until the pull turns to a push and you end up pulling yourself upwards so that your arms are fully extended. This is the top position of a muscle up, You then need to go back down to a full hang in order to complete one repetition of the exercise.

Learning Muscle Up Progressions

As you can see from the description of a muscle up, it is not at all an easy exercise to master. In fact, it may seem way easier than it actually is, until you try it. There’s a lot of technique to it, especially the part where you need to transfer from a pull to a push, and vice versa on your way back. Given that very few people are able to do a muscle up straight away, there are certain progressions you can do to make sure you learn things the right way.

how to get better at BJJ - muscle up momentumFirst of all, you need to be able to perform pull-ups. The more the better, but if you can’t do 20, make sure you reach that milestone first. Secondly, you’ll need to start learning how to use momentum,. Which is essential in transitioning from pulling into a pushing motion. You can see how such qualities will come in handy for those looking how to get better at BJJ. The motion you want is to keep your arms straight and swing your knees towards your shoulders while retracting your shoulder blades.

how to get better at BJJ - muscle up transitionNext, you’ll want to find a low pull-up bar, one that’s at your chest level. Here is where you’ll kneel down underneath it, and then extend your legs, practicing how to get close to the bar. The key here is grip placement as the position of your palms has to change in order for you to push upwards.

how to get better at BJJ - muscle up assistedLogically, the next step would be to go for a muscle up, but in the form of an assisted muscle up. At first, you should stick to a low pull-up bar, but find one that is higher than your head. You still need to have your feet on the ground, though. Your aim is to now execute the full motion, but use your feet to help propel you off the ground and towards the pushing motion. Later on, you can do the same while hanging completely, but with an elastic band.

Transfer to BJJ

How to get better at BJJ by using muscle ups? To be completely honest, the answer will differ from person to person. It depends on what athletic abilities you need to develop, so programming your muscle up workouts is down to you. I will share all of the muscle groups involved, though, and how they benefit grapplers.

First up, a muscle group you might not consider when you first try a muscle up – forearm muscles. In other words, these are the muscles responsible for your grips, which are crucial for Jiu-Jitsu. The dead hang itself can really help you develop grip power and strength, let alone all the motions you need to go through when executing muscle ups. The dynamic nature of gripping during muscle ups is something you can’t replicate with other exercises

The pulling muscles, consisting of the lats, traps, biceps, glutes, and posterior chain (hamstrings) all have a part to play during a muscle up. Not only that, but they have all kinds of contractions to do – concentric, isometric, and eccentric. The pushing muscles are not far behind with the chest, triceps, shoulders, quads, etc. all putting a real shift in. The key benefit, though, is in the integrated push and pull motion that you constantly go through. This is what makes the body work as one, and is highly transferrable to Jiu-Jitsu.

Which brings us to the core. All the midsection muscles, front, back, and in between have to work to help you swing the body to gain momentum, bring the body together, open it up and stabilize that the top position and on its way down. In other words, your core will hardly get a similar complex task with any other single exercise out there, especially a bodyweight one.

As you can see the muscle up offers a full-body workout. It can help you develop a gas tank, coordination, strength, explosiveness, strong grips, stable core, and a bunch of other qualities hugely transferable to BJJ.

Wrap Up

Apart from doing a muscle up on a pull-up bar (which is usually readily accessible everywhere), you could opt for the original, gymnastic version. It requires a pair of gymnastic rings, thought, Then, you’ll have to really master grips and it will bring a whole new meaning to the word stabilizations and balance. That said, doing a muscle up is what counts, and not whether you do it on a pull-up bar or on rings. All it matters is learning how to do it, and how can you get better at BJJ by focusing on this one hell of an exercise!

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