The “muscle-up” is a very advanced bodyweight maneuver, and it’s possible to cheat with it in a way that I will describe below.
If you clicked on this article, you already know what a muscle-up is, but aren’t necessarily able to perform it. If you can’t perform it (yet), now is the time to make sure you don’t get into the habit of cheating. If you’re already doing the muscle-up, read about the cheat move below and see if this describes you.
Muscle-up without the gymnast’s swing
The “muscle-up” exercise starts with a dead hang from a pull-up bar. You then pull yourself up very high. From this point, push up, getting your chest over the bar, hands below you, arms straight: a dip-like motion.
The transition from the highest possible point of a pull-up, to being able to press upward, is extremely difficult and requires advanced maneuvering.
The ideal muscle-up is somewhat linear: Perform the pull-up, then go straight from there into the press-up. During the transition of a more linear muscle-up, you’ll need to break the plane of the upward movement.
However, it’s also possible to really go overboard with this and end up swinging into the press-up. This isn’t a true muscle-up. You should not look like you’re swinging on a gymnast’s bar.
A person who does this initially gets into the press-up linearly, but then drops down with speed and swings forward, legs extended out in front. This forward swing allows the trainee to swing in the opposite direction (think of a gymnast on the single bar).
This rebound swing causes the arms to be nearly straight, and provides enough momentum to propel trainee upward, arms still nearly straight (think of that gymnast). The momentum is great enough that their chest actually gets propelled above the bar: a pseudo muscle-up.
A tip-off that you’re doing this is that the arms are virtually straight while you perform the pull-up phase, swinging upwards, instead of very flexed and pulling yourself up.
View videos of different people performing the muscle-up to help guide you.
The author of this article is a certified personal trainer.