We use Assistance Bands all of the time at the GBT gym in order to teach more advanced BW moves, and the Band-Assisted (non-kipping) Muscle-Up is a perfect example. Once the student has gone through all of the lead up exercises and is now proficient at the Kipping Muscle Up, it’s time to challenge them to stop using their legs as assistance. By using the Assistance Band, they can train the correct pattern biomechanically while only taking a limited percentage of their bodyweight. We can then progress to lighter bands until we no longer need any assistance at all. As you know from all my previous posts, I believe that form is everything in bodyweight training (and all fitness for that matter), so I love being able to use bands to make sure complex new movements are learned correctly from the beginning.
Using the Stretch Reflex
As I mentioned above, our ultimate goal with the Muscle-Up is to perform a slow Muscle-Up, which requires a tremendous amount of strength and proper timing. With the band-assisted version, we are getting close to that, but are still using a bit of momentum which relies heavily on the “stretch reflex” of the muscles involved. This stretch reflex is a component of a plyometric movement, where force is generated by a quick lengthening of the muscles, followed immediately by a quick and powerful contraction. In the video, you’ll see that I step off of a box to achieve the “pre-stretch”. The bands, of course, further increase the amount of elastic energy created with this pre-stretch movement. This can also be achieved by just stepping forward and extending the entire body at roughly a 45 degree angle (without letting the toes touch the ground). Each rep should start and end here.
The Pull to Push TransitionFrom the pre-stretch position, while keeping the entire body tight and rigid, look up at the bar, and forcefully pull with the upper body. As you begin to travel upward, maintain some space between your body and the bar. Maintaining this space helps you move your body in the necessary arc around the bar. Your hands should begin to rotate around the bar as your chest rises above it. As soon as the lower chest travels above bar line, rotate the elbows upward and pull your upper torso over and forward. From here, simply extend through the elbows and push the body up as if you’re getting out of a pool. Once you are stable here, drop back down to the starting “pre stretch” position. Note that the muscles you are using to pull yourself around and over the bar are the same as with the Kipping Muscle-Up, except that you are relying less on the momentum from kicking your legs to execute the movement.
Once you can achieve 8-10 reps with perfect form, you may want to try using a lighter band. Eventually you will need no band at all!
This movement does require the hands to rotate around the bar, so if you are not used to doing a lot of bar work, your hands may become raw or damaged. In this case, I would recommend using a pair of genuine leather baseball batting gloves. Out of all of the gloves I’ve experimented with, they seem to work the best. You can later ditch the gloves as your technique improves – that’s really up to you.
This is a great exercise and I guarantee you’re going to love it. Check out this video on how to do it, and keep an eye out this year for our full length video on using assistance bands for advanced bodyweight training! (See more below the video about choosing a band, and to catch up on the previous chapters in this series).
Choosing A Band
When choosing a band, the width and length will vary depending on how much you weight and much assistance you need. In the video I’m using a 1 ¾” wide, 41” long band, which is a fairly standard size. You’ll probably want a set of several sizes so that you can decrease the level as you progress. Make sure there are no tears or blemishes in the band. If the band is starting to peel, that can be indicator that it is weakening and could snap. Be sure that the object or bar is smooth and doesn’t have any sharp edges or rust that may ruin the integrity of the band. If the support structure is rough, you may want to place a towel over it before placing the band.
You can find these types of bands sold as “resistance training bands” at some on-line sites. These Resistance Training Bands are similar to the ones I use. We’ll also be coming out with our own line of bands when we release our full length video later this year.
More About Muscle-Ups:
Want to start with, or just review, the Kipping Muscle-Up? Check out my four-part series with lead-up exercises that help you build the specific muscles and techniques you’ll need to achieve and then perfect your Kipping Muscle-Up:
sections you’d like to brush up on: