As an athlete and fitness model, I know what it means to train hard. I push myself daily to not only look great but also to perform better. In my normal workout regimen, I typically stick to the classic one-muscle-group-per-day split. I'll train chest one day, follow it up with legs the next, and hit back later in the week. It's the bread and butter of my training program. It's what works.
But, every once in a while, I like to change things up and give myself an added challenge. Benchmark workouts, like the one I'll take you through today, really set a baseline for you to work from and let you see how the work you've been putting in has helped you progress and rise to the challenge every time to try it.
This workout specifically focuses on the muscle-up, a movement that's based on everything from power and core strength to brute explosiveness. Looking over it, you might think a few circuits are nothing, but I promise you'll be singing a different tune by the time you're done. This workout is a challenge, but it's also part of what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary. Sure, a pull-up is an accomplishment, but a muscle-up is in a class of its very own. Today, push yourself a bit harder as I take you through my muscle-up full-body workout!
This workout is comprised of two circuits, each of which has four exercises. You'll do four rounds of each circuit, resting 1-2 minutes between rounds. The whole workout should take about 30 minutes to complete. Let's hit it!
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Circuit 1 Pull and Explode
The entire point of this workout is to help you get your very first muscle-up, or if you already own the bar, increase the power and strength behind your muscle-ups so that you can string a few more reps together. This first circuit will help you build the explosiveness you need and focus on the act of pulling.
We'll kick off this circuit with 10 pull-ups followed by heavy lat pull-downs. The importance of pull-ups is pretty self-explanatory, since you need to master one before you can even attempt a muscle-up. Think of them as the basis on which the entire movement is founded.
For lat pull-downs, aim to use more than your body weight. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, shoot for a weight between 190-200 pounds. I weigh 205 pounds, so I'll be using 230 for this exercise. This is one place where accessories—in this case, wrist straps—can really make a difference.
When you're hitting your lats with heavy weight, you don't want your forearms to fail before your back muscles do. Wrist straps help alleviate the pressure that might otherwise be placed on your wrist and ensure that all strain is in your back only. Going heavier than your body weight is also crucial, since it helps ensure that the bodyweight pull-ups that follow feel light.
Put some energy into your explosive pull-ups. You only have to complete 5 reps per round, so make each one count. With these, you're really trying to use force to pull your body above the bar. Pump the reps out as quickly as you can, then strap on those wrist straps and get ready to do some bent-over rows.
On bent-over rows, straps help take the pressure off of your wrists and forearms so you can target your back more effectively. This helps strengthen the middle and upper back, both of which are used when swinging into the kip at the beginning of a muscle-up. Just make sure you do these explosively, letting the barbell hang for a moment at the bottom of the movement before pulling back up with force.
After you've completed the first few rounds of this circuit, you'll really start to feel it.
By the third round, fatigue will start to set in, your back will tense up, and your forearms will be sore. Don't quit. The last two rounds are where you really prove yourself. Once you've finished all four rounds of Circuit 1, take a 2-5-minute breather. Then, get ready to head into Circuit 2!
Circuit 2 Strengthen Your Core
The second half of this workout is designed to help you carve a strong core. We'll still be completing 4 rounds of four exercises and resting 1-2 minutes between rounds. This time around, you can trade in those wrist wraps for a weight belt.
For weighted pull-ups, choose a weight you can barely get 3 reps with. If you're not quite ready for an added load, do bodyweight pull-ups. You can always slide on some pounds once you get the movement down. As for grip, use your hand positioning and grip of choice: overhand, underhand, neutral, wide, or narrow.
I added dips to your workout because they mimic the finishing move of a muscle-up—the point at which you press up at the top. Strengthening your triceps with dips will help build up some of the strength you need to get over the bar.
Hanging knee raises then help strengthen your core, and the final pull-ups with knee tucks help piece everything together.
Power Up Your Fitness
Fitness isn't just about looking good; it's also about performing well. When you train for a specific skill set with a workout like this, you develop new types of strength. Sure, you're practicing for a muscle-up, but you're also strengthening your back and building your core in ways you might not have before. Doing the same thing over and over again will yield the same old results. Workouts like this will push your performance and keep you engaged!