Current training – March 2013

The most notable change this month is that I’m taking a break from judo. Both my girls’ sleep is particularly bad at the moment, between them they are up at 1-3 times every night and it’s starting to take its toll. By the time I’m supposed to leave for judo training on a Friday night I’m pretty much ready for bed so rather than go anyway, not be 100% on the mat and be extra exhausted the next day (part of the oh so previous weekend!), I’m going to stay away for a few weeks until things settle down. I’ll train at home on Fridays instead, but can manage the time, volume etc much better there.

Other than that it’s all roughly the same. I’m now using the 20kg kettlebell for jerks which actually feels easier than the 16kg as the extra weight helps me keep my arm relaxed and get more drive from my legs.

I’ve also switched snatches for long cycle jerks. The progress I had with my snatch technique last month disappeared so rather than bang my head against a wall I’m switching to a lift I know I can do. I’m not training to compete in kettlebell lifting so the lifts are largely irrelevant. The point is just to lift the weight many times without putting it down.

The gymnastic ring work is still treating me well so I’ll stick at it for a while longer. I’m adjusting the volume and intensity depending on what stage of the jerk progression I’m at.


  • A1: 20kg turkish get up – 1R/1L x 2
  • B1: OALCCJ 16kg jerk edt up to 10mins @ 8rpm
  • C1: Tuck back lever – 20, 30 sec
  • 360 Pulls – 1-3 x 2


  • A1: Squats
  • B1: Handstand practice
  • C1:Straddle L (bent leg, low)
  • C2: Rope climb


  • A1: 20kg turkish get up – 1R/1L x 2
  • B1: OAJ 20kg edt up to 10mins @ 6rpm
  • C1: Muscle up/ring routine
  • D1: 28kg KB swing

Thursday – run


  • A1: Squats
  • B1: Handstand practice
  • C1:Straddle L (bent leg, low)
  • C2: Pike press HeS

A revised dip/muscle up progression

I wrote a post a while ago about progressions for ring dips and muscle ups. As I’ve been working on them it’s become clear that:

  • The jumps in difficulty were too big
  • RTO dips are too hard for me right now
  • I need to add more steps.

I’ve since revised the progression I’m working on. For dips it now looks like:

    1. Forearms touching rings
    2. Forearms touching rings with hollow
    3. Forearms off rings
    4. Forearms off rings with hollow
    5. Keep rings turned out
    6. Keep rings turned out with hollow

      My muscle up progression is taken from this post by Coach Sommer:

        1. Kipping narrow grip (inside shoulders)
        2. Kipping medium grip (shoulder width)
        3. Kipping wide grip (outside shoulders)
        4. No kipping narrow grip (inside shoulders)
        5. No kipping medium grip (shoulder width)
        6. No kipping wide grip (outside shoulders)

          Right now I’ve dialled right back to the start and am working dips twice a week. Once I am doing them with forearms off of the rings I will switch to one day of dips and another of muscle ups.

          I’m thinking this will work fine until it comes to RTO dip/muscle up integration – that is very hard and may need another rethink. At that point I may take the two skills in different directions: dips go RTO, MU go for minimal forward lean or ring routines.

          Current ring dip/muscle up progression

          This is a summary of the progression I plan to work through for ring dips and muscle ups.

          It’s a good example of how bodyweight exercises can progress and become more challenging without simply adding weight.

          I’ll be working on them twice a week.


          Session 1 Goals
          Muscle up Increase ROM – currently can’t do reps without starting with bent arms
          Increase sets/reps to 3 x 5
          No momentum
          Session 2 Goals
          Ring dip No arm contact on rings, rings held turned out (palms slightly forward)
          Keep hollow position during reps
          Increase sets/reps to 3 x 5

          Turning out the rings on dips makes them much more difficult. Adding the hollow position even more so.

          I was able to do these dips for 3 x 4 on the first session. Adding an extra rep per set shouldn’t take too long. Once there I’ll keep the sets/reps static and focus keeping each rep slow and controlled.

          The muscle ups started at 3 x 3 so there’s a bit more work to do there – my wrists are the limiting factor more then anything else.

          Stage 2

          Session 1 Goals
          Muscle up Integrate RTO/hollow dip into muscle up
          Remove any momentum required to do this initially
          Increase sets/reps to 3 x 5
          Session 2 Goals
          Ring dip Maintain ability to do higher reps (3 x 5) with RTO and hollow while building strength in MU
          All reps at slow, controlled tempo

          Turning out the rings and adding the hollow will make the muscle ups much more challenging. My reps will definitely drop so I’ll keep the dips as they are to maintain the ability to do at least 5 reps.

          I expect the transition to be where I’ll need to build most strength. If progress is slow I’ll start dropping into the transition in my dip reps as well to work that section of the movement more often.

          Stage 3

          Session 1 Goals
          Muscle up Maintain ability to do 3 x 5 with hollow and RTO dip
          All reps at slow, controlled tempo
          Session 2 Goals
          Muscle up with embedded static holds Work ability to use MU to move into static holds
          MU to l-sit – come into l-sit as dip rather than from support, work up to reps
          MU, lower to front lever – work up to reps (i.e. front lever pull to MU)
          MU, roll to back lever from top of transition (no dip) – reduce momentum in back roll, difficulty in back lever

          In this stage the RTO/hollow muscle ups go into maintenance. I will continue to progress the exercise by starting to play with different entrances and exits.

          I’m planning to do this rather than work full ring routines simply because I’ll be able to work the individual skills harder this way.

          And after that?

          I’m not sure – full ring routines
          would be an obvious direction to go in. Chances are I will be a bit dipped out and want to introduce a different pressing movement.

          As always – thanks to Ido Portal & Gymnastics bodies for the information and inspriation.

          Current workouts – October 2011

          A few changes this month.

          I’ve introduced one arm push up progressions to add variety to my pressing work. My elbows and wrists were feeling the strain from doing muscle ups every day. I’m progressing the exercise by doing them with my hand on a raised surface, as I get to 8 sets of 3 reps I find a lower surface and start again. In theory I can continue like this until I’m doing them on the floor – I just need to find enough progressively lower surfaces around the house!

          I’ve added in band pull aparts and rows to even out my pulling motions. The bands are a new toy and are great for working the rhomboids, lower traps etc – all the muscles that get lazy and weak while I sit at my desk.

          Deadlifts are added in place of the Monday pistol session. My weekend run tends to be on a Sunday and pistols the day after are often unpleasant, and not in good way. The deadlifts are still fairly unpleasantly, but in a much better way!

          A1: Back lever (adv tuck) – 4 x 12sec
          A2: L-sit – 4 x 8sec
          B1: One arm push up progressions R/L – 8 x 2-3
          B2: Weighted chin ups – 8 x 2-3
          B3: Band pull aparts – 8 x 5-10
          C1: KB deadlift – 2-3 x 10-15

          A1: Muscle up – >8
          B1: Pistols – 6-8 x 2-3
          B2: Grip stuff – 8 x various
          C1: KB swing/Farmers walks

          A1: Back lever (1/2 lay) – 6 x 8sec
          A2: L-sit – 6 x 6sec
          B1: Muscle up to get in place, then dip to transition – 3-5 x >5
          C1: Single leg hip thrust R/L – 2 x >20
          C2a: Ring row – 3 x >8
          C2b: Bodyweight bat wing – >30sec


          Current workouts – September 2011

          I’ve not changed a great deal from my August workouts. I still have some focus on the muscle up to strengthen the movement.

          The main changes are the reintroduction of handstands (I will get there!) and adding in a run/parkour session on Saturday. I want make the most of the ok-ish weather while it lasts and time was a bit tight to squeeze it in on a Friday night.

          Also, the ‘some kind of squat’ has become two pistol squat sessions.

          Here it is:

          A1: HS practice – 5mins
          B1: False grip rows – >10
          C1: Muscle up – >10 singles
          D1: Transition practice (lowering in & out as far as can) – 3 x >8
          E1: Pistol – 4-5 x 3-5
          E2: Back lever (1/2 lay) – 4-5 x 8sec
          F1: DB side lever
          F2: CC head bridges – >20
          F3: Back bridge – >60sec
          F4: Flat foot squat – >60sec

          A1, B1 then C1, 2 rounds of D1-2, 4-5 rounds of E1-2, 1 round of F1-4

          A1: Practice handstand kick up – >30
          B1: False grip rows – >10
          C1: False grip pull ups – 2 x >8
          C2: Dip, transition – 2 x >8
          E1: Get out, run about

          A1, then B1, 2 rounds of C1-2, D1 then E1

          A1: HS practice – 5mins
          B1: False grip hangs – 3 x >30sec
          C1: False grip pull ups – 2 x >8
          D1: Pistol – 4-5 x 3-5
          D2: Back lever (adv tuck) – 4-5 x 12+sec
          E1: Back bridge – >60sec
          E2: Flat foot squat – >60sec

          A1, B1, C1, 4-5 rounds of D1-2, then 1 round of E1-2

          Get out, run about
          Practice basic parkour, focus on kong & speed vaults

          How to get your first muscle up

          The muscle up is a great skill to work towards. It combines upper body pushing and pulling to move your body from below an object to on top.

          However, there is more to a muscle up than just a pull up with a dip on top. The other parts are what make it difficult, but also worth the time and effort.

          There are three main components to completeing this skill on rings:

          1. Pull up and dip ability
          2. The false grip
          3. The transition

          You are unlikely to get a muscle up on your first attempt, but by training each component individually you can work up to the skill in a systematic way. This is how I approached getting my own first muscle up.

          Pull up and dip ability
          I would recommend being able to do ten pull ups and dips before starting further muscle up training.

          This is because, although a muscle up only involves one pull up and one dip, they are not the hardest part of the skill.

          As your numbers increase a single pull up/dip will become easier, allowing you to focus on the more challenging parts of the skill.

          The false grip
          When doing a pull up using a standard grip the wrist is below the rings, but for a dip we need them to be on top. To perform a muscle up with this grip would require a massive amount of kipping.

          A decent false grip is essential to doing a strict muscle up as it allows you to perform the pull up with wrists already above the rings, making the transition to dip far simpler (although not easy!).

          To get the false grip you wrap your hand over the top so that your wrist on the pinky side is flush with the rings.

          False grip


          This will feel very weird to start with and your pull up numbers will probably fall dramatically, if you can do one at all.

          Instead, start with false grip rows to get used to it and then move on to pull ups from there. The strength should come fairly quickly.

          The transition
          Once your false grip pull ups are getting strong you are part of the way there, but there is still some extra pulling/pressing to do to move into the bottom part of a dip.

          This is the transition and it is the hardest part of the skill simply because most people will not have previously built strength in the angles required.

          This article by Christopher Sommer gives two great tactics for strengthening the transition. I credit these tactics for me getting my muscle up in two months (I already had the pull up and dip numbers).

          It is pretty simple (but again, not easy!):

          • For dips, start to lower into the transition at the bottom of each rep. It doesn’t matter if the range of motion is small to start with. The important thing is that you are able to press back out on each rep. Over time the ROM will increase until the bottom of your dip reps are  in the top-of-pull-up position. 
          • The tactic for pull ups is similar. As you perform your sets pull further into the top of each rep. Range of motion isn’t important, eventually you will end up above the rings, which is just a dip away from being a full muscle up.

          Top tip – focus on keeping elbows close to your ribs when moving into the transition – it’ll make the movement stronger and safer.

          Exercise plan
          Here’s one way of progressively working on each component of the skill to build up to a full muscle up.

          I’ve only listed the parts related to the muscle up, the rest of your routine is up to you. I would limit the amount of additional upper body work though.

          In each phase try to add sets/reps each week until you can do the ones listed. Once you get those numbers move onto the next phase. Always stay well away from failure and leave at least a day between workouts.

          • Phase 1 – pull up and dip strength
            No magic here. Work both exercises 2-3 times a week, building up to 3 sets of 8 reps.

          • Phase 2 – false grip, early transition work (keep the ROM small), pull up/dip maintenance
            Day 1 – FG rows 2x>8, dip-transition (easy) 2x>5, pull up 2x>8, dip 2x>8
            Day 2 – FG rows 3x>8, dip-transition (easy) 3x>5
            Day 3 – FG rows 2x>8, dip-transition (easy) 2x>5, pull up 2x>8, dip 2x>8

          • Phase 3 – false grip and increasing ROM into transition (less volume, harder work)
            Day 1 – FG pull up 3x>5, dip-transition 3x>5
            Day 2 – FG rows 3x>10, dip-transition 3x>5
            Day 3 – FG pull up 3x>5, dip-transition 3x>5

          • Phase 4 – start working transition from the bottom
            Day 1 – FG pull up 3x>8, dip-transition 3x>5
            Day 2 – FG rows 3x>10, dip-transition 3x>5
            Day 3 – FG pull up-transition 3x>5, dip-transition 3x>5

          If all goes to plan, one of the pull up-transition reps in phase 4 will eventually put you above the rings, which means you can do a muscle up.

          Ok, got it. What next?

          My pull up into transition came before the dip. So I can go up fine (with a little swing of the legs), but not lower all of the way. So, for me, there are two things to work on: lower under control and eliminate kipping.

          I will concentrate on the lowering portion of full muscle ups while continuing to work the dip-transition in isolation. Lowering under control will pave the way for multiple muscle up reps and also integrating them into longer ring routines. 

          The dip-transition will help with kipping as it builds strength in the middle part of the movement. I will also slow down my reps as much as possible and focus on keeping my legs still.

          I’ll update in a couple of months!