I want you to think about a gymnastics movement called an up-start or glide kip. In summary you swing forward, reaching your body out into a straight position, then bring your toes to the bar, you then swing around the bar by closing your shoulders and end up on top in a support position. Your arms never bend, they remain straight the whole time. This is a very efficient way of getting on top of the bar.
If you haven’t clicked on yet the above is very similar to a kipping bar muscle up. Yes, I know this would be a “no rep” because your feet cannot go above or touch the bar and there needs to be a visible dip (I.e. a small bend of the arms) before reaching support BUT there’s actually not much we need to change. This approach will really save your triceps.
Converting this into a kipping bar muscle up:
- Learn the kip first: Sounds obvious but make sure you can kip back and forth well first. Your body should be tight in the kip and you should keep tension throughout your body. Your arms are just levers holding onto the bar and should remain straight. To kip you should be opening and closing your shoulders, not your hips. This is very different to swinging on the swings so don’t get confused. First of all the rings move, the bar doesn’t so you have to move around the bar. Secondly, the kip on a bar should be much tighter and more compact (smaller but sharper movements).
- Kip back as you normally would and fire your feet up towards the bar (but not higher than the bar or you will be no repped). Then think about pulling yourself around the bar into support by shooting your hips up towards the bar. I have highlighted ‘around’ – remember the bar does not move. It’s easy to think you need to pull yourself up, as after all, that is where you are going but if you do this you will lose the momentum you’ve built in the kip and waste energy.
- When you get on top of the bar, in the bottom of the dip position, make sure you have turned your wrists over the bar and they are not bent back – not only is this more difficult but it also makes you prone to wrist injuries. The best way to stop yourself doing this is to not grip the bar too hard as you reach the top of your kip, try to be more relaxed, at this point you have already built the momentum and done the hard part anyway.
- Don’t lower yourself back down after you complete a rep, keep tension but allow your full bodyweight to drop back under the bar as this creates the momentum for the next rep. Think about dropping your shoulders back first and then allowing your feet to travel up in front of you.
- Kick your feet higher up towards the ceiling and then be more aggressive with pushing your hips towards the bar.
- Keep tension on the back swing of the kip. A lot of people go loose and floppy at this point which results in you losing momentum and having to use strength to get up. People often find this easier to do when they think about just keeping their legs together and minimizing the knee bend. Remember that a kip does not mean bending your legs back excessively.