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The strict ring muscle up

Your training guide

The strict Ring Muscle Up (sRMU) is a highly advanced and challenging upper body exercise that builds tremendous upper body strength, shoulder stability and positional coordination. Enough reasons to start doing it! Unfortunately it can seem daunting to get into this movement when you're not yet able to perform your first rep, so I have written this step-by-step guide to help you on your way of performing your first sRMU.

photo by @sukrumese

To work up to a perfect sRMU I have broken this skill down for you in 3 steps. Important to note is that on every training day (at least twice a week) you will train according to this 3 step order. Go through the main exercises of each step first, and then follow those up with one supportive exercise from each category. Let's get to it!


Step 1: Pull ups
Your first step to performing a sRMU is a well-controlled chest to bar pull up.
- If you are not yet able to perform a pull up, start with band-assisted pull ups and build it up from there (performing 3 sets of 5 reps). This is your main exercise for step 1.
- As supportive exercises for your pull up I recommend that you do 4 sets of 8-10 reps of one of the following exercises: (single arm) lat pull downs, half kneeling (single arm) cable rows, ring rows, face pulls

- Your goal should be to perform 3x5 strict chest to bar pull ups.
- Got it? Great: you are now ready for the rings!  

Welcome to the rings.
The starting position for your (false grip) ring pull up is the eagle grip (see video). This is also the starting position of the sRMU.
- Try to perform your pulls as high as possible and strive to achieve 3 x 5-8 (false grip) ring pull ups
- If you cannot yet hang in the false grip, perform regular grip pull ups

Step 2: Dips

Before you go into the transition of your sRMU it is important that you have mastered dips in addition to your pull ups.

- Just like with the pull ups you can build up your dips by first starting with band-assisted (bar) dips until you manage to do this without a band. This is your main exercise for step 2.

- Supporting exercises that I advise you to do to here are 4 sets of 8-10 reps of one of the following exercises: eccentric dips, (single arm) dumbbell bench presses, or (weighted) push ups. These can be performed in superset fashion with the supportive exercises of step 1.

- Your goal should again be to be able to perform 3 sets of 5 unsupported dips on the bars, because then you can progress to the rings again!

Ring dips

- Before you start with ring dips I advise you to practice the support hold in the low rings (see video). This is the end position of the sRMU. This is a good way to get used to stabilizing in the rings.
Start with 3 x 5 sec and expand to 3 x 20-30 sec.

- If you have mastered the support hold, start practicing ring dips and work towards the now familiar 3 sets of 5 reps.


Step 3: Transition

Yes! Now it’s time for the transition. In my opinion the most challenging and coolest step towards your perfect sRMU. The transition is the movement from your ring pull up into your ring dip. That is why it is important that you have a good command of the ring pull up and ring dip.

- It is safe to practice the transition with your feet on the floor. Work towards sets of 3 x 30s (see video). Do this after having trained your pull ups and dips.

- To become strong in your transition I advise you to practice Russian push ups (3 sets of 5 reps). When you can do those, progress to Russian dips (my favorite exercise!)

- Now you are ready to hit the rings again


Low & high rings

First practice a banded sRMU (see video) in the low rings!
Strive to build this up to 3 x 5 banded sRMU, until you can get 1 sRMU in the low rings without a band.

- The next step, there it comes ... your first strict Ring Muscle up in the high rings!!

Your first badass sRMU is a fact!


To optimize your sRMU it is important to keep doing the aforementioned exercises. In addition, I also advise you to include the 3 x 60 second hollow body hold at the end of your workouts. This is an important core exercise that has a direct effect on your sRMU.

After your first sRMU you will undoubtedly become enthusiastic and want to practice more and more, training to perfection. I know, I have been there. What I have experienced is that you'll likely encounter (elbow) aches which can ultimately lead to serious injury. The most common injury is the elbow pain followed by shoulder pain. Be alert because your body will give you signals, listen to them! The first thing that helps to prevent injury is to take an extra rest day when your arms or shoulders become achy. Also adjust the volume of your training, you might be overloading your tendons.

Enthusiastic about this skill and ready to get started with my tips?

I can also personally guide you through them, of course. Therefore join my CrossFit gymnastics class at Vondelgym.

Good luck and...see you soon!

Deborah Louz

BSc. Computer Science, former TeamNL taekwondo World medallist, current CrossFit (gymnastics) coach at Vondelgym

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