I have been going to the gym and working out for just over 6-ish years, and although I may not have a 6 pack yet, I have made significant progress since I began going to the gym. However, those 6 years have only consisted of these past 1-2 years of me being “serious” about the gym and training properly. This includes proper dieting and training, and not just going to the gym and lifting random weights and doing random exercises. Although I have been able to lift somewhat heavy weights, there has always been one aspect of my training that I have lacked in, and that is training related to the domain of calisthenics. Calisthenics exercises involve pure strength, and pushing your ability to perform body weight exercises (exercises involving a minimum amount of equipment, exercises you can do everywhere!). My ability to perform a high number of pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, has just never really been there and that is due to either me not training specifically for that, or when I do I am never consistent. This is where my personal learning challenge comes in to play. Over the course of the next 4 weeks I will be training to master the skill of performing a rep of a muscle up.
The muscle up is an advanced calisthenics exercise and is described by Sean Garner, a relatively well-known fitness professional, as “… the hardest pull-up you’ve ever done combined with the most difficult dip you’ve ever done” (1). Yikes, I’m starting to already regret this. If you’ve never seen what a muscle up is, I’ve provided a link to a YouTube video showing a guy doing 22(!!!) muscle ups. It is essentially doing a pull up on a bar, then lifting yourself over the bar and pushing your body up until your arms are in a straight position. Sounds easy enough, right?
Learning this skill will be gruelling to say the least. The muscle-up variation that I will complete involves 4 phases that I need to be skilled in: the swing phase, pull phase, dip phase, and comedown phase.
The swing phase requires me to swing my body in such a way that when I transition into the pull phase, the swinging motion of my body will allow me to use the force created from the swing to assist with pulling my body up instead of just wasting energy on a strict pull-up.
- For this phase I will need to practice the motion of swinging my body.
The pull phase requires that I pull my body as high as possible above the bar.
- This phase will require me to practice pull-ups as well as increase my forearm strength. Development of muscles including the latissimus doris, trapezius, and subscapularis will be critical not just for the strength aspect, but also for protecting muscles in the rotator cuff and back when done properly (2).
The dip phase will be the most difficult, in my opinion. Transitioning from the pull phase to the dip phase will require me to adjust my grip, turning my hands over the bar. Then, I will have to push my entire my body up.
- This phase will require me to strengthen my shoulders (as they are already weak due to injuries) and practice dips on their own.
Lastly, there is the comedown phase. This occurs when I have successfully maneuvered myself upright, over the bar, and I will have to get back down to the ground.
- This phase will require an immense amount of abdominal & core strength in order to safely allow my body down.
As seen in this weeks reading for chapter 2 in “Teaching in a digital age”, Bloom, along with his colleagues claimed that there are three important domains of learning: cognitive (thinking), affective (feeling), and psycho-motor (doing) (3). My approach to this challenge will mainly require the cognitive and psycho-motor aspects of learning. Along the way, I will be learning new techniques and exercises that will further excel my ability to complete a muscle up. This is also relevant to the cognitive approach to learning as these next 4 weeks will involve me understanding, applying, then analyzing exercise techniques. I will also most likely be seeking new exercises, stretches, and techniques to incorporate into my training routine over the course of the 4 weeks, and then bringing all of this knowledge together when attempting a muscle up. This type of memory can be seen as semantic, as described in the reading “5R Adult Learning Assignment 5: Learning the Neuroscience and the Neuromyths” by Clarissa Sorensen-Unruh. Semantic memory includes the acquired facts, concepts, and knowledge of the external world (in my challenge this translates to all of the different exercises, techniques, etc. I will be learning over time) (3).
My overall plan will begin with me performing a preliminary test to see how far I can get attempting a muscle up, as well as recording how many reps I can do for the multiple individual exercises involved. I will be devoting a minimum of 3 days per week training specifically for the challenge, with the focus being on pull-ups, dips, core and forearm strength. As time progresses, I will move on to more complex exercises. I will be tracking progress using the notes application on my phone and then I plan to export this data to an organized spreadsheet. Additionally, I will be taking videos of my progress, which will display how much my strength and power have increased over time. I will be using a variety of resources including tutorials on YouTube, and websites (blogs, step-by-steps, etc) from reputable fitness professionals.
If anyone knows how to do a muscle up and would like to give me any advice, please feel free to!
What a muscle up looks like
References used for this blog