Muscle-ups, snatches, handstand push ups – learning to love them

CrossFit is frustrating. Let’s face it. Day after day you are asked to throw yourself under a barbell in a squat snatch, fling yourself over the rings in a muscle-up, touch your toes to the bar for 50 reps, spin a jump rope under your feet 2x like it’s a circus trick.

You see these workouts written on the board that have muscle-ups and snatches, or high repetition pull-ups and a just plain rude amount of handstand pushups. You warm up with class, try one half-hearted muscle-up attempt and don’t succeed (even though you had it in your head that you were going to fail all along) and say screw it! I’m never coming back to CrossFit! Life was so much easier when you went for a run after work anyway.

And then the next day rolls around, and you find yourself once again in front of the whiteboard while the coach is going over the workout, because yes CrossFit is hard and yes it can be frustrating at times, but that is why it is also fun. There is always something to work towards and always something to get better at, and once you gain a skill and succeed, it is the greatest thing in the world.
So how do we gain a skill like a pull-up or a muscle-up or a snatch?

If we go back to our last post HERE, the goal of every workout is to keep the intensity high and to meet the intended stimulus. If there is a workout that has 30 pull-ups at a time and you know that you are going to be staring at the bar for 5 minutes to get them done, then scaling is appropriate to keep the intensity high. Intensity is where the fitness happens.

So if you have to scale a movement to keep the intensity in a workout high, how are you ever supposed to get the skill?


Practice can happen in different ways. If we are taking a kipping pull-up, and the workout calls for 30 pull-ups at a time, in the metcon you might try 2-3 kipping pull-ups/round, and then move on to whichever modification you chose for the day. At the end of the workout, take 5 minutes after class and try a few more. The next time you see them in a workout maybe you try 3-4 kipping pull-ups a round before moving onto your modification. Did you get better? I bet you did.

The same thing can be applied to other skills. Once you have the prerequisite strength for things like muscle-ups and handstand pushups, start throwing in 1-2 attempts everytime you see them in a workout, whether you complete the rep or not, count it and move on to your chosen modification.

How do you gain the prerequisite strength. Practice. If you want do be able to do pull-ups as Rx’d, take 3 days per week and practice different aspects of the pull-up, both strength and skill. If you want to be able to do a double-under, try a lot of double-unders!

It’s going to be frustrating. You will have days where nothing comes together and you want to give up completely. That’s okay, because you won’t give up, you’ll shrug it off, maybe pace up and down the gym a few times, and then try again.

Don’t skip the workouts that scare you. Don’t avoid the movements that scare you. Everything has a modification and everything is scalable, with the goal always being to progress the movement. If you always use a band for pull-ups, take the band away for 1 workout and see how it goes. If you always do single-unders for jump rope, throw in some double-under attempts around.

Practice. Patience. You will succeed, I promise.