Box Development October 7, 2022

5 Reasons We Don’t Skip ‘30 Muscle-Ups for Time’ (And Other High-Skill Movements)


Guest author: CrossFit Roots

Have you ever seen a high-skill workout like “30 muscle-ups for time” in the programming and immediately thought, “I need to change this workout”?

It comes as no surprise to us that many CrossFitters and gyms see a workout like this and consider skipping it altogether.

In fact, one of our members shared with us that they went to an affiliate for 3 years, and not once was there a muscle-up in a workout. When muscle-ups showed up in an Open workout, only 3 people could do them, and 2 of them were coaches.

Why you should embrace high-skill workouts

At Roots, we’ve always been self-proclaimed CrossFit® purists. We don’t shy away from doing certain movements or workouts because they might be hard or because some of our members might not yet have that skill.

Instead, we see those days as a pathway to developing new skills and growing your fitness. And most importantly, over more than a decade of applying the CrossFit methodology, it’s not uncommon to walk into a class of 12 people and see that 7 of them are doing ring muscle-ups or walking on their hands. 

Here are 5 reasons we keep workouts with high-skill movements in our programming and why you should too.

#1 – Our athletes are constantly being prepared and challenged through strategically designed skill work. 

Over the last several years, we have paired the workout of the day with in-class skill work to continually challenge and advance the skillset of our athletes.

Can 100% of our athletes string together ring muscle-ups, handstand walk, or do legless rope climbs?

No, but many of them can, and most of them have gotten there because of the dedicated skill work and coaching we provide. For those who aren’t there yet, they are consistently progressing and getting closer to these goals.

Weaving skill work into your weekly programming calendar instead of filling extra class time with a second metcon or 10 minutes of extra lifting is what will help move your athletes forward.

#2 – CrossFitters like seeing themselves progress toward doing cool things. 

When someone has been a member for a while and they see others doing high-skill movements, they also want to achieve those things. Most members don’t make time outside of class to work on these skills, and if they do, their progress can be limited.

Creating skill work that has multiple scaling options and building that skill work into the workout regimen consistently helps members make progress that they can see. Progress creates belief, and belief is a major way to keep members coming back.

For example, with muscle-ups, perhaps an athlete starts with sets of ring rows and dips and the next week progresses to muscle-up transitions. This helps the athlete build confidence and excitement to continue working on this skill. 

#3 – Complex movements are not unique to gymnastics.

Man rope climbing at CrossFit gym

Have you ever tried teaching someone with no weightlifting experience how to snatch or clean and jerk?

Both movements are technically complex and often broken down into steps, yet most affiliate owners don’t bat an eye at programming them. Because they are consistently programmed, athletes develop efficacy over time.

The same is true for complex gymnastics workouts like 30 muscle-ups for time or workouts that include handstand walking or legless rope climbs.  

If you were to avoid programming snatches into your workouts, your members would never improve in this movement.

Following that train of thought, if you never program muscle-ups, how many of your members will be able to do a muscle-up a year from now?

#4 – Our coaches are relatable. 

Our coaches get feedback not only on how they coach classes but how they move. They are intimately aware of their strengths and current opportunities and aren’t shy about sharing that with members. We coach them towards movement perfection, but we’re also aware that everybody is different.

Our coaches aren’t shy about sharing what they are still working on, and this relatability is important to our members.

Properly demonstrating a movement is ideal, but if you don’t have a movement just yet, that’s okay. The key is to clearly communicate or teach the movement, identify points of performance, and correct when they are not achieved.  

#5 – One movement leads to another.

The beauty of CrossFit’s constantly varied programming and the philosophy of GPP is that all movements translate to other movements both in and out of the gym.

Think about the muscle-up: The athlete works on elements like grip strength, pulling, and pushing, specifically as it relates to their own body.

Can you think of a time when it would be beneficial for someone to be able to move their own body? How about a time when grip strength comes in handy?

Quickly, you start to see how 30-muscle ups for time begins to translate to other activities like high rep hang cleans or heavy deadlifts (grip strength needed!).

Sure, it’s cool to do muscle-ups, but the skills needed to accomplish one movement translate to many more activities in life.

Incorporating high-skill movements into your gym programming

Your members CAN do high-skill activities. It’s up to you to help them get there.

Want a full year of skill work for your affiliate or 365 days of Roots programming? Pick it up in the SugarWOD Marketplace, and consider it done!