A front uprise is a legitimate, graceful and skilled gymnastic movement on the rings. Athletes execute it by generating tremendous upward momentum via use of the leg upswing, so much that the athlete’s body rises above the rings, allowing the athlete to basically bring the hands in toward the hips in order to end at a position of vertical support. The kipping muscle-up is basically a front uprise that lacks the grace of a really good front uprise. In functional fitness competitions, the kipping muscle up is functionally an awkward front uprise with a restriction placed on how high the toes can go.

The functional fitness world appears to have created what appears to be an artificial distinction by determining that something “unacceptable” is happening when the toes are dramatically higher than the hips on the upswing and break the bottom horizontal plane of the ring/bar first before reaching the point of vertical stability. When you look at gymnasts who perform the front uprise, however, it is clear that the toes do not always break that plane for every front uprise (i.e., it looks like a very strong and very graceful kipping muscle-up). If there is a distinction between the kipping muscle-up and the front uprise, it is blurry at best (as opposed to the distinction between a strict muscle-up and a front uprise, which can clearly be distinguished.

Does the functional fitness world have a problem with the front uprise, and so much that it disallows the movement in competitions? I suggest that the problem derives, again, from the physical fitness programming and practice that gave rise to this variety of competition, which perhaps gave an undeserved bad name to the front up-rise.

Brooks Gregory
Athlete: Brooks Gregory
Photo Courtesy of Greg Bishop Photography www.gregbishopphoto.com

When training for general physical preparedness, the muscle-up is kind of the crowning achievement of functional fitness gymnastics movement. The irony, however, is that since many people have difficulty executing a true strict muscle up at first, the kip is introduced, which often becomes a full-on swing, which is effectively a front uprise. Even more ironic, the flyaway appears to be discouraged as well (though, arguably, this may involve a back uprise, which is a different maneuver, though no less skilled or difficult than a front uprise). A fly away is simply an uprise performed by initiating momentum from a position of vertical support above the rings, using so much momentum that it basically eliminates the bottom-of-ring-dip position inherent to the muscle-up. Accomplished muscle-up artists essentially use the fly-away maneuver with only a slight modification (i.e., rotating into a bottom-of-ring-dip position instead of rotating into an uprise). Serial muscle-ups in competition look remarkably like awkward fly-aways. Face it: Both maneuvers incorporate a healthy chunk of momentum to string serial repetitions together. And momentum appears to be the bugaboo that got the uprises and the fly-aways banned from competition. In the gym, functional fitness enthusiasts want to demonstrate pure shoulder strength, so they worship the muscle up. Gymnasts, however, perform an entire suite of bottom-to-top ring movements, with none being any less deserving of attention nor less predicated on high skill level than the other. All ring work is skilled; so maybe the functional fitness world went a little overboard and became inadvertently a bit too dogmatic on the issue.

With that in mind, perhaps event planners/programmers should reconsider whether to disallow the front uprise. In a competition, if the objective is to task athletes to perform a very hard, shoulder-based gymnastics maneuver on the rings, then maybe the event should call for strict muscle-ups. But if athletes are basically getting from the bottom of the rings/bar to the top with the optional use of a swing/kip (and perhaps a required ring-dip position on the rings), then the argument against the front uprise is nil. Most competitions allow chicken-winging (which is not graceful); so why is the front-uprise/glide-kip so bad? It isn’t, and it is not an easy maneuver in the first place. Again, the distinction between training and competing needs to be considered. If the objective is developing the strength necessary to do a strict muscle-up (i.e., shoulder strength) then one can understand limitations on the front uprise. But if we are merely getting to the top of the rings in a competition (which is what the kipping muscle up allows and encourages), why should we exclude a legitimate gymnastic maneuver? Indeed, why should any athletic task be excluded? OK, well maybe curling, though a convincing argument might be made that there is a lot to be considered functional in the act of sweeping.

Athlete: Taylor Gerhardt

Photo Courtesy of Greg Bishop Photography www.gregbishopphoto.com

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