If you've never
done a full bodyweight chin-up before, don't worry!
With the right training, just about anybody can
work themselves up to performing one or more full
range chin-ups. In this article, you'll learn
all the steps and progressions you need in order
get from zero to one!
And it's NOT going
to require pull-downs OR self-spotting machines
like the Gravitron (I'm not going to take ANY
resistance away from you!).
So first off,
we need to distinguish between a chin-up
and a pull-up. A pull-up is generally done
with a wider grip and an overhand grip on
the bar. This is actually a HARDER exercise
to perform than the chin-up.
is done with a close grip on the bar (hands
only a few inches apart) with an underhand
the wide-grip pull-up is harder is that
first, the biceps are not able to contribute
as much to the movement because your arms
are directly out to the sides. Second, the
lats (the muscles of the back) don't have
as good of leverage with the arms out in
places the lats in a better position to
contract and allows the biceps to contribute
more to the movement.
And this is
what we want, because to do that first chin-up,
you're going to need ALL the muscle power
you can get!
The first consideration
to look at when it comes to chinning is your overall
bodyweight. If you're carrying a lot of extra
weight, it's going to make it that much harder
to perform a chin-up because obviously, you're
going to have to lift that extra bodyweight up,
Dropping extra weight
is definitely going to help you achieve your goal
of that first chin-up, though it's not 100% necessary...it
just means you'll have to build up that much more
strength in order to perform the exercise.
When it comes to
building up strength for that first chin-up, I
prefer to do it over the long-term rather than
trying to get there all at once.
The only thing I
ask is that you NOT try and perform a full chin-up
until I tell you to. That's it. I don't want you
trying and failing and getting discouraged. So
take it step-by-step, build the foundations...I'll
let you know when you're ready.
So the first
step you're going to take is one that is
very simple and straightforward...you're
going to grab the bar and just HANG from
it for as long as you can. That's it!
I find that a lot of people simply don't
have the necessary GRIP strength to perform
a full chin-up and building it up with a
very specific drill like this helps tremendously.
So at the beginning
of every single workout and at the end of every
single workout you do (NOT just back workouts
but EVERY workout), you'll stand under the chin-up
bar, reach up and grab it with a close, underhand
grip, then just hang at arms-length for as long
as you can until your grip gives out.
This is going to
help you get used to supporting your entire bodyweight
on the chin-up bar and it's going to build up
that very specific grip strength we're looking
Repeat this drill
until you're able to hang from the chin-up bar
for at least 30 seconds before your grip gives
out. Once you can do that, you're ready for Phase
** One tip I find
very useful is to cross your feet when doing any
chin or pull-up related exercise. For some reason,
this locks your body into the position more and
gives you more pulling strength.
The second phase
of training is going to be partial reps in the
bottom range of motion of the chin-up.
Now that your grip
strength is built up enough that you can support
yourself on the bar for a good length of time,
we're going to start adding in movement.
Assume your hanging
position. Now pull yourself up 2 or 3 inches and
hold for several seconds. Lower yourself back
to the hanging position then immediately pull
back up a few inches again and hold for several
Repeat this until
either your grip gives out or you can no longer
pull yourself up those few inches. Remember, it's
a VERY short range of motion but we want to hold
that position for at least a few seconds to get
target stress on the muscles.
You'll do one set
at the beginning of every workout and one set
at the end of every workout you do.
I've found this
high-frequency approach to work extremely well
because it allows your body to gradually adapt
over time. You don't set giant goals that you
get spooked about and don't think you'll ever
achieve - you set small, achievable, repeatable
goals that build on each other to get you to the
Once you can do
at least 10 reps of this partial-range and pause
training, then it's on to Phase 3...
Now we move on to
Negative Training. You may have heard of this
before...now you're going to put it to use!
We've built up a
foundation of grip strength (which is HUGE) and
a foundation of pulling power in the strongest
range of motion of the exercise (the bottom few
inches). It's time to test yourself against gravity.
Set a chair, bench
or box in front of the chin-up bar. Ideally, it
should be a height where you can stand on it and
put yourself into the top position of the chin-up
(chin just above the bar) while still standing
Because what you'll
be doing next is gripping the bar, getting into
position then lowering yourself down slowly. This
is called a "negative rep."
But here's the key that a lot of people miss when
it comes to Negative Training...
The idea is to
not just passively lower yourself down...the idea
is to ACTIVELY FIGHT GRAVITY all the way down!
So when you take
your grip on the bar and take your feet off the
bench, I want you to try your darndest to pull
yourself UP, even though gravity is pulling you
This generally will
result in a slow downward rep, with you fighting
it all the way. When you get to the bottom, let
go of the bar, climb back onto the bench and repeat.
In your negative
set, perform reps in this fashion until one of
two things happens...
1. You grab the
bar, take your feet off the bench and can't slow
your descent at all, dropping right into the position
within a second or two.
2. You get to 6
reps of this negative training in your set.
What do those guidelines
mean? In the first one, it means your muscles
aren't actually doing any more work and there's
no reason to continue.
In the second, when
we hit 6 reps, that's plenty when it comes to
negative training. If, on that sixth rep, you
can still control your descent, you're doing well!
So here's the deal...in
your workouts (again one set at the beginning
and one set at the end of every single workout
you do), do this negative training. This will
probably amount to 3 to 5 times per week, depending
how frequently you're in the gym.
Keep going in this
fashion until you are able to do 6 negative reps
and on the SIXTH rep, you can still pretty well
control your descent and don't just crash down.
Now, for one calendar
week, NO chin-up training. You're going to give
your muscles a break from the specific training
and allow them to recover.
The last step
before hitting chins on your own is the
Flexed Arm Hang. Now that your muscles have
recovered from the Negative Training, we're
going to set that bench back up and get
you into the top position of the chin.
feet off the bench and HOLD that top chin
position for as long as you can. Hold it
until your arms start to straighten and
your lats start to give.
Now FIGHT that all
the way down until you're hanging at arms-length
on the bar. That's it! Just one set and one rep,
done ONLY at the beginning of each workout (when
you're strongest), not at the end.
Repeat this procedure
(one set of hanging at the start of each workout)
until you can hang for at least 30 seconds before
you start to lower down.
Once you can do
that, it's SHOW TIME!
YOUR FIRST CHIN-UP
Give yourself a
few days off from the Flexed Arm Hang phase before
doing your first chin. You want to be fully recovered
and feeling strong!
Grab the bar (at
this point, you will be so used to grabbing the
chin-up bar that there will be NO fear associated
with it, as there may have been before). You'll
KNOW you can do this.
Tighten your grip,
tighten your muscles, then PULL!
Because of all the
background work you've done, I have a feeling
you're going FLY right up!
Heck, when you get
the first one, if you feel good, try a second
And finally, if you do go through this chin-up
program and WHEN you do your first chin-up, send
me an email and tell me your story! I want to
hear from you!