12 Weeks Until Your First Chin Up!
The Ultimate Back BuilderChin ups are one of the best indicators of fitness and strength-to-bodyweight ratio. Navy SEALs regularly perform chin ups as part of their fitness tests. Gymnasts perform chin ups and its variations on a daily basis, and they boast some of the most impressive back development among athletes! While the chin up is often regarded as an upper back exercise (latissimus dorsi and biceps to be exact), it actually involves many more muscles in the body. Your abdominal muscles and glutes will all play a role in lifting your chin over that bar, so the chin up should really be seen as a total body exercise.
Pull-ups vs Chin-ups
The difference between a chin up and a pull up is your grip. The pull up uses an overhand (pronated) grip while the chin up mainly uses a neutral or underhand (supinated grip). The pull up tends to work the brachialis and brachioradialis (muscles around the forearm) while the chin up works all the muscles in the biceps more equally.
If you can’t do a chin-up yet, it’s really worth having a go at training for it. It will renew your confidence in the gym, give you a goal to work toward and improve your strength through your whole upper body and core. This article will detail an excellent program to get your first chin-up within 12 weeks!
First, let’s have a look at the exercises. Before you can effectively perform a full-body weight chin up, you’ll need to start off with easier variations of the chin up. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to progress the exercises. When you reach a certain level of proficiency, through consistent practice, you’ll be able to perform chin-ups all by yourself! Let’s begin with the easiest variations:
Exercise #1: Ring Rows
- Set the rings at around waist height. (If you don’t have rings, you can use a bar on a rack)
- Take a wider than shoulder-width grip on the bar and hang underneath the rings with your feet positioned in front of you and your legs straight.
- Using your arms, pull your chest to the bar.
- Hold for a 1-2 second count at the top of the movement and squeeze your back (imagine pinching a pencil between your shoulder blades)
- Lower yourself down slowly, until your arms are straight and repeat.
Exercise #2: Scap Pulls
- Hang from a pull-up bar
- Keeping your arms straight, try and lift yourself.
- Think about pulling your shoulder blades down toward your back pockets. This is called scapula depression.
- Hold at the top for a 3-4 second count, and lower yourself down. Repeat.
- This is a great exercise for improving the lower portion of the lift where most people are weak.
Exercise #3: Eccentric chin ups
- Find a box or a bench that is high enough for you to get your chest to the bar.
- Keeping your scapula depressed, hang from the bar and slowly lower yourself down.
- Lower yourself down in 5-10 seconds.
- Repeat until you can no longer make the required time
Exercise #4: Banded chin ups
- Find a resistance band and hook it to the pull-up bar.
- Place a foot or knee in the band.
- Keep your glutes squeezed, and abs braced while pulling your chest to the bar.
- Come back down in three to four seconds and repeat.
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