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5 Ways to Improve Your Chin Ups
9th Aug

2017

Chin ups are a  great test of upper body pulling strength.

It is an equaliser among strong men and women. People who are great at chin ups have a fantastic strength to body weight ratio, which is crucial to be able to complete many unassisted chin ups.

The muscles that allow you to complete the movements are the major muscles in your back and your arms. More specifically, the latissimus dorsi (lats), trapezius (traps), rhomboids, biceps brachi and brachioradialis. In order to complete the movement, these muscles contract to extend the shoulder joint (and adduct, depending on the type of chin up), while flexing the elbow. This exercise promotes good shoulder stability and upper back strength.

There are many different reasons to have chin ups in a strength program, depending on the overall goals, such as maximal strength versus strength endurance. The following methods will improve your chin ups in a general sense, rather than from a goal specific focus.

  1. Use bands

Chin Ups with bands

Chin Ups with bands

Resistance bands will be able to assist you through the movement and enable assistance in the concentric phase of the movement (pulling up-muscles shortening). When the band is stretched, the elastic force will reduce the load that is being lifted, allowing you to complete full repetitions. If you are a beginner, use them for each repetition. If you are advanced, use them only at the end of a set, so that you can complete 2-3 forced repetitions.     

  1. Isometric Sets

Isometric Hold

Isometric Hold

Isometric exercises are ones where we hold a fixed position for a period of time. This form of exercise is great for beginners, as it promotes ligament and tendon strength. This activity will develop greater grip strength, and improve your ability to simply hold your body-weight. For more advanced trainers, isometric exercises are great for developing endurance through a particular range of motion, such as from half-hang or dead-hand. If you are a beginner, get to the top of the position using a bench or step, and hold yourself there for 20 seconds, and build up by 5 seconds per week. If you are advanced, you may want to add resistance, such as a dumbbell, to make it more difficult.

  1. Eccentric Reps

Our muscles are able to produce large amounts of force in the eccentric (lowering down- muscles lengthening) component of the movement. Eccentric reps would involve beginning similar to the isometric sets position (see above), but slowly lowering yourself down in a controlled manner, for a count of 5 seconds, the use assistance to get back to the top (like jumping/step/bench) and repeat. Beginners should only do this once per week for 3-5 repetitions for 2-3 sets. Advanced trainers could use this as an overloading technique at the end of a working set for 2-3 repetitions.

  1. Do Pull Ups

Pull Ups

Pull Ups

These are not just another name for chin ups. They are a different exercise, the opposite of a push up. They are also called supine rows. Although the movement pattern is slightly different, the motor pathways are the same and they are great for adding volume to your workout, while also allowing your body to get used to hanging. This exercise promotes great scapula control and physical adaptation. Beginners should use these as the main exercise until more strength is developed. Advanced trainers can use this as a volume builder and can mix up the exercise (feet elevated, web trainers, ropes, poles, etc.)

 

 

Pull ups with ropes

Pull ups with ropes

 

Pull ups on suspension handles

Pull ups on suspension handles

 

  1. Do it every day

This does not mean train to failure every day. Nor work your muscles to a point where they cannot move each session. This simply means train at a very low volume for a high frequency. For example, if your best chin ups number is 15, then do 3 sets of 3 (9 reps total per day) every day for 2 weeks, then build up by 3-5 reps per day each week. This will develop motor pathways that will promote strength and facilitate grater adaptation rather than protein degradation, like in massive training sessions.

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