Master The Chin Up


One of my absolutely favorite upper body exercises is the chin up. Why? Because it’s such a great move to measure relative strength. You need to be strong, but still you can’t allow yourself to get fat in the progress. And with added weight it’s just an awesome upper body muscle builder for any gym rat, even the most advanced one.

It’s brutally taxing on the whole upper body, including the whole back musculature, biceps, chest, abs and even triceps (anatomy lesson of the day: the long head of the triceps muscle originates from the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula and inserts to the olecranon process of the ulna which makes it contribute to extension/adduction of the humerus)


Now here’s the thing: Every man should be able to handle his own bodyweight. Still there are so many guys who can’t do a single chin-up. Most often the reason for that is just plain laziness.

Or looking to much like a whale.

With women it’s a totally different story. Why? Because it’s a really difficult task for a woman to handle her own bodyweight and isn’t something every girl should be able to do if she is training with weights, as it is for men. No, when a girl can do 10 chin ups; it’s prove of brutal strength and often brutally hard work.

That my friends, is damn impressive.

So how can you get those ten reps? I’ll use my training partner and worst client ever as an example of how I do it: my girlfriend (No, she does not have to pay for our workouts). Her biggest training goal for a long time was to do ten chin-ups. The task seemed impossible since she could barely hold on to the bar, just a few months ago. We don’t train in a gym with fancy equipment, bands, chin up assistance machines and so forth. What I work with is the pull up bar, and the trainee. That’s it. And basically that’s all you need. That and a game plan:

The Game Plan: 

1. Negative repetitions. First time a girl tries a chin up she probably won’t move an inch and will come to the conclusion that this is some impossible shit and never try it again. So we start with negatives focusing ONLY on the eccentric (lowering) part of the motion. Basically we get a high platform, get her in the top position and make her hold on to the bar like her life depended on it. In the beginning she’ll drop straight down, but eventually she’ll be able to lower herself slowly and in full control. What I am very clear with is to make sure she works eccentrically through the whole movement, from top all the way to full extension, and not just drop straight down when shit gets heavy.

2. Singles. When she can control the negative part of the motion the transition to her very first chin up often comes naturally. Very often she will reverse that negative motion when it feels right and do a full chin up. This means you automatically progress to singles. Doing eight sets works well here, so if she manages to do 2 full singles, she’ll add another 6 negatives. And when she manages 5 singles she’ll add 3 negatives and so on until she can do all 8 sets as full singles. Then we move to the next stage:

3. Triples. If she can do 8 singles she should be able to pull of at least one triplet. The same way as above we will work up to 8 sets of 3 repetitions. When the girl can do that, it’s time to start working on that max rep set.

4. The max. The training steps mentioned so far can be done 2 times per week. This high volume allows you to get a lot of reps done and allows you to really program a good motor pattern before moving on to the next step and you become more neurologically efficient. From here your two chin up sessions are going to differ. With the first one you go for maximum reps and in thesecond workout you start to add weight and doing sets of three, trying to build up to those 8 sets again, and then add weight again.

And there you have it!

In summary:

1. Negatives
2. Singles + negatives (totally 8 sets)
3. Triples + negatives (totally 8 sets)
4. One max effort workout (one set) and one workout with added weight (totally 8 sets)

Did my girl ever get those 10 reps? At the moment she’s doing 8 sets of 3 with 10lbs added in belt, and her maximum is 11 reps and still increasing steadily. The main goal of hers’ is 15 reps before the summer and I’m positive she’ll make it.

Try it out and watch those numbers increase! And if you against all odds should be a male who reads this and can’t pull of 10 chin ups, you can follow this plan as well. Or just sit in the lat pulldown machine and cry while you watch your chick outnumber you.


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One comment on “Master The Chin Up
  1. This is exactly what I needed to keep on progressing with my chinups! Im stuck at about 3-5 reps. Weighing in at about 95kg morning weight. (Was a fat fuck at 120kg March 2011 when I started my journey) Thanks Bojan!

    Best of regards // Oskar

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  2. […] my head that you should be able to do, in order to try a Twist Of Faith:Regular Pullups (minimum 10)Regular Chinups (minimum 10)Kipping Pullups (about 10-15)Clap Pullups (1-5)“WTF Is The Point Of This?”The point […]

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