Today I’ll be breaking down possibly one of the best bang for your buck upper body exercises out there, the chin-up. Chin-ups can provide a whole host of great benefits when they are appropriately programmed into someone’s routine, but like any exercise, if they are performed poorly, you will miss out on reaping the full reward of your hard work, and I’d hate for that to happen to you.
What it does for you:
Chin-Ups have a whole lot to offer anyone who is looking to become a fitness badass. They’re benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Increased upper body strength.
- Improved grip strength
- Great recruitment of abs
- Hypertrophy of upper back and arm musculature
Simply put, if you want to attain Rockstar status, do your chin-ups!
How to perform them:
Simple right?? Grab onto a bar above your head and pull yourself up by any means necessary. Swingin, “Kipping”, sticking your chin out to get it over the bar, etc. are all acceptable options, and, voila!! …….
Ummm….. Not so fast.
Unfortunately, I think this is the approach that many people take when doing chin-ups, and…. well…. it hurts my eyes watching them. Hopefully they’ll discover my blog soon, and we can save them from their spastic ways.
So down to business, the first thing I generally cue my clients to do when performing a chin-up is to grip the bar as hard as they can, and to keep their chest up, and head back the entire time.
Too often people think about solely getting their chins over the bar, which will often times cause them to throw their heads forward and also lunge at the bar. When this happens, it can create a ton of stress on the shoulders and elbows, and really limit the recruitment of their lats, rhomboids, and the lower portion of their traps.
Instead, as you begin the chin-up, think about the bar making contact with your chest. Rather than pulling yourself up to the bar, think about pulling the bar down to you. It sounds like I’m arguing semantics here, but this simple cue has helped many of my clients maintain their posture and increase the recruitment of their lats, just by shifting their focus.
As you pull, squeeze your shoulder blades down and back. Imagine you were trying to take your left shoulder blade and put it into your right back pocket of your pants and vice-versa.
While you continue to pull your abs should be braced, and your pelvis in a slight posterior tilt. If done correctly your feet will be positioned slightly in front of your body. Think concave not convex with your abdomen.
At the point of contact with the bar, your shoulder blades should be squeezed together tightly and as we discussed earlier, your chest in contact with the bar.
Lower yourself down in a controlled manner until your arms are fully extended, and repeat.
Just to reiterate, my cues are:
- Squeeze the chin-up bar hard at the start and keep your chest up.
- Pull the bar down to you!
- Squeeze your shoulder blades back and down
- Concave abdomen, not convex.
When done correctly the Chin-up should look like this:
As with all of the exercises I try to breakdown on Technique Tuesday the chin-up can be extremely versatile in it’s application with regards to exercise programming.
For the beginner trainee, Chin-Ups or one of their variations, should be a staple of your program assuming there are no physical limitations you are dealing with at the time. Many of my clients first come to me having not done a chin-up/pull-up in many years if ever, and in these cases we often program in the chin-ups or some form of regressions multiple times a week to give them maximum exposure to help them develop the necessary motor patterns to become proficient with them.
For the more advanced lifter, if your goal is simply getting stronger, adding in weighted chin-ups to your routine as an accessory exercise can greatly improve your strength levels in the big three lifts (Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift). If your goal is hypertrophy of the upper back, adding in Chin-Ups at a higher volume (increased total reps/workout) with a variety of grip widths and positions can be just what you needed to help you spread your wings.