It is with great pride that I tell and show you that I can do chin ups.
Not so long ago that seemed a near-impossible task. Last year when preparing for an upcoming race – The Tough Bloke Challenge – my trainer mentioned chin-ups would be an ideal area to work on. The challenge included several obstacles where hanging and holding your own body weight was required. Having always been decent at holding my own weight on the monkey bars at school I wondered how similar these two exercises may be… turns out… not so much!
Eventually I could maintain a few chin-ups in a set though this particular type of strength training was not what I had been working on at the time. Even so; the joy I felt when I could actually perform a few chin-ups was wonderful! There is, without doubt, mental obstacles to performing chin-ups. Hanging there it can feel insane to think that you can lift your body up and over that bar!!
Fast forward to now and chin-ups form part of my strength training; I complete 4 sets of these twice a week. By no means am I the only person performing this exercise though I notice 9 out of 10 people who also do chin-ups; do so incorrectly. I was fortunate to be shown by my trainer the correct technique; not just for injury-prevention though also to ensure strength progression. The #1 mistake that I see people making is crossing their legs and #2 is not fully extending the arms. Having been to a few cross-fit classes in my time; I know that their style of chin-ups can vary; often using momentum which for certain movements is appropriate.
A classic chin up however, is performed with an underneath grip, starts from hanging (legs uncrossed) and with straight arms. The concept is to pull your body up until your chin is over the bar (hence the name) and repeat. As you progress, many people will add a weighted belt to themselves so you can continue to challenge yourself. As can be seen from my below results table; I am now performing this exercise with a baby weight (1.25kg) tied around my hips.
In no way do chin-ups make me “manly” or bulky. In fact, my arms have never been more toned and I have NEVER been this strong.
When completing chin-up sets my heart rate averages 184BPM (beats per minute) which is what it hits during sprint interval training! Every part of me is working to get my body up and over that bar and there is true feeling of satisfaction when you do in fact complete them!
This table of progress has been edited to only show per week progress since early May 2013 (I couldn’t fit the rest in!) For my current training program, the aim is to complete 4 x sets of 6 and then move up in weight load. As you can see this took me 1 month of 2 sessions per week – not bad!!
|With 1.25KG weight|
In terms of which muscles are activated in your body, there is a great diagram below-right which shows primary, secondary and tertiary muscular usage when performing chin-ups.
Of course if you do little-to-no strength work now and/or have never attempted a chin-up in your life; Mum and I would strongly advise that you do not attempt these straight away. A common machine in most fitness clubs/gyms is the assisted chin-up; where-by stacked weights counterbalance your body weight and provide you with a helping hand up. There is absolutely no shame in starting here if chin-ups are your goal; I did! It is a wonderful and safe way to build the strength required to perform traditional chin ups.
Once you do progress; 2 great little tricks that I have learnt are:
- Hold yourself above the bar for as long as possible
- When you lower yourself, take your time! 30 seconds on the way down is a killer and so helpful to build the strength required to perform chin-ups…these are called negatives.
If you decide to challenge yourself with chin-ups I would love to hear about your progress!