Can't Do A Chin-Up? Do This First

fitness Aug 09, 2018

Nothing’s more empowering than getting your first chin-up in the gym. Makes ya feel like such a bad ass. The problem? Chin-ups are a super hard movement. Feel like you’re a long ways away from your first? Not to worry, I got you.

Step 1: Build that back

Chin-ups use primarily the muscles of your back and biceps. This means by the time you can do a few reps, your back is gonna look amazing. But this also means your back is going to need a lot of work to get your chin over the bar. To build a strong, healthy, and good looking back, you need to focus on two movement patterns:

Vertical pulls: Pulling down from overhead. Obviously, you need to be strong at these to pull yourself up over the bar.

Horizontal pulls: Pulling back from in front of you. The “rowing” movement. These are super important to keeping your shoulders healthy, good posture, etc.

Prescription: Add/substitute for your typical back work. 3 days per week. Repeat 3-4 weeks.

Day 1:

Dumbbell rows 3 sets of 8-12/side. 90 sec rest.

Close neutral grip pull down 3 sets of 6-10. 90 sec rest. 

Day 2:

Barbell rows 3 sets of 6-10. 2 min rest.

Face pulls 3 sets of 15-20. 60 sec rest. 

Day 3:

Medium grip lat pull downs 3 sets of 8-12. 90 sec rest.

Cable row 3 sets of 8-12. 90 sec rest.


Step 2: Work The Negatives

You’ve put in the work on your back. You’re ready for the next step: negative chin-ups. 

Personally, I’ve seen dozens upon dozens of my clients progress their chin-ups from “not even close” to “I really did it!” in a short period of time using negative chin-ups.

Why? The negative works the exacts same muscle groups an actual chin-up does (and extremely hard at that).

Stand on a box, gripping the chin-up bar with palms facing you. Jump up to where your chin is over the bar. Hold your chin above the bar for a 5 count, before lower yourself as slowly as possible, until the arms are fully extended. When done correctly, these should be brutal


Prescription: Add/substitute for your typical back work. 3 days per week. Repeat 3-4 weeks.

Day 1:

Negative chin-ups 3 sets of 3. 2 min rest.

T-bar rows 3 sets of 8-10. 90 sec rest.

Day 2:

Pendlay rows 4 sets of 5. 2 min rest.

Band pull aparts 3 sets of 15-20. 60 sec rest.

Day 3:

Negative chin-ups 3 sets of 3. 2 min rest.

Dumbbell row 3 sets of 6-8. 2 min rest.

Start every Monday by attempting a full chin-up test to see how close you are. Repeat this weekly. The biggest key to getting your first chin-up is simply working on it consistently. Stick to the program. Promise you’ll be surprised how quickly it happens.

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