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

By Jeremiah Bair on Aug 9, 2018 10:16:00 PM
4 Minutes Reading Time


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

Form: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dx740NIKX94

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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Jeremiah Bair

Jeremiah is an ACSM certified Personal Trainer from Nebraska. He also has a Business Management Degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Over the last few years of his career as a personal trainer, he has fallen in love with the way fitness allows him to connect with people. Nothing is more rewarding to him than helping others transform into happier, more confident versions of themselves. His goal is to share his knowledge to help as many as possible lead long, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

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