I was at this fairly new gym this morning working with a client. I wanted to start her workout with some chin-ups (she’s capable of doing 2-3/set). I searched and searched and searched, yet couldn’t find a real chin-up bar anywhere. There wasn’t even one on the power rack, just some square bar going across the top. Yes, they had the Gravitron machine, but I hate that piece. And yes, there was a lat pulldown machine but it’s just not the same. And you know what? No one in the gym, workers or members, probably even care. What happened to chin-ups?
If the squat or deadlift are the kings of lower body exercises, the chin-up (or pull-up) is the king of upper body exercises. Usually, I get lots of questions about muscular or strength development. I’ll ask the person what their current workout is and I can not find chin-ups or pull-ups anywhere. You want big arms? Work on chin-ups. You want real world strength? Work on chin-ups. No one cares how much you can do on the lat pulldown machine, but they will be impressed if you can a good set of chin-ups.
So what if you can not do one chin-up? It does not mean you have to resort to the lat pulldown machine. There are better ways to build up your chin-up strength. One way is to work on the lowering portion of the lift. Hop up to the bar and try lowering yourself at a 10 second count. Perform 3 sets of 3 reps, and gradually try to extend the time of each rep from session to session. Another way is working with Superbands. Loop the band through a bar and hook one knee in. Once you can do 8-10 reps, move to a lighter band. Here is video from strength coach Mike Boyle demonstrating band chin-ups.
Or if you’re working out with a partner, hang from the bar and have your partner hold your ankles. As you perform the chin-up, the partner will give you as much help as you need. Once you can do 8-10, have the partner hold one ankle. Once you can do 8-10 have your partner assist you from the waist, giving you as much as help as you need.
So there you have it. No more excuses for not doing chin-ups. Yes, they are difficult. But when was working out supposed to be easy. And if your gym doesn’t have a chin-up bar, ask them why? If they direct you over to the the lat pulldown machine, it’s time to find somewhere else to train. Good luck.