IN THE GYM - Chin Ups




Keep Your Chin Up


Chin-ups involve the sternal portion of the pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, teres major, posterior deltoid, the rhomboids, the middle and lower portions of the trapezius, and the elbow flexors. A wide variety of sports require strength in these muscles, particularly sports that require powerful upper body pulling action such as judo and wrestling.

A chin-up specialization program will not only build impressive width and thickness to your back but will also pack solid inches on your arms by promoting growth on your biceps, brachialis, brachio-radialis and pronator teres. You only have to look at the arm development of Olympic gold medalists in gymnastics Andreas Wecker (GER) and Yurij (ITA) to be convinced. These individuals are not known for their volume of training on the Scott bench, but more for their countless volume of pull-ups and chin-ups on the various gymnastics apparatus.

I already can hear the people say, "I will just substitute pulldowns instead of chins". Sure go ahead but you will not get the same results, and you will still have the lat spread of a cigarette. The neuro-physiological reasons why chin-ups are superior to pulldowns are beyond the scope of this article. But to put it briefly: a classic example of the difference between chin-ups and pulldowns is the fact that a chin-up is a close-chin exercise (body moves towards resistance) and a lat pulldown is an open chain exercise (resistance moves towards the body).

These two types of exercise (open vs close chain) require completely different recruitment patterns although the exercises may look similar visually. But the fact that is clear, a great back is built much faster through chins than through pulldowns. Very much the same way that squats and deadlifts cannot be matched for lower body development.



Chin-Ups vs Pull-Ups: What Is The Difference?

In kinesiologese, and throughout this article, pull-ups are chin-ups done with a pronated grip (palms down grip) and chin-up are done with either a semi-supinated (palms facing each other) or with a supinated grip (palms facing you grip). What is the best grip for chins?

There is no such thing as a best grip for performing chins. Empirically speaking, the people I know with the best upper back development use a myriad of grips to recruit as many back muscles as possible. You just have to look at the upper back development of the gymnasts who medalled recently in the still rings event at the Atlanta Olympic Summer Games.



How To Perform Chin-Ups Properly...

Your most basic chin-up is the supinated chin-up. This type of chin-up have the greatest range of movements from all chin-ups for both the lats and upper arms. The starting position begins with a bar grasp in a supinated or palms up position. The hands should be held at shoulder width or slightly narrower. The arms should be straightened in a fully extended position with the torso in line with the upper arms. To begin the ascent, the relatively strong upper back and elbow flexor muscles will be used, as the elbows are drawn down and back.

Click To Enlarge Supinated Chin-Up! The ascent should continue until the chin clears the bar. It's important to remember that before initiating the ascent, the athlete should inhale. During the ascent, the pulling action and leaning back action must be done simultaneously. Upon descent, exhaling begins and the trunk should come back to an upright position. As the descent is completed, the arms should be fully extended and the shoulder blade should be elevated. (THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT) To complete the range of motion, the upper arms and scapulae adductors must be stretched on every repetition. The legs should stay in line with the torso as much as possible. There should be no flexion of the hips, as this will lower the quality of the exercise.

Wrist straps can be used by trainees who have weak forearm strength and risk losing their grip, or for trainees who find that their forearm muscles are fatiguing before the upper back. However, I prefer if the trainee does not use straps, as in the real sporting (i.e. judo match) you will need to use your lats without the help of the crutches that straps are.



Progressions Of Chin-Ups

Undoubtedly, the chin-up requires a certain amount of strength. For novice trainees, starting a strength program, using a series of progressions will help build up the strength level.

The first progression starts with the athlete hanging from the chin-up bar. The knees should be bent. Then a spotter should support the athlete at the ankles during the ascent. If extra assistance is required during this phase, the athlete can extend the legs against the spotter's base of support. Once able to perform 12 repetitions in this style with minimal assistance, the athlete is ready to move on to the next progression.

In this progression, the same position is used, but this time only one ankle should be in the spotter's hands. The extra weight of the free leg will increase the overload on the muscles, providing you are overcompensating with the other leg. That is the reason a good spotter who gives you just enough help at the waist is a much better alternative.

When 12 repetitions can be performed with minimal assistance, the athlete can move on. Here the position is the same, but this time the spotter will hold the waist. As the athlete strengthens, he or she will require assistance only in certain parts of the range of motion. During this portion of the movement, the spotter should offer only enough assistance to help in clearing the bar. Once to this point, the athlete will be able to perform the full range of movement without any assistance. The athlete is now ready to use additional loads. An increase in overload is accomplished by one of the following:

Placing a dumbbell between the ankles
Wearing a power hook attached to a weightlifting belt.
Wearing a chin/dip belts with weights attached to it.

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