Isometric holds will not only strengthen your muscles, they will also improve grip strength. We have put together some exercise regressions to help you increase your chin up strength.
Exercises to Increase Chin Up Strength
Start with exercise 1, and when you’ve mastered that move to 2 and then 3.
1. Bar Assisted Chin Up:
Start upright with your body directly underneath the bar on your toes.
Use your upper body as much as possible (your feet are only there to support).
Keeping your abs tight and shoulder blades down and squeezed, focus on pulling the bar down with your arms driving your elbows down to the floor, your chin must come over the bar before you lower yourself to the start position.
2. Isometric Holds:
Use a step / box to jump yourself up to the top of the bar and hold for 5 seconds (again keep shoulders down and abs tight).
Then practice a dead hang (with straight arms at the bottom).
And finally try and do the same hold half way down (so your elbows are at 90 degrees).
These holds will not only strengthen your muscles, they’ll also improve grip strength (something which many struggle with when starting out)
3. Slow Eccentrics:
Use a step / box to get yourself to the top of the bar and get right in the top position (abs engaged, shoulders back and squeezed).
With as much control as possible, lower yourself down as slowly as possible, until you reach dead hang and hold for a further few seconds there.
Once you can do an eccentric chin up for 15-20 seconds you should be able to get your first chin up!
Chin Up Tips
Here are a few tip that will improve your chin ups, as well as increase the amount you can do or get to the point where you can tick off that elusive first chin up.
1. More Frequency
Starting with the obvious. If you want to get better at something you need to do more of it. Add a max set of chin ups as part of the end of your warm up every time you are in the gym. Either that or perform as many reps as possible in a time period e.g 10 minutes instead of simply 3 sets of x. This is known as EDT.
2. Slow Down The Eccentric
Eccentric means the lowering phase and is the strongest of the three muscle contractions. If you can already perform chin ups slow down the eccentric portion of the lift and on the last rep go as slow as possible. If you cannot perform a bodyweight chin up, renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin, has a theory that once you can do one 30 second eccentric chin up at a steady speed you should be able to perform 1 full chin.
3. Be Strict With Form
This may sound obvious when talking about a ‘strict’ chin up, but you don’t want your legs flailing all over the place. Nor do you want to be curling yourself over the bar at all costs. To fully activate the upper back you need to keep your chest up at the top of the rep.
4. Weak Point Training
This is where bicep curls may be useful when it comes to performance and not just aesthetics. The biceps play a big role in chin up strength and theoretically may have more of a carryover than exercises such as lat pulldowns. If the upper back is weak address that with band work and facepulls etc. Grip strength can also be a weak point for some.
5. Address Mobility
You may be lacking the mobility to get in the correct position at the top. Common problem areas are shoulder mobility, scapular control and thoracic (upper back) mobility.
6. Use Of Bands
Resistance bands are a great way of allowing people who cant perform chins to do them in correct form without creating bad movement patterns by cheating. They provide more help at the bottom, which is the hardest part of the movement, and less at the top.
7. Lose Weight
As I mentioned above chin ups are a matter of relative strength therefore you don’t have to have a masters in physics to realise that the lighter you are the easier they will become.
Use small intra set pauses known as clusters. Say you are trying to get 6 reps, but fatigue after 4. Perform 3 and rest for 20 seconds before performing the second 3.
9. Use External Load
If you can perform 10 bodyweight chin ups its time to start weighting them for lower reps. This will allow you to tap into higher threshold muscle fibres and you will see strength gains.
Chin Up Tutorials
These video cover the above tips.
Get You First Full Body Chin Up
3 Tips to Help You Achieve The Perfect Chin Up
Tips to Improving Your Chin Up
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- Why You Should Aim to Get your First Strict Chin Up
- How to do Your First Full Body Chin Up
- 7 Tips To Improve Your Chin Ups
- 9 Tips to Improving Your Chin Ups
- How Grip Strength Can Make You Stronger