The Ultimate Chin Up Guide

by Ben Thompson


The chin up if often considered the upper body equivalent of the squat. It is a fantastic at developing the musculature of the upper back and is a great indicator of relative strength.

The exercise is one of the simplest however most mentally challenging exercises to master. It is often done with poor technique and there is no structured progression to getting stronger.

The hardest part for most people is getting their first rep. The key is ensuring you build strength using the correct technique and do not create bad habits. Problems usually arises from grinding away performing reps with no tempo and terrible technique. 

"Poor Technique Reinforces Poor Technique" 

Exercise Technique

 One of the most common errors we see in the chin up is 'shrugging' when performing the lift. This breakdown in technique causes the upper traps to be recruited which leads to the under development of the middle back and even worse, a sore neck!

This occurs because in the majority of the population the upper traps are the 'default' muscle group instead of the middle / lower traps. 

To correct this and ensure you get the most out of the movement, ensure your shoulder blades move “BACK & DOWN” as you perform the lift. 

So you still might be thinking, what is the correct technique for a chin up?

Allow the body to completely hang. Elbows fully extended, scapulae fully elevated and upwardly rotated and the shoulder joint fully flexed. This is the start position. 

To start the movement, pull your shoulder blades 'back and down' as your flex your arms, beginning the accent. Continue pulling till your upper chest makes contact with the bar. In this position your elbows should be flexed, with your shoulder blades back and down. 

The decent should be controlled till you reach your start position. 

No reps are counted unless full range is used

Now your know what to do, what is the best plan to get stronger? 

While everyone will begin their chin up joruney at a different start point, there as some simple guidelines that prove great results time and time again. Before going any further, Charles Poliquin must be acknowledged for the philosophies used. 

Stage 1: Slow Eccentrics

Stage 2: 3 x 8 Sec Holds

follow a program with different phases to work specific portions of the lift. —

Start by building isometric strength but focusing on holding at the top, middle or bottom. After a number of weeks this could be progress to an eccentric phase. Jump up to the top and control yourself to the fully stretched position. This eccentric component could be anywhere from 5-30secs. 

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