Saturday, May 18, 2013

How to Keep Your Chin-Up and Chin a Bar

Keep Your Chin-Up if You are Unable to Chin a bar.

Keep Your Chin Up

The Chin-up exercise is a great indicator of overall upper body strength, and used extensively as a measure of upper body strength in a variety of Fitness Tests(Ex.). If you are trying to improve your upper body strength, using the chin-up, or pull-up exercise, is a valuable part of any strength training regimen. But, what if you cannot do a chin-up. Well, keep your chin-up and use this as a motivator to increase your upper body strength. After a while you will be able to test yourself by getting your chin over the bar, not just once, but repetitively.

What muscles do I have to work to get stronger at the chin-up/pull-up? 

The upper body muscles used to perform the chin-up include large muscles of the back, shoulder and arms. There is also great emphasis of the abdominal muscles providing stability.
The chin-up exercise is performed with the hands facing you (supinated grip), and a pull-up is performed with the back of hands facing you (pronated grip).

Pull-Up Muscles
Primary Muscles Used:
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Mid and Low trapezius
  • Pectoralis Major and Minor
  • Bicep brachii
Secondary Muscles Used:
  • Teres Major
  • Triceps
  • Rhomboids
  • Erector spinae
  • Rotator Cuff
  • Abdominals
The average muscle activation values were as follows: latissimus dorsi (117-130%), biceps brachii (78-96%), infraspinatus (71-79%), lower trapezius (45-56%), pectoralis major (44-57%), erector spinae (39-41%), and external oblique (31-35%). The pectoralis major and biceps brachii had a significantly higher EMG activation when performing the chin-up when compared to the pull-up, however the lower trapezius was more active during the pull-up. The general pattern of activation suggests that pull-ups and chin-ups were initiated by the lower trapezius and pectoralis major and completed with biceps brachii and latissimus dorsi recruitment.
This study highlighted that the latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, lower trapezius, pectoralis major are the main muscles activated when performing pull-ups and chin-ups.
Youdas JW, Amundson CL, Cicero KS, Hahn JJ, Harezlak DT, Hollman JH.J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Dec;24(12):3404-14 
**Special Note: Mr. Youdas was an influential mentor of mine while a student of Physical Therapy at Mayo Clinic. He continues to be enthusiastic on the biomechanics of exercise. 

How can I do 10 Chin-Ups if I can only do a few now.

Keep your chin-up. Consider, if anything is easy then you will only have to make it more challenging. Strength development is all about defining areas of you body that need work. Maybe there are areas of your body that are under developed due to lifestyle, or work and sport activities. Consider a Gymnast. The gymnastic athlete requires the constant ability to chin up to a bar or rings as a part of their routine. The ability to advance from a few reps of a chin-up to 10, or multiple sets, will take some dedicated hard work, sweat, and discipline to push yourself, or pull yourself if you will, focusing on each rep along the way.
Check out the video below on Tips to Improve Your Pull-Up Ability.

Tips to Improve Your Chin-Pull Up

Once you are able to do 10 reps of a pull/chin up try to shoot for performing multiple set of 50% of your max repetitions.
Example: If you are able to do 12 reps max, then perform 6 reps of the exercise, rest 20-30 seconds and perform a second set. Continue this until you are unable to perform 6 reps. Once you are able to peform 5 sets of 6 reps(30 total reps) perform a new one set max(How many pull/chin ups can you perform without rest?). 
This will establish your new max reps for pull/chin ups. You can then re-set your workout. You can also vary this test by seeing how many reps you can do in a time limit. This can be anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes. 
This continued test-workout-retest will keep you moving forward, motivated and goal oriented.

What exercises will make performing a Chin-Up easier.

Exercises that compliment improvement of the chin-up, or pull-up, are isolating those muscles that are engaged during the movement. When performing the chin-up movement there are specific Actions, namely scapular adduction, shoulder extension and adduction, bicep flexion and flexion of the wrist and fingers to grasp the bar.

Performing machine-based and isotonic free weight exercise incorporating these specific muscle actions will support strength gains that will improve your chin/pull up.

  • Seated pulldowns with varied grip
  • Pectoral Strength
    • Bench Press and Flys at varied angles
  • Seated or standing mid rows

  • Kneeling pulldowns

  • Bent-over Flys
  • Performing high rows with towels for increased grip strength

If we can develop strength in the muscles activated in a chin-up using a range of other exercises, we will be in better shape when it comes to standing beneath the dreaded bar.

The Chin-Up Challenge

How many Chin-up can you perform in a 2-minute period of time? Leave a Comment Below.