Let’s talk about Chin-ups or ‘chins’.

Chin-ups are a great exercise to develop upper body strength especially around the back. The muscles worked include your Lats, Traps, Rhomboids and Biceps, but also a few of the more minor [but just as important] muscles like the rear of shoulder, Forearm Flexors, Abdominals, and Rotator cuff muscles. Because it works so many different muscles we call this a compound exercise.

How can we improve our strength with this exercise?

1st – We need to perform a pull-up with only our body weight. This can be very difficult if you are not blessed with strong genetics or conditioned to lifting weights.

If you cannot lift your body weight, begin with a resistance band looped around the pull-up bar and connected to your feet at the bottom loop, or use a chin-up assisted machine. There are many progressions into a chin-up. Make sure to work in plenty of reps at a weight you can manage and aim to improve the overall number of reps or amount lifted each week [this is a general rule of overload and progression].

Chin-up assisted with resistance band
Chin-up assisted machine

2nd – Form. Palms facing your body, hands shoulder width apart, core engaged. This exercise is easily confused with a pull-up [palms facing forward, and hands are wider than shoulder width].

When completing a pull-up it is important that we activate the full range of motion of our muscles and fully exercise the muscle fibres within them. Extend your arms completely at the bottom and at the top of the exercise – pull your forearm in to your bicep. There should be no gap on the inside of your elbow where the arm folds

3rd – Use your back, not your arms. The Chin-up is a back dominant exercise, focus on your muscles around your upper back contracting and pulling your body up. I like to use the cue of ‘pull through your elbows and contract your shoulder blades together’. When we pull correctly we activate the lat muscles and we should naturally keep a tall chest and tight upper back. The head will naturally move away from the bar and your chest will rise to the bar.

Happy pulling! Please let me know if you found these tips useful.

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