Programming for Chin-Ups
Chin-ups have all the qualities of big barbell lifts and trains muscles of the upper back in a way that the big lifts do not.
In our first chin-up video, we went through the step-by-step tutorial on how to do a chin-up. In this video, we discuss chin-up progression.
But what if you can’t do bodyweight chin-ups yet? Well, this video is for you! In this video we show you how to get your first chin-up with Starting Strength Coach Niki Sims. Getting your first chin-up can be a long and frustrating process. Remember that it takes time and consistency. If you want to do chin-ups, you have to do chin-ups!
For frequency, you are going to do chin-ups twice a week, at opposite end of the week. This program will work best if you are also deadlifting 1-3 times per week as prescribed in the Starting Strength Novice Linear Progression.
On Day 1, you will do band assisted chin-ups for 3 sets of max-effort reps. Use a band that allows you to get 5-7 repetitions per set. When you’ve progressed up to 10 reps for your first set, decrease the assistance of the band (choose a thinner band) to get back down towards 5-7 repetitions.
Once you’ve reached the thinnest band (~1/2”) thick and can do 5-7 reps here, test an unassisted bodyweight chin-up every week. Remember to start from a dead hang, and resist the urge to go full-flail and kip yourself over the bar.
You can also increase the difficulty by changing how you use each band – if you place your knee in the band (right in the middle of your shin), it is easier than placing your foot in the band. You can increase difficulty by starting with your knee in the band and progress to your foot in the band. Then, increase the difficulty by choosing a thinner band.
On Day 2 you will do chin-up negatives. Ease yourself into these by ramping up the number of reps each week as they can make you quite sore initially. Start with arms fully extended. In Phase 1, you will jump to the top, get your chin all the way over the bar and hold up there for 3 seconds. In Phase 2, you will jump to the top and slowly bring yourself down. Measure this with a “count” 1 orangutang/quesadilla/macaroni.
Progress your negatives starting with 6 sets of 1 at a 1-count. Increase by 1 rep each week until you get to 10 sets of 1. Then move on to 2 “counts” for 6 sets of 2. Rest ~30 seconds between sets. You may increase the rest up to 60 seconds if necessary to maintain the count.
Lastly, progress to 5 sets of 3 with a 2 count descent. When you can get to 5 sets of 3 at a 3 count descent, test your bodyweight chin-up again.
Remember, if you are gaining weight during this period of time, your chin-ups won’t likely progress in reps each time you do them. However, if you are maintaining the number of chin-ups you can do while gaining weight, you are actually getting stronger.