How to Get Better at Chin Ups and Pull Ups

Welcome back to our weekly “Ask Your Trainer” segment. This week James tackles the question, How do I get better at chin ups?”

How to get that chin-up just right

Most importantly, exercises are meant to put stress on the muscles, not hurt you. If doing the full range of motion is putting pain, our goal is to bring you just before the motion that begins to inflict pain.

Typically chin-ups are defined as the palms facing towards your face as you are pulling up. Pull-ups are with palms facing outward. And the neutral-grip (palms facing towards each other) all offer different muscle use.

It is recommended to start with a neutral grip as it puts the less stress on the shoulders and elbows while exercising.

Important Cues:

The Scapula should move as you bring yourself in the upward motion.
Keep tension in the lats and scapular muscles at the bottom of the movement
A helpful cue would be to think of the scapula as being sticky – moving freely but under control.

The legs generally shouldn’t move, this is considered “cheating.” Some leg movement is okay but this needs to be kept under control and close watch.

Over-arching the lower back- You don’t need to form a perfect plank while chinning, but keep an eye on lumbar hyperextension and excessive anterior pelvic tilt, especially at the bottom of the movement.

Not everyone is going to be able to do a pull-up but ways to get people ready are…

Top Position Holds- hold the chin above the bar in the top position for as long as possible, at least 10 seconds and repeat this for 3-5 sets.

Band – Bands placed on the foot, and then bands placed on the knee if they are able to do the bands on the feet with ease.

Buddy Assisted – make sure that the partner is helping on the way up and on the way down. The big thing to remember is muscle control, common errors are to commonly release completely on the way down, make sure you assist the same on the way up as the way down.

Here’s a video from Callie with one bonus tip, how to work on the “negatives” to improve your chin ups: