Do you see what I see?
If you see a sad little chin-up bar tucked away in a closet full of miscellaneous items, then yes—you see what I see. And no, I won't tell you how long it's been there. Needless to say, I've since moved it. To here, actually:
I've made it my mission to perfect my pull-ups. I hope to get better at chin-ups, too. I've never had much success with either, despite training on the parallel bars in my younger years. Despite the fact that I continuously work to strengthen my upper body. Right now, I'm good for two chin-ups and one pull-up. Unassisted, of course. I'm thinking this means a more focused training regime is in order. Practice makes perfect, right? Let the perfection begin.
But first—let's define the difference between a pull-up and a chin-up. In both cases, your chin comes up and over the bar. (Well, in theory at least.) So what gives? Hand placement. When performing a pull-up, your hands grip the bar above you so that your palms face away from you. Your lats (big muscle in your back) help bring your chin up and over the bar. And when performing a pull-up, your hands grip the bar above you so that your palms face toward you. This shifts the effort to your biceps—and it's an action that's quite different from a bicep curl. Hence, the focused training regime.
If you want to get better, get stronger at a particular action, you have to mimic the action as best you can while gradually progressing to the actual action. (Ever see a runner lightly jog before a race? That's what I mean.) That said, here's how I plan to tackle my newfound goals of perfecting my pull-up and chin-up regime. Perhaps it can work for you, too.
1) LAT PULLDOWNS: We have a machine at my gym built specifically for this, but I much prefer to
use the cable version. You know, the one with the wide bar. I feel as though it forces me to work
harder. And it also allows me to get the grip-width I want, one that won't hurt my shoulders. And
speaking of grip, I can mimic pull-ups and chin-ups effectively in terms of hand placement (palms
facing either toward or away from me).
work best with a pull-up grip, which is fine. I always start with the bar
at chest height, then I hang beneath it so that my rear is almost on the floor.
This seems to catch my lats in just the right place. And, no—the bar won't
fall on you. (At least it shouldn't if your Smith machine is in good
condition.) One thing I never thought to do: raise the bar when the going
gets easy. I recently read this tip in Oxygen. They say it helps you progress
to the point where you're no longer even on the ground. Translation: It
helps you progress to a real chin-up. Needless to say, I think I'm ready to
take it up a notch.
3) NEGATIVES: I must confess that I don't normally do these, and I think that's why I haven't yet
mastered the pull-up or the chin-up! Joke's on me, for sure. To perform a negative, you have to start
with your chin up and over the bar, using either grip. Slowly lower yourself down to what would
typically be the starting position. Don't just fall—the goal is to force your arms to control your
body weight. This motion is, after all, half of an actual pull-up or chin-up! Feel free to use a bench
or plyo box to get yourself up to the bar. I, for sure, will need one.
4) ASSISTED PULL-UPS AND CHIN-UPS: Various ways to do this! First, check and see if your gym
has a machine for this purpose. They all look different, otherwise I'd show you a picture. In our
gym, you stand on a platform adjusted according to your weight, after which you can perform both
pull-ups and chin-ups. (You can also do dips, typically.) I like this machine, although I haven't really
done it with the chin-up grip because the handles feel a bit too wide for me. No such machine at
your gym? Working from home with an over-the-door system or jungle gym? Loop an exercise band
around the bar to achieve the same effect.
I'm sure—actually, I know—there are more ways to train for pull-ups and chin-ups. These'll be the four I employ for a bit. And I might just leave my over-the-door system up for a while and pop one or two reps out here and there. Who knows, it might turn into three or four reps. God willing, five or six! Dare I hope to get up to ten in a row at some point?
Why, yes—I do dare.
Wish me luck.
Question: How many chin-ups can you do in a row? Pull-ups?