lunedì 28 novembre 2011

A Better Way to do Chin Ups

A Better Way to do Chin Ups Jason FerruggiaHomeStart HereAboutInner CircleStoreContact September 30, 2011A Better Way to do Chin Ups20Welcome newcomers! If you want to build muscle, lose fat, boost your performance and improve your health you're in the right place. To make sure you don't miss out on any new updates you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed and sign up for my newsletter list. Thanks for visiting!

exf rings 001medium A Better Way to do Chin UpsSome things will never change.

Squats, deads, presses, cleans, snatches, pushups, chins and dips will always be the foundation of a good strength training program.

To be explosive you’re never going to be able to beat throwing and jumping.

To be in shape nothing will ever top hill sprints or the Prowler.

One thing that I have changed, however, is the way I coach certain exercises. Chin ups being one of the most noteworthy.

I’ve been down on straight bar chins for quite some time now and haven’t done one myself in years. Over the last few months I have completely eliminated them from my clients programs. What’s funny is I discussed this with another well known strength coach at dinner recently and not too long after he told me he made the same changes to his programs and would never go back.

In my opinion the straight bar chin up places too much stress on the wrists, elbows and shoulders. I’ve seen it and experienced it way too many times and could no longer recommend it in all good conscience. Even if you haven’t experienced it yet chances are good that a steady diet of supinated straight bar chin ups may come back to bite you in the ass… or elbow, eventually.

I’d even say that pull ups (palms facing away from you) on a straight bar should be eliminated as well if you want to be ultra conservative or you have any shoulder problems.

The simple solution is to stick with neutral grip chins/pull ups. If you have one of the best racks in the world from EliteFTS, the monkey bar chin attachment at the top gives you five different grip options to choose from. That should keep you busy for a while.

Another great option is the EZ bar or zig zag style chin up bar. That should be a staple in every gym and should replace the straight bar on the top of all power racks and on all wall mounted chin up bars. Chin ups or pull ups on the EZ bar are far less stressful than the straight bar.

The best option is chin ups on rings. With rings you can use any grip you want. You can start pronated and finish supinated or you can keep a neutral grip the entire time. It’s up to you and can be dictated by what feels safest and most natural for your body.

When you’re on a fixed bar you can’t move naturally and that’s what leads to problems. That’s why for a lot of individuals with shoulder issues, including myself, pushups on rings feel better than pushups on the ground; because you can move more freely and naturally.

If you choose to start doing your chins on rings you should be forewarned that a ten rep max may quickly become 3-4 rep max. This is normal so don’t be frustrated. One quick solution would to attach a band to each ring and put your feet in them while doing your set. When your strength comes up get rid of the bands. The other solution is to just do a bunch of low rep sets until you are strong enough to rep out on the rings like you can on the bar. When you do that you will end up far stronger and have more well developed stabilizer muscles than if you had just stuck with the straight bar the whole time.

Now, if all you have access to is a straight bar it’s not the end of the world. First of all I would do more pull ups than chin ups and I would choose the least stressful grip width. You can also do parallel grip chins by getting sideways under the bar and gripping it with one hand over the other or by placing a V-grip cable attachment over it.

But in my mind it’s worth the investment to find a gym or rack with neutral grip chin up bars or grab yourself a pair of rings.

You’ll pay far less for them than you will for the doctor’s bills later on down the line.

One final note I should make is that the amount of chins you do should be evened out with an equal amount of rowing motion exercises for the upper back. If you don’t do that you will end up with internally rotated shoulders and a host of other problems you’d probably want to avoid.

For the rings I use personally and highly recommend click HERE.

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Related posts:How to Improve Your Chin UpsHow to Improve on Chin UpsJen’s New Chin Up PR (And How We Did It)Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Pull UpsShould You Always Use a Full Range of Motion: Part 2

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Comments on A Better Way to do Chin Ups Leave a CommentSeptember 30, 2011ReplyBrandon Cook @ 8:37 am#

Couldn’t agree more! I have a power tower that allows neutral grip or wide grip… however, I find myself gravitating towards the O-rings. I love the rings because my wrists can move any way I want. You can put the rings out wider and hit the lats with wide grip pull ups or move them in shoulder width to do chins and hit the biceps harder. Sometimes I’ll start in the pull up position with palm facing away and rotate my wrists as I pull up so that when I reach the top my palms are facing towards me. Feels very natural. They are definitely more difficult on the rings, but so is every exercise. Rings rock! Good post.

ReplyCesar @ 8:45 am#

Loved this article. I will have to pick myself up a pair of rings.

FYI, the link you posted at the end of the article for rings takes me to a page for bands.

ReplyJorge Sanchez @ 8:55 am#

Coach would you recommend for beginners (aka people who are not pull up proficient yet) or those who are not strong enough to do more than 5 pull ups the use of rings? What about some form of straps? maybe trx style, or jungle gym style, do you think it would do as good as rings? Thanks for the great content.

ReplyChris @ 9:41 am#

Jason, how do you feel about permanently replacing chins/pull-ups with inverted rows done on Jungle Gym straps?

Replyandy @ 9:46 am#

got some O-rings about a year ago. love them for bw exercises. inverted rows and neutral chins in particular. i still like regular and pronated pull ups but this gives my shoulders a break from the same patern usually change grips every 6-8 weeks.

ReplyBlake @ 10:04 am#

Jason Ferruggia,

Do you think that the Perfect Pullup handles provide similar benefits compared to rings? I will appreciate your thoughts.

ReplyMarc @ 11:14 am#

I love the articles that provide us with advice on sparing our joints from unneccesary trauma.

Question: If I hang rings from my power rack pull-up bar, I will have to bend my knees quite a bit to clear the floor. Do you see any problems with having to bend my knees. Will it adversely effect the exercise?



ReplyMatt Helphingstine @ 11:25 am#

Great post Jason, always looks forward to what you have to say.
I just ordered a pair of these the other day, I heard about them through the Beast Skills website which is worth checking out.
Was Chad Waterbury the coach in question that you met with? He had a similar post about this not too long ago.
Keep up the good work.


ReplyChris @ 11:25 am#

I’ve still got the old school blast straps from elitefts. Would those work???

ReplyMatt Helphingstine @ 11:33 am#

As a postscript to what I previously wrote, Chad’s high frequency approach to pullups (PLP) worked wonders at improving my pullup abilities. It really opened my eyes to how the best way to get better at something is to just keep at it consistently. For me it has become a very excellent motivating factor to keep putting in time at the gym!
The only downside is what you’ve mentioned, the elbow pain. Really looking forward to getting some rings!

ReplyDave @ 11:53 am#

I’ve been using EXF Rings for the last few months and this really hits home with me. The number of pullups I could do dropped rapidly by I’ve since worked my way back up. I like to go from pronated to supinated grip. The rings are extremely valuable for other bodyweight exercises like rows, pushups, and dips as well.

ReplyRaymond- ZenMyFitness @ 12:02 pm#

Unfortunately straight is all I have at the gym but I’m so use to that maybe it doesn’t matter anymore. I been doing chin consistently for over 3-4 years and don’t seem to have any problems (yet).
I wonder if adding in handstand pushups or even shoulder presses would also help counter rotations? as shoulder rotation is an issue for me.
When I stand straight my palms are pronated a bit ( my thumbs point in 45 deg and sometimes further)

Replyjulio @ 12:47 pm#

“One final note I should make is that the amount of chins you do should be evened out with an equal amount of rowing motion exercises for the upper back. If you don’t do that you will end up with internally rotated shoulders and a host of other problems you’d probably want to avoid.”
Does doing more rows than chinups also give the same problems? I prefer rowing for higher reps (from 7 to 12) than chinups (mainly because the biggest DB at my gym are of 95lb. and i’m currently with the 70lb DB), found chinups allow me to pull more explosively while really heavy rows hurt my shoulders.

ReplyKathleen @ 2:38 pm#

Jason, does your objection re wrist/elbow stress hold true for barbell curls, too. Do you prefer only EZ bar curls and DB curls for this reason? Just wondering. Thanks.

ReplyDavid @ 2:39 pm#

One thing I’ve started doing recently is using the rope cable attachment (the one that most people use for triceps pressdowns etc) and slinging it over a pull-up bar or crossbar of a cable stack. It allows for a fairly close grip chin-up with a fair degree of freedom to inwardly rotate.

ReplyDonny @ 8:20 pm#


I know I am not Jason, but Chad Waterbury recently wrote about this and said anything that allows your wrists to rotate is perfectly acceptable. They both do the same thing in terms of chin ups.

October 1, 2011ReplyJohn Phung @ 2:15 am#

Pull ups & chinups really aggravate my golfer’s elbow.

I’ve done O-ring chin-ups, but have switched to using a pair of D Grip cable attachments hooked up to a straight bar. Reason why is that I can attach FatGripz to the handles, whereas on the O-rings I cannot.

ReplyJason Ferruggia @ 5:56 am#

@Jorge Sanchez: Stick with parallel grip chins on the bars.

@Chris- I don’t like it. Chins are a great exercise. You need both vertical and horizontal pulling.

@Blake- That’s a good option.

@Marc- No problem

@Matt- Yes, Chad is my buddy and lives a few floors below me actually.

@julio- No it doesn’t. You can do rows and never do chins. But I wouldn’t do the opposite.

@Kathleen- Correct, you are.

@John- Yeah, that’s a great option.

ReplyJorge @ 3:39 pm#

Jason, i need your help, I’ve been doing your MGS program for 2 months now (im in beginner phase 2) and have put on 5-6 pounds but i have now hit a plateau. When deadlifting 295+ lbs, the bar starts to slip. I’m the opposite to man-hands from Seinfeld, i have girl-hands, what can i do?
p.s. (I’m 5' 11” , ectomorph and i weigh 150 lbs ) every other exercise is not giving me this kind of trouble.

ReplyCraig L. @ 9:05 pm#

I totally agree about pull-ups on a straight bar being unnatural! Having such a low tolerance for lateral movements puts a lot of strain on the deltoids and rotator cuffs which can cause noticeable wear and tear over time. As someone who plays softball semi-competitively, my rotator cuffs are obviously something I don’t want to mess with.

When I started feeling the effects of doing pull-ups several months ago I pretty much eliminated them from my training sessions. I will still do unweighted pull-ups for 15-20 reps as a warmup before doing lat pulldowns, but not the weighted pull-ups with 65lbs hanging from my waist like I was doing. I am not sure how to incorporate ring pull-ups into my home gym in my basement, but I like the idea.

So far, doing lat pulldowns hasn’t been too bad, but I would much rather perform a compound body weight lift such as pull-ups. Thanks for this unique perspective on the popular pull-up exercise.

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