Archive for the ‘chin ups’ Category




Over the years I have been extremely blessed to mentor new trainers and coaches and to help them get started on their path to what I hope will be a successful career for them. Many of them will ask me questions such as: what are the best exercises/ tools to use? What is the best program to help my clients get the results that they want and so-on. To me these are good questions, but the lack the most important aspect any good and effective program, the why behind it .

You see, any so called training program that lacks purpose and individualization in personal training, will most likely end up leaving the client disappointed. Especially, if they aren’t new to this whole fitness world.



Just random workouts can work in getting a person leaner and somewhat stronger. Yet in my opinion that will only go so far and probably will leave glaring issues that the person has unaddressed. So instead, let’s have a reason for doing what we are doing with our clients.



This does take more energy and forethought to make this happen, but your success will be obvious to others and lead to great results and joy from your clients!



Wanting to fit in is a normal human desire and although it isn’t a bad thing in itself, it can influence you to be less than what you are meant to be. I don’t know how many times in the past, I have let this desire control what I said and did. As a result, I had regret and I may have robbed the other person of a chance to grow and improve. Now, I am not saying to correct everyone of every mistake that you may think that they are making or to do so without getting to know the first, but to do so when the time is appropriate and the need is really there.

There is also the need to hold on to ideas so tightly that no other information whether contradictory or even additional thought that is inline with the person’s current ideology isn’t accepted.

These two mindsets are a great way to get stuck inside of a confined space or inside of a box. You see, thinking inside of a box makes what you can do smaller, whom you can help lessen and makes your own world much tinier than it needs to be.

I am not saying to not have some guiding principles for life or for your training, I am simply saying to let those guidelines continually expand and evolve by learning from your mistakes, tracking each workout to see if what you are doing is working. Also have some sort of assessment to do once a month, that can objectively show you if it is. It can be measurements, inbody testing, movement screens one rep max testings, conditioning circuits that once killed and that you can now beat. Whatever fits your goals and that can help you get to the next level in your training.

Lastly when something new comes along get as much information about it as you can, critically evaluate it and make an informed decision on it even if it means that you must change your view and approach. If you do, you will begin to think outside the box and end up better for it!





In both my random and intentional thoughts on fitness, I have been thinking about the need for control a lot lately. As you may be aware, I train a lot of athletes form the age of 8 all the way into their fifties and the one common thread that I have seen in all of these age groups is a lack of control especially (but not limited to…) their lower bodies. They usually lack the ability to control their ankles, hips and knees and or all of the above and as a result may possible be more prone to injury. Now please be aware of the fact, that most of these people are not noobs and some of them have been “working out for their whole lives.”

As then as you can see just training for fitness may not in most cases be enough to help counteract these potential risk factors for injury. What then can we do to improve this needed factor?


To answer this question we have to first understand the role of the brain in this quality. The brain is the control center of the body in that role is the ability to control joints and movement patterns. This works by learning and experience, for example your foot learns how to respond to terrain by walking over it. When you hit a hole it will shift and try to protect your ankle and other parts. But this will only work if have hit a hole before. This is one example in way that the brain learns to control a joint or to stabilize from an outside force that could cause harm if it wasn’t dealt with.

Another example is when a baby stabilizes his or her should when they are picked up by their arm.


So what happens when the brain doesn’t do this important reaction?

Usually it leads to some kind of injury such as when a foot over inverts and ends up “rolling” the person’s ankle or spraining it as a result.  So you see that this type of control is very important for our health and performance, especially over a lifetime of fitness and or sports.

Being aware of this fact and the need for this type of control should lead to the question of how we can improve this neurological quality and to increase our ability to get long-term fitness results.

I will endeavor to briefly answer this question and then follow it up with some practical movements in the next post to help improve this needed control.

Training this quality is not that complicated and pretty much is done in the same way that you: build strength, muscle, power and conditioning. You train with specific moves in mind for quality reps over time to develop this skill.



You go from the floor as means to help you easier learn how to control your extremities. Then to more of a loaded spine position, all the way up to standing and choosing exercises that make you control yourself. In fact you can even do this with one move: The Turkish get-up.


This complex exercise takes you from the supine posture all the way up to standing with the added benefit of strength development, cross patterning, shoulder stabilization and mobility. It however, is not the only way to do so.

Then you will want to continue that process and add in some gait related simple to complex movements such as (but not limited to) marches, skips, hops and jumps.

As you do and focus on quality movement with fewer reps to avoid break down, you will help yourself develop better control of your body and possibly your joint health and freedom as a person.

Come back next week for part two if this post that will give you some videos and explanation how to work this process in you training and for some ideas how to put them in without neglecting your fitness goals!


I am thankful that my job is one that makes a difference. I don’t know how often I have blessed to help people realize their true strength and ability to endure through my teaching and training programs. I can’t count the times that people who have trained with me thought they couldn’t do something and with the right progression and programming bam, they did!

Just the other day on my kettlebell group I had a bunch of members press a heavier kettlebell with one arm that was two to four sizes than they have ever done. I have had two clients get their first pull-up in their life in the last two weeks and other such feats of budding strength.

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(Kevin O nailing his first pull up)

Yet, it seems like there is resistance when it comes to doing challenging moves and developing killer strength. I often encounter excuses when it is time to move on in a programming that someone has been training to do that move. A big one is chin-ups, I often hear statements that lack confidence such as : “that would be nice if I could do one” and so-on. We often think that moves such as chin-ups and pistols are for the few “freaks” and that we will never be able to do them. However, when we think that way, we limit ourselves and don’t realize that the person doing them is human as well.

(If I can, then you can too!)

Here is the thing though, you will need to train specifically of you have a goal like that. You also will need to learn how to program and progress, you will have to stick to a routine, in spite of the fear of boredom. Then you finally, you will have to adjust to what is going on in your life.

Just remember, you are stronger than you think and with some good training, you can also achieve awesomeness and develop the moves that you want to. So get working and do awesome things!

As a bonus here is a a client that embodies this mindset and knows that she is strong:

Perfection is an interesting concept, we all realize that we are not it if you are in touch with yourself and if you do think that you are you are deceived and possibly very insecure. Now the realization that you are imperfect should not leave you feeling powerless and hopeless, in fact it should make you excited for the endless possibilities to learn, grow and improve in all areas of your life from: relationships, career and so-on. I will be the first to acknowledge that learning new stuff isn’t difficult and often painful, but avoiding this truth will lead to you getting nowhere fast and becoming ineffective before you know it. So just to end this rant, seek and pursue perfection. But realize it is out of grasp and even if we did somehow manage to achieve it, how can we really know if it truly is perfection?!

Another idea where people feel that there is a perfect standard is in movement. A lot of times exercise and rehabilitation professional foolishly assume that there is no such thing as perfect movement and try to cram people into their box of ideological fallacy.

This group of people believes that their standard will somehow stop the injuries that happen in people due to poor exercise form and overuse. Yet, their clients are often the most “banged up” and it could be different if they did not assume that everyone should look the same, as well as respecting the law of individual differences.

Now this post is not saying that there are no rules for safety and performance when it comes to training and exercises. It is simply saying that there is safe form not perfect form. The goal of this post is to give you a standard for that form, which is simply, competency as well as some of the consequences of forcing our movement ideals on all. What should be corrected and finally to tie it all together with a bow and send you home being better for it!

As I stated earlier, there is no such thing as perfect movement; however, there is competent and safe movement. Safety comes as a result of not overtaxing a joint in the movement pattern and doing that overtime which could lead to injury in the exerciser. This means that you should have proper mobility and stability in the movement to keep you safe as you do it. The joint by joint concept shown below can help you visualize this as you look at it.

Also here is an example of this concept at work in squatting, the low back should be stable or long, the t-spine needs extension, the hips mobile to get in the best squat for you. You need ankle dorsi-flexion and plantar-flexion to do it well and of course your head shouldn’t bob around like Quagmire!

So in light of the last paragraph, you see the need for things to be move adequately in order to perform this task of loaded or unloaded squatting. If one aspect has an issue, it can lead to overuse in another and an overuse injury somewhere along the chain. If that is the case, our cues are not enough to fix the problem and the problem at hand should be corrected in a way that results in better movement by the individual. E.g. a restricted ankle needs to be mobilized in order to squat better.

In light of those issues that can put the exerciser into a bad position as they train there needs to be allowance for the individuality of the person and their anthropometry as they do any exercise. In fact, there may be things present in the person’s movement patterns that you feel are ugly. But that is how the person is built and just the way it goes and maybe there is a need to switch to different variation of the same move. E.G. dumbbell bench press over barbell.

Now also be aware that there is the possibility that a person may stand a tiny bit uneven in a lower body exercise and also be ok. I would in this case try to correct it, if their movement profile says that they are ok and then be open for feedback from the person as to how they feel while doing the move. If they feel weird or if they have pain there may be a chance that they have two different hip joints (the ball and socket and need to be allowed to be a bit uneven in their stance.

Depth in a move also may vary from person to person and trying to force a person deeper in a move such as a squat may lead to a whole lot of health problems down the road. So have your ideas just recognize that everyone is different and should be treated as such.

In conclusion, I hope that you realize that better is better and not to aim for some false ideal of perfection as you train others if you are a trainer and if you are a fellow no trainer fitness buff, don’t let anyone force you into an uncomfortable or painful position in the name of some outdated philosophy. Be free to do you even if it bothers the anal exercise form person. Take the time to get assessed to see if you have any issues that need correction and practice safe form as you train. Most of all keep on rocking and get fitter as you train to be the very best that you can be!


This is sadly the last post of this series on the chin-up and if you read all of them, then you probably can now do a chin or many. If that is the case, could you take the time to let me know at, I would love to hear from you about it and to be able to celebrate with you. I know that these principles work. But I could even use a bit of ego stroking sometime! LOL. Also if you weren’t relatively strong to begin with, it may take a bit of time to get to doing chins and that is ok, be patient and build up your strength with the movements and programming points that I gave you and you will. (Then you can also send me an e-mail as well after you do!)

After reading all of the former rants on this move and training it stands to ask the title of today’s post, where do I go from here? That is what this post will answer briefly to help you get some ideas for further progress and not simply going into mindless training. As I always saypointless training is almost pointless.”  (At least from a progress standpoint anyway that is.)

Weighted chins

This is almost a given way to progress your strength in the chin-up pattern, you can pretty much load any part of your body and do a weighted chin. No here is my opinion on this and a good way to progress since you are reading my blog, I would start with a weighted vets or a weight in a back pack first. This will prove to be wiser as a beginner to weighted pulls simply due to physics. Make sure that you are using the irradiation concepts from post #3. (Click here for that) Then progress to a belt after a while and finally with a kettlebell around your foot, this is an easy way to get stronger without adding in load.

Single arm progressions:
If you can’t or don’t like to load your chins, you can simply progress your strength by going into one arm chin progressions.

Here is an example of one such variation:

Better form:
Improving your form is another easy way of developing strength without burning out and is a great idea to prepare your body for the more advanced moves. Also have you ever tried to make your form better on an already difficult move, it is very tough and will quickly make you question your toughness and strength!

Pull ups:
Yet another simple way to progress is to just change up your hand position. If you turn your palms out from in the movement will become harder due to the muscles involved in the move. This is also a good way to find out how much back that you are using in your overhead pulling as opposed to biceps.

Pause reps:
Once again we can make this move more difficult by adding in a pause on the top or bottom in order to remove any elastic energy and to have to overcome the resting inertia with greater force than what you weigh. This is one of my favorite ways to get stronger, because it offers true feedback to your strength levels and gives you a great feeling of satisfaction after you do them. (Well at least for me.)

Strength endurance is another way to progress this move by methodically training to increase your ability to do more chins in a row over time.

Once again these thoughts are not all of the ways to get stronger and to keep making progress in your back work. But there are some ideas to use to further your results in your training. Pick the one or ones that appeal to you as a fitness buff and use them. However, make sure to wave the volume, loads, reps, rest periods and various forms of chins to make sure that you are staying healthy and not injuring yourself in your training. Also take a week or two off from the over time to not create a resistance against to as you train. Think long-term in your training and just short-term ego boost and long-term injury as a result!

I hope that you enjoyed this series. Please take the time to e-mail me your results once again and also, let me know if you want to learn about any fitness topic.  Thanks for the follow friends!

If you read all of this and don’t  know where to start, I can help you by my assessment and training program to start exactly where you need to be to get results. Are you ready?! Click here to get started.

Now that we’ve spent some time on technique and correctives for the overhead pull, we can now dive into some different approaches to training this movement successfully. As you probably know, that just trying to increase your reps will only work for a while and will most likely taper off. So instead of just mindlessly trying to add reps or load in, this post will show you how to use various approaches to earn this movement, increase reps, weight lifted and so on. Try them out for an a few weeks and see which one or combo produces the best results for you.

The first variable that we should talk about is sets. You see just doing everything for 3 x 10 May not work in you getting this move down, especially if it is in the upper levels of your strength. If that is the case and it is a more difficult move for you, you will want to do lower reps and take a longer rest in between sets. Now, if a long rest makes you feel guilty or if you don’t have a lot of time, you can do super sets. Just leave your grip and pulling muscles out of it. So you can do core work and or a lower body push that is lighter. If your goals is to do pull-ups you will need to focus on that. My recommendation is to start off with 3 to 4 sets of 5 reps or lower and wave your reps at times. (Do more sets of less reps)



This variable is going to be important for training longevity and to bridge the gap between progressions. It however should be increased slowly. Some ways that you can do that are clustering, escalating density adding reps in and so on. One method that I like to use is ladders and to add a rep on in at various spots for example if I am doing a ladder of 1,2,3 and want to add in a rep, I cab put it in at 1 or at 2 of my ladder. I will do this in order make sure my rep are quality ones on all of the rungs if the ladder.


Learning to create greater tension on your chin is another way to train and to improve your movement and technique as you train. Learning how to create tension will automatically make you stronger and help you better keep your form as you train.


How many weeks will you train without progressing or adding in some wise variety as to not over train. Will you switch your grip? Use rings?  Do less reps and more sets? Do more reps and less sets? Have a plan so that you know you will get results from your program over the long haul and better avoid injury as you do!


How often will you do chins? Will you choose to grease the groove or do two sessions a week for a while? Frequency is another variable you can do to get results. So use it wisely!

Slow and controlled:

Another simple way of progressing with the amount of volume and difficulty is to change the tempo and go slower with pauses on the top or bottom of the move.


Along with that approach there is doing the move more explosively to make gains. Please be aware that when I talk about explosive, it is not a jerky move. But rather a controlled move with tension throughout as explosively as possible.

Use various moves same but different:

Training the same movement pattern over and over again without variation is not a good thing and may lead to breakdown and overuse. However, not doing a move without repetition will lead to de-conditioning and most likely will not create progress. So instead you will want to use the same but different principle and change your grip, use rings and so on in order to make sure that you are on the gain train and not overdoing it!

Rest range:

Lastly and maybe the most important and often neglected factor is the rest interval or period between sets and rungs of a ladder. Many times people misguidedly rush through their rest period to get stronger and to try to turn what is an intense move into a conditioning exercise. This usually leads to getting weaker on each set (unless it has become an easier move.) instead of recovering and returning to baseline and or possibly getting stronger as they go.

So if chin-ups are a difficult exercise for you and you want to build strength, rest anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes in between sets and keep your reps and sets on the lower side. If you do, you will progress quicker in your strength development and most likely have better quality movement which is necessary to progress.

Now if your progression has gotten easier, then you could take some time off your rest period to progress. But not too much, (30 seconds to 1 minute) if you do you most likely will not be able to maintain movement integrity as you work out and probably not progress any further. Remember the S.A.I.D principle, we adapt to what we do and not what we try to do!

Take your time to plan out your program and utilize these points to improve your chin-ups and earn your first one as you train.

Try out these points one or two at a time for a month to 6 weeks and develop better strength and movement as you train for example: increase or decrease your rest as needed and focus on creating greater tension, using the drills that were given in the former posts. Then as the cycle ends, you can utilize a more frequent approach and a slower tempo. Just keeping working these concepts and build your strength, then I will see you at the bar! The chin-up bar that is!

See you next week for the final post in this series!

After reading the last few posts, you may be thinking that when on earth will he get to the stuff that I need to know. If that is you, you need to realize that there are many underlining issues that can keep your from doing chins better or at all. You also know if you have read the last three posts, that there can be potential mobility restrictions or stability issues that can keep you form progress in this movement pattern, if you want to. (If you haven’t read them, read them at least to know what I am talking about. ) (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) If you have,welcome to part 4 and all of its glory in helping you train this move with success and progress!

Training for a movement such as chin-ups can be complex and may require some experimentation with different modes and training approaches to finally arrive at them. (if strength is your issue) Just before I get into a few different ways that I like to use, you need to know that patience is a vital part to fitness success and as I get into the programming in a few posts, you will really need them and to think long-term in your fitness.

Over the years of working with people and having people ask me to help them get to doing chin-ups and pull-ups I have taken the time to learn and as a result have found these progressions to work well. This however doesn’t mean that others will not work as well.

Progression 1 Negatives:
This one works very well and has research to back up its validity for the simple reason that you can lower much more weight than you can lift and you also learn the control that you need in this approach. To get up to the bar, jump yourself up, then lower yourself down very slowly under control and keep the tension in your lats. Also don’t forget about post #3’s concept of irradiation, so squeeze your glutes tighten your abs, grip the bar and breathe out with a hiss as you do this step.

Progression 2 Static hangs:
You may need a partner to do this drill or you can get on a box and jump up to the top  from there get into the very top of the chin-up and squeeze your lats, abs, glutes and so-on to hold the position for a set period of time. To progress this, I would recommend adding weight as opposed to adding time. ( Remember the goal is to create greater tension.)

Progression three Band assisted Chins:
If your strength to do this move isn’t quite there yet, you will have to take the time to train yourself how to do it. However, just continuing to try to do it with some intelligent steps will most likely not work. Instead, you can build strength in a useful way by adding in a band to assist you that makes it challenging but where you can be successful as you train.

Progression 4 Weighted scap. hangs
This is one of my favorites, because I have seen it teach so many people that where strong enough to do chins to be able to tense their lats hard enough to actually be able to do the move by overcoming the resting inertia of the move.Place a very heavy weight for you somewhere on you. ( on belt, back pack, in between your legs and so-on) and try to do a pull-up. If you have made it the goal to move the weight, your brain will fore everything you got to get it done and as a result if you mimic that tension, voila’ you may have your first chin-up!

Progression 5: Partials:

A lot of people who do partial reps don’t have a purpose and they end will get partial results, as the saying goes; “partial reps equal partial results!” Yet there is a time to work on partials in addition to doing a full range of motion. It is quite simple with chins, you simply start form the area that you get stuck and work form there. Now you could choose to add weight in or just do a few reps from there. It is up to you, however, if I were training you, I would have you do a combo of both to make you stronger! As you practice this progression and add in some acceleration from last post, you will break through your so-called plateau and make chins your favorite move as result!

These are not all of the progressions one could do to earn their first chin or make their present ones better and stronger, But they are five good ones to help you get the job done over time. Take your time and train them, give them a few weeks and keep working wisely as you do, you will start to see the benefit of this exercise in your strength and daily living!


I sincerely hope that these posts on a movement that many desire to do  are helping you in your pursuit of your first chin up or to improve your technique. They may also make your form more efficient and possibly move on into advanced versions such as weighted chins and the one arm versions. The last few posts goals have been to help you prepare for this week’s concept which if you apply, will result in you ending up stronger than before as soon as you put them to work. Now although you will end up stronger, it doesn’t mean that you will end up doing this move for reps or at all today. (It can though) It will however result in you being the closer than before though!

This concept  that today’s post is about is  irradiation. Which involves you better stabilizing your body and making strength gains as a result of using it.


The following few paragraphs will give you a brief lesson on how to utilize this phenomenon to better build strength and how to apply that to your chin-up work. with the end goal of getting your first or improving your chin-up technique! These points are breathing, planks for learning how to create force,the ab brace and many more, without further ado let’s get to it!

Generating strength and increasing force can be amplified by using the proper breathing techniques. The diaphragm when used well stabilizes the spine and fires the deep core muscles resulting in greater force production in your pull-up work. On this movement pattern you will want to get a good breath in on the bottom of the move and exhale on the way up with a hiss, grunt or blow out hard as if you were trying to blow out candles. Watch the video below to learn more about this strength enhancing technique:

2. Planking for tension generation and or greater force:

After you have learned this vital component of strength of breathing you will want to learn how to produce tension. Tension is the foundation for generating force, power and efficient movement. This is simple to do and is done easily in a plank position, especially if you have a friend to train with. Get in a good plank position. (No saggy back or butt lift)

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(Try again!)

Start by squeezing your feet together, then tighten your legs, squeeze your abs as if you were about to get kicked. (Your partner can help you with that, gently of course.) Clench your glutes, (if you do this right you will get a wedgey.) Finally push your hands and feet down into the floor to generate more tension. (You will know it, if you have it!)

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3. Core brace:
When I first started training others the thought about using your abs was to pull in your belly button in. Then research found that if you do that draw in maneuver, that you double the spinal load and actually make yourself weaker as a result of it. Instead of drawing in to increase stability, you will want to brace as if you were about to get socked in the gut. As stated above in the plank paragraph.

4. Leg and glute squeeze:

As you may be aware power starts from the floor and is expressed in other parts of the body. A good example of this is the push-press, which starts in a wheel drive with hip extension and then ends up moving the load up into the air. This wonderful phenomenon however is not seen in pull-ups which are an open chain exercise (feet not on the floor) which makes it a harder movement as a result. So how can we get this effect of the legs to assist our upper pulling and make us better at pull-ups? The answer is the principle that I stated earlier, Irradiation. If you recall it is known to make its user stronger by using our central nervous system.

However, we can use your lower half to perform better at this movement. So when you set up on the bar, squeeze your legs together and squeeze your glutes as if you were trying to create a diamond in between them. Then imagine as if you were pulling the bar towards you. Hello increased strength!!!!!

5. Grip: 
Grip is a highly neurological action, in fact when a baby is born; they can breathe, poop, eat and grip things. Grip is also very much involved with creating muscular tension and making your strength work more effective. So in your pull-up/chin-up work choke the bar as if you hated it (you just may) and imagine trying to break it half.


we all have sticking points in our movements form squats to deads and every other move strength move. A good way to deal with this is to simply blast or accelerate through this challenging part of the move. It could be on the bottom, mid-way or so-on. Just know yourself and use this concept as needed!

Experimenting and trying out these different concepts can be vital in achieving your first or multiple pull-ups. Practice these concepts slowly, adding in one every session or every other and own the technique as you do you will continue to progress in your training and never be bored as you do!

Next week we will discuss programming and a few regressions and progressions to use to earn this coveted movement pattern that is closer than you think!

One of my friends and co-workers wanted to increase her upper pulling power expressed in the chin-up.  So we did some specific drills regarding this movement pattern. (Which, I will show you as this series progresses.) I loved her surprise and amazement as she achieved her fist and more chin-up in a matter of minutes. Now because she was already strong, she was able to apply her force to this movement. Some of you will be able to do the same as you apply this concepts’ others will have to build a some strength before you can and that is ok, just be ready to hit the bar! (Pull-up bar that is!) (If you haven’t read it yet, click here for part one.)

Now due to the nature of the chin-up and its primary movers the lats, a few things can happen in your body that won’t help your cause long-term wise. The first one of those issues is:

The rib cage flair or what we dubbed at the gym I work out of as, “The rib cage erection.” As I stated earlier because of the fact that the lats are the primary mover in this motion they have a tendency to pull back on the rib cage and bring you into spinal or lumbar extension and this is not the strongest position to be in.  So your first step is to learn how to keep your rib cage down and abs engaged. Now that doesn’t mean the certain exercises that do have you extend are bad. But just that if you want to boost your pulling performance, you will need to not extend on your reps.

wpid-20150704_085901.jpgNo, no!
wpid-20150704_085851.jpgYes , Yes!

Some anti-extension ab exercises:

Hard roll and x roll: 

Ab wheel roll out :

Hanging leg
raise to boost performance

As you can see that these drills are anti-extension drills and train the abs to help you in your chin-up practice you will want to do these pretty frequently without going crazy. Now get to work on building your strength in these moves above and begin to apply them to your pull-up training and you may just get your first one before you know it!

Stay tuned for next week’s post in this series!