I contemplated several titles for this article…..
“Women with insanely strong upper bodies…”
“Women who lift themselves…”
“Badass B*tches Do Chin-Ups…”
Nothing quite had the ring like Beautiful Girls, Big Guns.
This is a quick article geared towards a few types of people:
- those trying to achieve an unassisted chin-up
- those trying to maintain the skill
- those trying to attain a weighted chin and/or increase their weighted chin-up.
I am going to show you six beautiful, badass women I coach so:
- you can see how often they trained to get their chin-ups
- you see that you don’t have to look like the incredible hulk to do chin-ups
- you know getting stronger will not make you look like the incredible hulk.
All of the remarkably strong women in this article have been #Daretoeat clients who have made fat loss their number one focus. However, they are also overachievers and came to me seeking to lose fat and get strong at the same time.
Reading each client’s story will enlighten you on their training frequency, their goals and why they love doing chin-ups.
But first, my two cents on chin-ups…..
If you haven’t read this article I wrote a while back, check out “How to get your pull-up and keep your pull-up” first.
The chin-up is a bodyweight exercise that requires skill.
Doing multiple chin-ups takes hard work and lots of practice.
If you really want to get a chin-up and have never done this before get a band for assistance and understand that in tandem with banded-assisted chin-ups you should work on:
- dumbbell 3-point rows
- lat pull downs
- sumo rows
- kettlebell pressing (see article)
As vague as it sounds, anything works when you do it consistently and the goal is getting stronger.
When it comes to beginners and chin-ups, the more often you practice chin-ups the better.
Beginners who really, really want to get on the fast track to cranking out chin-ups should practice two to three times minimum.
Even Pavel’s Fighter Pull-Up Program (which I highly recommend) suggests practicing five days a week.
Tips for beginners who practice frequently:
- only go to failure once per month (do an AMRAP for the last set in your training).
- always leave a few reps in the tank (if you can do 10, stop at rep 7 or 8)
- If you are using a band, use a lighter band one day of training and thicker band the other day
- You should be able to do 3 to 5 reps with the band you are using , if not you need a thicker band for more assistance.
My #daretomove clients who train three days a week do chin-ups at least twice.
The more volume you do with bodyweight chin-ups (for advanced people), the better; your brain learns the movement pattern and develops muscle memory.
Heck, chin-ups can be daunting! The more you practice the more confidence you will gain.
Remember, do not go to failure with these.
To maintain your chin-up abilities:
- Practice! Train them at least once per week.
- Make sure one of your non chin-up training days includes an upper body pull like rowing or lat pull downs.
- Vary the grip you use if you train chin-ups twice per week.
For the athlete who can already do chin-ups I suggest looking at the weighted chin-up like a squat or deadlift.
Would you go into the gym and squat everyday?
Probably not, here’s why:
When you strength train the goal is obviously to stress the muscles enough so they are forced to adapt, get stronger or bigger (or both), depending on the reps and sets you do.
If you squat heavy enough on a Monday, you will be sore the following day or days, and unable to lift a maximal load again (and a maximal load is what you need to stress the muscles to affect more change).
Therefore, if you squat for hypertrophy (muscle growth in size) completing say, 3 sets of 10 reps with a challenging load on a Monday doing it again the next day will not work so well.
Weighted chin-ups should be treated like the squat.
Example for an advanced athlete training weighted chin-ups:
Monday: bodyweight chin-ups thrown in at the end of a lower body training day (sets of 3×6 to 12 or 4×4-10) for practice
Wednesday: rows, pull-downs or chin-ups on an upper body training day focusing on volume
*If I am at a gym with a lat pull down machine or row machine I will opt for one of the aforementioned instead of chin-ups on my upper body day.
Friday: Alternate heavy weighted chin-ups for single reps and heavy(ish) cluster chin-ups (2-2-2 or 3-3-3) every other week. Or, do clusters for the first three weeks and test your single heavy reps at the end of the month.
It is important to hold back form attempting single heavy chin-ups every week, especially if you are working on other heavy lifts in your training, like the deadlift.
For instance, I don’t go for a heavy, single weighted chin-up during a week I am deadlifting for a 1 or 3RM.
Now it’s time to meet the beautiful ladies, see their strong guns and learn more about how they learned to do chin-ups!
Erin completed the 12-Week #Daretoeat Program combined with the #Daretomove program. She went from 137 pounds to 121 pounds in 12 weeks and currently sits right at about 117 pounds!
She is still a #Daretomove client and does 5-week cycles focused around the big three lifts. She trains three days a week, sometimes four.
When we started working together Erin could not do a chin-up.
She began her training with banded chin-ups two times per week with row variations the third day.
Erin recently pulled 205 pounds deadlifting and front squats 135 for 5 reps.
Here is her most recent chin-up personal record:
Erin loves chin-ups because she feels strong doing them; they make her feel good about herself. She likes to challenge herself each time she goes to the bar to try and do one more rep than the previous week, while keeping form. She says she also loves them because it is something she does with her brother and it is a special bonding experience for them.
Kati lifts heavy weights two times a week. She does chin-ups on both the upper body and lower body training days.
On the lower body day she does cluster sets with a lighter assistance band for three sets of 2-2-2 reps, or 3-2-1 depending on how she feels. On her upper body day after she bench presses she does four sets of three chin-ups with an AMRAP finisher (once per month).
Kati loves the act of doing chin-ups, which is another reason why they are in both of her training days.
Meredith is on the right and her friend Katie is shown on the left because Katie is also a #daretomove badass client. These two girls were on the rowing team together in college at MIT. Both of them do #Daretomove programming.
Meredith completed the #Daretoeat Program simultaneously with the strength training. Like Erin and Kati, Meredith practiced chin-ups two times per week and did row variations on her third training day.
Meredith lost eight pounds and several inches around her waist during the #Daretoeat Program, which also made the chin-ups easier!
Meredith loves chin-ups because she can do them anywhere there is a bar and it’s so easy to measure progress! She says it’s hard to walk by a park with a pull-up bar and not jump on and try a few! She loves seeing herself improve each week.
Jo is a sorority sister of mine and one of the most motivated chicks I know. She also crushed the #Daretoeat Program and #Daretomove program simultaneously.
She strength trains three times a week and in most of the cycles, chin-ups were done two times a week with varying grips.
In her final strength cycle during the #Daretoeat program she worked on towel grip chin-ups. Check her out below! Practice makes for a better skill and more confidence in the skill.
Jo enjoys chin-ups because she loves the feeling of power and strength they give her.
Jordan is my #Americanninjawarrior trainee. She is also my website designer and developer. She jokes that my programs feel like warrior training, but loves every second of it.
When I first met Jordan she could do one unassisted chin-up but struggled to figure out how to get stronger to do more than one rep.
After doing the #Daretoeat Program in tandem with the #Daretomove program, Jordan is now repping out 9 chin-ups with ease! She trains three days a week.
Below is a video of her doing 8, but I must confirm her PR is 9 reps. She crushes three training days a week, two including chin-up variations.
Jordan loves chin-ups because they are challenging and the progress is easy to quantify. She likes how doing chin-ups involve her whole body in an efficient movement. She added that the fact that she can now do several in a row makes her feel like a badass too, which makes them pretty awesome!
Ashley started working on strength training amidst her #Daretoeat program. She began with kettlebell training to build strength and after three weeks she knew she wanted to get stronger and learn the chin-up.
She has been working hard on her strength, lifting at least twice per week with her three days of cycling.
She attempted her first unassisted chin-up last week and was able to do two reps! Unfortunately she didn’t capture it on film but went back to try it again the next day for the video opp! See her strong single chin-up below!
Ashley loves chin-ups because she can measure the progress and really see and feel herself getting stronger. She says that each time she adds a rep she is like, “Heck yeah!”
Ashley also mentioned that she feels like there is a stigma around chin-ups. For instance, when people ask her what she does for workouts and she tells them “chin-ups” that they say, “Oh wow, that’s really intense! Are you a bodybuilder or something?” She gets frustrated and thinks, “What? girls can’t be strong too? I have to be a bodybuilder to want to do chin-ups?” She likes to prove people wrong!
It is important to see chin-ups as a skill that require much practice as a beginner. You must train the movement at least two times per week (not to maximum effort or full fatigue).
Practicing the chin-up two times per week gives you confidence in the skill itself.
Beginners should start with a band that allows them to aim for 3 to 5 reps minimum.
If you are someone who trains total body three days a week, do some type of row variation on the third day.
One of my favorite row variations is the bent over barbell row. Kati does these on her upper body day.
I often do bent over rows or inverted rows.
I find inverted rows with feet elevated to be extremely difficult. Therefore, if I do these I count them as chin-ups and do not do chin-ups two other times that week because my back will be very fatigued from inverted rows.
If you are someone that wants to attain a heavier weighted chin-up, I argue doing chin-ups two to three times a week is still important. The third day being the day you do weighted chins.
Example schedule for increasing weighted chin-ups in a month cycle:
M- bodyweight chin-ups for three or four sets of clean reps (6-12)
W- row variation, lat pull-down variation 3 sets of 8-12 OR chin-ups with a different grip (towel, neutral, wide, narrow) on an upper body training day.
F- Three sets of weighted chin-up clusters (2-2-2), or (3-2-1), or (3-3-3)
M- Bodyweight chin-ups, four sets of 6-12 reps. (depends on strength level)
W- row variation with a slow eccentric three to four sets of 8-12
F- (warm-up with a moderate load first), perform heavy single reps– the load should be something with which you can do at least three singles.
**Alternate Week 1 and 2 for weeks 3 and 4.
If you have questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Now go get stronger!!