A tale of 10 Chin ups

Once upon a time, at the beginning of this year to be exact, I set out to accomplish the awesome task of completing 10 unassisted [neutral grip] chin ups.  Why?  Several reasons: including (but not limited to):

A) Chin ups/Pull ups are bad ass.

B) They help in more ways than I can count [grip strength, core activation, lats/biceps/forearms/etc., energy transfer…..]

C) 10 sounded way better than 7

 

Now, even though I dominated my first real unassisted chin up a few years ago, I had finally reached a point where I wasn’t improving. I could manage 4-5 with various weights attached to me, I could do assisted and eccentric til the cows came home (which, they never did, so I just kept going) and I could do way too many sets of 5-6 reps with ~1-2 minutes of rest in between, but never more than 7 at a time. Hmmm.

Then it dawned on me. If I wanted to get better at pull ups, I should probably do more pull ups.

I realized that even though chin ups were my goal, I was treating them as an accessory movement and programming them into my workouts 1-2 times per week, [3x if I was really pushing it]. I also took note of the total reps being completed each session and saw that they were all in the ~25-30 rep range. So by the end of each week, I was totaling MAYBE 75 pull ups a week if I was lucky. Granted, I was using different methods (weighted, eccentric, assisted, different rest intervals) but not in the same week. I would go all assisted one week (different reps/sets/rest intervals) then go to weighted, then to bodyweight, and then back to assisted.  Each variation still felt challenging and I would make little advances, so I was convinced it was working, but then I would go to test my regular chin ups and be stuck in the same spot. I realized that despite my variations in intensity, I was completing the same number of reps per week and therefore not overloading the movement anymore. SO my evil genius mind got to working…

Practice makes perfect, so if you want to get better at something, practice THAT thing. I changed my programming to focus exclusively on this goal. I was tentative before to overdo it on chin ups because I didn’t want to have angry elbows, tight lats, and/or overtrain my back. But, by varying the intensity, I realized I could cram lots of pull ups/chin ups into one week of training with very little consequence. I also made sure to program some overhead/QL stretches for the tight lats, and included asymmetrical work to keep my upper body balanced.

Each week looked something like this [I am only including the chin ups and not all the other stuff]:

Day 1: Bodyweight pull ups (never to failure – just sets of 5-6 reps) totaling ~45 total for that session. I bumped that up to 50, then 55, then 60, then 65, etc. each time

Day 2: Weighted pull ups (sets of 3-4 reps) totaling ~30 reps, 35, 40, 45

Day 3: Assisted pull ups (sets of 8-10) totaling ~50, 55 (I didn’t go beyond 60 for these – you probably can, but I didn’t)

Day 4: Bodyweight pull ups again (usually if I did sets of 5 on day 1, I would shoot for sets of 6. Sometimes I had it, sometimes I didn’t. This was a chaos day – I would mix the sets to try to achieve 50 any way I could. It was a great challenge)

Each week I would have a total number of reps completed, and for 3 weeks I kept that number increasing, and then by week 4 I would do a mini-deload and go back to week 1 numbers.

Then one magic day, I walked into the gym, walked up to the bar, cranked out 10 in a row, did a little dance (in my head) and that was that.

And that is how my dream came true and I conquered the neutral grip chin up.

The End.

 

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About sten06

Master's in Kinesiology: Strength & Conditioning BSed in Exercise physiology -NSCA CSCS -NASM CPT, PES -Varsity Lacrosse Coach Saving the world one workout at a time ;)

Posted on June 21, 2012, in Fitness, Lacrosse, Strength & Conditioning, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I looove this. Only because I have been trying to get past 3 unassisted chin-ups for months now and I’m not budging…Looks like I have a little bit of a plan now that’s been successfully tested! Congrats on getting 10, you definitely worked for it!! (Oh, I also nominated you for a “One Lovely Blog” award, details are on my page (latest post) if you want to partake! And Yes, Chin ups/Pull ups ARE badass 🙂

  2. LOL I think I would have done a little dance in real life! That’s awesome. I’m applauding you, pull ups are my nemesis and I am pulling myself together to challenge myself to stop being a procrastinator and just do it. So Badass! 😉 I can only do ONE unassisted body weight pull up… I can only imagine pumping out 5-6 in a row. Rock on!

    • haha thank you!!! 🙂 keep at it – you’ll definitely get there!!

      • Question, I’m doing S. Dorsay’s 20 Pull Up a day challenge, Assisted style. So with this if I’m still trying to GET to Assisted, would it work to use this as a good structure as I’m building UP to unassisted? I guess it would … just trying to keep my challenge moving forward 🙂

      • Definitely. The numbers might be a bit different (i.e. starting with 20, 25, 30 reps per workout vs 40, 50 and 60 – at least for now). Also, since your goal is to achieve an assisted chin up, you want to focus on exercises that will help – so on some of the days where you see i did body weight or weighted pull ups, you can substitute eccentric chin ups (where you grab the bar, jump up, and then lower yourself down as slow as possible – use different grips and you’ll get a different effect), inverted rows, and lat pull downs. then once you achieve an assisted chin up you can start to vary the assistance – some days you’ll use extra assistance and go for reps, and other days you’ll try less. just keep working at it and you’ll be a pull up diva in nooo time!

      • THANK you so much for taking time to help me get there, the numbers had my mind spinning… 😉 Starting with do-able numerals. I’m on my way! hehe Pull Up Diva.. love it!

  3. Reblogged this on JennyO's Weblog and commented:
    I know I know – another Reblog, but seriously this is what I’m working on this week and “Strengthswag” lady Sten already wrote this brilliantly. I’m continuing on my Week 7 challenge 20 Pull Ups a day (Day 2 of 7 complete, bring it on Day 3!) And I really really want this. Unassisted. I love her program and the way she explains it makes sense to me. If it makes sense… well I just may too say “Challenge Accepted!” again!! 🙂

    Enjoy the read.
    Day 1: Bodyweight pull ups (never to failure – just sets of 5-6 reps) totaling ~45 total for that session. I bumped that up to 50, then 55, then 60, then 65, etc. each time

    Day 2: Weighted pull ups (sets of 3-4 reps) totaling ~30 reps, 35, 40, 45

    Day 3: Assisted pull ups (sets of 8-10) totaling ~50, 55 (I didn’t go beyond 60 for these – you probably can, but I didn’t)

    Day 4: Bodyweight pull ups again (usually if I did sets of 5 on day 1, I would shoot for sets of 6. Sometimes I had it, sometimes I didn’t. This was a chaos day – I would mix the sets to try to achieve 50 any way I could. It was a great challenge)

    Each week I would have a total number of reps completed, and for 3 weeks I kept that number increasing, and then by week 4 I would do a mini-deload and go back to week 1 numbers.

    Then one magic day, I walked into the gym, walked up to the bar, cranked out 10 in a row, did a little dance (in my head) and that was that.

    And that is how my dream came true and I conquered the neutral grip chin up.

    The End.

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