“How the hell did you learn how to do that?”
I looked up to see a girl standing two feet in front of me. I hadn’t even noticed her walk up while I was entering the number of chin-ups I did into my phone. Normally, I don’t like interruptions, but I was happy to address this one.
Me: “Practice. And heavy weights.”
Girl: “I don’t think I could ever do that.”
Me: “You could if you really wanted to. You just have to keep trying.”
Chin-ups are the one thing I get the most compliments on at the gym, hands down. The men congratulate me for being strong, and the women gasp and tell me that I’m awesome, but they’d never be able to do it. I call bullshit.
Just ask Sarah Connor:
Ladies, you CAN do chin-ups and pull-ups if you set your mind to it. There is nothing special about me that makes me able to do chins*, except that I’m consistent with my training. I remember a few years ago doing an unassisted chin-up seemed almost impossible, so I never bothered trying. Funny how so many of us lose the battle before even stepping into the ring.
But I still wanted to be able to do them one day, so I kept training my back (and the rest of me) with weights, going progressively heavier as time went on. I remember doing a lot of one-arm dumbbell rows and lat pulldowns. Then one day I was walking along a sidewalk marked with different fitness stops, one of them being chin/pull-up bars. On a whim, I tried to do a chin-up, and I did TWO! I was so shocked and excited that I was actually able to do them. That motivation was all the fuel I needed to start practicing chin-ups regularly.
Today I did a total of 25 chin-ups, broken up between 5 sets. I would eventually like to be able to knock out 15 of them in one rep, but all in due time. I’d also like to improve the number of pull-ups I can do.
(Chin-ups are done with your palms either facing you or facing each other if you can find a parallel bar. Pull-ups are done with palms facing out and usually in a wider grip than chin-ups.)
If you would like to be able to do chin-ups and pull-ups, please at least try! It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it is SO rewarding when you finally pump out your first one. I think chins and pull-ups are two of the most rewarding exercises for women to accomplish because we have a tendency to dismiss all the potential strength our upper bodies posses.
Here are a few tips:
-Train your back with heavy weights. Use one-arm rows, barbell rows, cable rows, etc.
-Having a strong core is important. Be sure to train it with planks and compound exercises like squats, push-ups, chest presses and rows.
-Try doing band-assisted chin-ups, or if your gym has one, use the assisted pull-up machine and gradually lower the weight.
-Do inverted push-ups. These are a great way to gradually introduce your body to the movement. As you get stronger, move the bar up higher so you become more vertical.
-Make sure your muscles are firing correctly. You shouldn’t be relying on your arms to pull you up, but rather, your back. One way to test this is to hang completely limp from a bar. Your arms should be fully extended and relaxed. Now without using your arms at all, shrug. This is how the beginning of a pull up/chin up should be done. When you shrug from a dead hang, you are firing from your lats. If you can’t do this, you are probably relying too much on your arms to pull you.
And here’s a great article on learning to do chins and pull-ups, and increasing the number you can do.
*Your weight is a factor in how easy/difficult it will be for you to do chin-ups. Obviously, the heavier you are, the harder it will be. But please don’t let this discourage you! Think of it this way, even if you pump out 1 chin-up at 160+ lbs, that is an awesome one-rep max. The link I posted above says that ideally women should be 20% body fat to do chin-ups, but I am probably around 24-25% body fat and can do them no problem.