Tony Gentilcore

Because heavy things won't lift themselves

Chin-Up Progressions for Women (The One Rep Hump) – Part III

beast mode

Last one, I promise.

By now, I’m sure there are some reading who are thinking to themselves, “alright Gentilcore, lets turn the page for crying out loud!,” or feel as if Charlie Brown’s teacher is talking to them:, “Wannk, wannk, wannk………”

I didn’t think it was possible, but what started as a quick blog post on some simple chin-up progressions for women, quickly turned into my version of War and Peace.

For those just joining in on the fun, I’d highly encourage you to check out the previous two parts, HERE and HERE.

In keeping with the momentum from yesterday – where I talked about the efficacy of performing eccentric only chin-ups –  another viable option would be to perform…….

Loaded Eccentric Chin-Ups

As a brief review, we’re much stronger during the eccentric (lowering) portion of any movement compared to the concentric (overcoming/lifting) portion.  For the guys out there reading, this is why it’s sometimes advantageous to include some dedicated eccentric-only benching variations to help improve overall strength, as well as induce some pretty significant muscle gains.  Pecs for days!!!!!!

Bringing this back to the topic at hand, for women, eccentric only chin-ups are a definite STAPLE in terms of getting over that 1-rep hump.  What’s more, you can also make them even more challenging by adding an external load in the form of a weight vest or maybe a weight belt with a dumbbell or plate attached.

The same principles would apply:  you’d jump up and lower yourself as controlled as possible.  Except here, the awesomeness factor is increased by roughly 312% because of the additional external load.

Or 311% less awesome than this picture. 

Granted, there aren’t going to be a lot of instances where I’m going to LOAD an eccentric-0nly chin-up – especially if we’re still vying for that one full, unassisted rep – but it’s something we can keep in our exercise toolbox nonetheless.

Chin-Up Isometric Holds

What I love about isometric holds is that there’s going to be a carryover to the 10-15 degrees (above and below) the joint angle being held.  Meaning, I can have someone perform an isometric hold in or around their “sticking point,” and there will be a noticeable carryover.

Of course, for many women, you may remember those dreadful flex-arm hangs that your PE teacher used to make you do back in the day, and I apologize if I brought back any bad memories.

That said, they’re actually a valuable tool that you can implement almost instantaneously.  I like two options:

1.  At the start of a training session – when you’re the most fresh – jump up and hold for a specific time frame.  I generally like to start with anywhere from 20-30 seconds (and build-up from there) for 4-5 sets.

2. Conversely, at the end of a training session – when you hate life – hold in the BOTTOM position and try as best you can to pull yourself up from a dead-hang.  Grab the bar, jump up, lower yourself controlled, and when you come juuuuuuust short of locking your elbows out, HOLD!!!!!!

It seems counterproductive, but I feel there’s some merit in adding a few grinders into the mix and attempt to “muscle” yourself out of the starting position. Of course, I’m not interested in you looking as if you’re having a seizure in mid-air.  The less “body english” the better.

Keeping your shoulder blades retracted and depressed, try as best you can to pull yourself up from a dead hang.

Remember, even if you don’t budge, there’s going to be a certain degree of carryover (above and below) the joint angle being worked.

Pull for 10-15 seconds.  Stop.

Do this for a total of 3-5 “sets.”

Band Assisted Chin-Up

This is probably the most well known variation, and arguably the least understood.  I’ve had several TRAINERS argue with me that they see no difference between a counterbalanced chin-up machine and their band-assisted counterparts. Not surprisingly, these are the same trainers who haven’t picked up a book in five years and think watching The Biggest Loser counts as continuing education.

Sad, but true.

The reason why I prefer band assisted variations is that they take advantage of the strength curve. In about as non-scientific as I can make it: the band “assists” you where you’re most weak – in this case, at the bottom of the chin-up when the arms are full extended.  Conversely, as you pull your body towards the bar, and the joint angles are more in your favor, the band assists less and less and you start utilizing more of your own strength to complete the movement.

In this way, depending on one’s ability, we can use varying set-ups and/or thicknesses of bands to progress or regress the exercise in a much more conducive way.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

1. Remember:  attitude is king. Stop thinking that you can’t do something, and instead, dominate it.  Sure, it’s going to take time and a lot of hard work, but you CAN DO IT!!!!

2.  Frequency is kind of a big deal.  Now, one thing to consider is that for females (and males for that matter) who can’t perform one chin-up, ANY chin-up is going to be a max effort lift.  That said, I’d still recommend shooting for “x” number of reps per day, albeit spread out.  Perform 2-3 eccentric reps in the AM, 2-3 at lunch, and 2-3 at dinner time, no matter what.  Anything more than that is just gravy on top.

3.  Seriously, get an Iron Gym. Arguably the best $27 you can spend on yourself.  Mascara included.

4.  As far as programming:  if performing a chin-up is a priority for you, then you need to make sure that you start each training session with a chin-up variation.  Yes, EVERY session.  So, for example, if you train three times per week….

Session One:  start with one of the TRX progressions highlighted in Part I.

Session Two:  start with eccentric only chin-ups

Session Three:  use one of the band-assisted variations showcased in the video above.

And there you have it. I’m sure I could elaborate a bit more, but in all honesty, if you’re still reading, you deserve a Nobel Prize.

Armed with these suggestions, you should be more than ready to conquer the chin-up.

 

Did I just blow your mind? Make (or ruin) your day? Leave a comment, then share this with EVERYBODY.
  • http://DarwinianFitness.com/ Chris Pine

    What’s great about this progression series for women is that it can also be used for men who are having difficulty getting over the “one-rep hump” for one-armed pull-ups.

     

  • http://www.ilovefetacheese.com Christina

    I like bands  much better than the machine too, for the same reason.

  • Brad

    Is is a good idea to use this progressions when training an obese person (19yr old) who just started training?

    I am no trainer or anything but a mere fitness/strength enthusiast. I am helping a friend of mine (just started training and he is obese, extremely weak [10lbs db chest press, cant do a single knees down push up] and his body is inflexible etc which is why I am using the things I learn in Assess and Correct to help him out) (obese to be exact – 210lbs at 5’5″ male).

    Should I bother teaching him how to do chin ups (starting from the easy variations) at all or focus on losing more fat first (less weight = easier) before trying to learn the chin up? 

    Its so much harder to train him compared with my other 2 friends who can instantly squat/deadlift/press/chin with good form within 10 min of teaching them (even though it is their first time training and they are skinny/weak) and they have good body posture and flexibility etc.

  • Jeremey DuVall

    Thanks Tony! I love those TRX progressions in the first part. My girlfriend has been working with band assisted, band assisted with pauses, and negative variations for 8 weeks and she’s so close to getting her first pull-up. We’ve been programming them 2x a week, but with a lot of volume. Good info!

  • http://www.driventrainingsystems.com/ Trey Potter CSCS

    Great article series Tony!  Been using eccentrics and band assisted chins the past couple of months with a couple female clients and they’re all damn close to a full unassisted chin up.  I’m going to have to use those TRX variations too.  Keep it up.

  • natalie :)

    Thanks Tony!  I’ll add my own piece of “expert” advice: frustration doesn’t really seem to help much :/.  
    I’ve been at the same chin-up rep max for a few years now, but you’ve invigorated me to try some new methods for progress…

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  • http://itrainthereforeieat.com/ Stephanie @itrainthereforeieat

    I love this series Tony! I was able to get myself over the one-rep hump a couple of years ago, although I can’t remember exactly how I did it. Now, though, progression has come a lot slower and I’m at about a 3 rep, (4 on a good day) max. I’ve been using the band assisted method (on my own pull up bar!) to increase my reps, but it’s taken me a good 6 months to add another rep into the mix. I’ll definitely try adding in some static holds and eccentric-only work to try to get those numbers up. Thanks for the great posts! 

    • Anonymous

      Frequency is key Stephanie. I’d perform 1-2 reps, 5-6 times per day…….spread out if I were you.

  • Danablu

    Thanks for this really useful information.

  • Sue

    Just got my iron gym and read through this series again. I’m ready to do this!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Nice Sue. Keep me posted on your progress!

  • Shelley

    Great tips Tony! I’m starting today! BTW, I love your posts. Aside from being packed with great info, they are freakin’ hilarious!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Shelley! Let me know how everything goes.