Workout Wednesday #1 Bodyweight Chins
Over the coming Month, every Wednesday (hence the name!) we are going to concentrate on the movements that are often neglected, (if you are already converted then we can help you get better!) generally because they are not the easy option. These movements are the ones that will help you attain your goals, the right way with some good old fashioned graft....
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First up is Chins...firstly you should know that chins and pull-ups are a different movement, and the movement we want, is with your palms facing you....
This is an exercise that you will see rapid improvement in, and with strict form, you will develop upper body strength that will far surpass anything you could achieve with bicep curls!
We love a chin here at Athleat, but we are not as good as we should be... so we have sought the opinions of two experts to help us out.
Andy Mackenzie Of Ironmac Fitness and The Training Lab has featured in all the U.K Fitness Magazines and gives you his top tips for creating a strong chin!
“What can you bench?” should be replaced with “how many chins can you do?” Knocking out double figure dead hang chins shows that you have complete control of your body, good grip strength and healthy shoulders that will be bench pressing far longer than your ‘lat pull down’ king of the bench person in the gym.
To get the best out of your body, it must have balance. Working on chins with your chest touching the bar will develop great scapular control (working the often neglected rhomboids) that will provide a great platform to any pushing movement.
You don’t need the comfort of a gym - remember the park where you used to play as a kid? No excuses, if you see a bar, a tree branch or someone sticking their arm out for the bus, then get chinning...."
Charles Poliquin gives you 12 tips on how to better your chins...
1. Get soft-tissue work.
Chin-up performance often can be improved instantly with the right soft-tissue work. For example, many people cannot clear the chin above the bar, but once they release muscular adhesions between the teres major and the latissimus dorsi – boom! – the person clears the chin.
2. Initiate the movement by learning to retract the scapulae.
A basic principle in biomechanics is that force production is a product of joint summation. Using the scapulae retractors to initiate the movement produces more force, which translates in better rate of force development.
3. Concentrate on moving the elbows back and down.
Most trainees overemphasize pulling with the elbow flexors to initiate the chin-up. Once you have retracted the scapulae (as mentioned in #2), concentrate on elbowing the gut of someone who is standing behind you. That action will activate the latissimus dorsi and the teres major, which are powerful shoulder extensors.
4. Vary the grip orientation and width.
Not only will varying the grip keep your training from becoming monotonous, it also will accelerate gains. When you change the grip width and/or its orientation, you will draw from a different motor-unit pool. Changing from pronated to neutral to supinated effects the percentage of recruitment from the various elbow flexors. As a rule of thumb, when pressed for time, I prefer the athletes to use the thick grip versions, as they tend to accelerate gains, and have a greater transfer to sport tasks.Changing the grip orientation also effects the percentage of contribution from the scapulae muscles and the shoulder extensors.
5. Fully stretch eccentrically the elbow flexors and scapulae retractors.
A common mistake made by incompetent trainers is instructing their clients not to fully extend their elbows in the eccentric portion and not to fully lower the scapulae. Having poor range of motion eventually also leads to soft tissue problems. Yes, you do perform more reps with that reduced range technique, but they are still partial reps. Remember this: Strength is gained in the range that is trained! A good tip to make sure they go low enough, is that I tell the athletes to pretend to touch the floor with their toes at the bottom of the eccentric range.
6. Perform slow eccentrics.
In my experience, doing slow eccentrics is the best loading parameter for people who perform poorly at chin-ups. I shoot for 30 seconds of lowering on the last rep of every set. That brings record chinning strength in no time. Make sure that the pace is even. So for example, if you are at a 20 seconds level, the elbows should be at mid flexion by second number 10.
7. Recognize that volume is key.
You need a minimum of 30 reps per workout to make continual improvements in chin-ups. If you need to perform 10 sets to get those total reps, so be it.
8. Improve curling strength.
Doing chin-ups should improve curling strength, but the reverse is also true, particularly for female trainees. Choose a curling grip that mimics the grip you are using in your chin-ups and pull-ups. For example, hammer curls will improve your neutral-grip pull-ups.
9. Improve gripping strength.
Never use straps! Isometric holds for eight seconds using various gripping devices will prevent your grip from being the limiting factor in your chin-up progress.
10. The chin must clear the bar.
The only way your scapulae retractors will ever get strong is by making sure that your chin goes above the bar. If you need a spot in the early stages of your training to complete the range, that doesn’t make you a bad person – just keep working hard and you’ll get there. Make sure that the person spotting you gives you just enough help to get your to clear the bar.
11. Use tree-climbing belts when using additional loads.
With a tree-climbing belt the weight is equally distributed, and it’s much sturdier than a dipping belt. As for added load to the pull-up, anyone who can do three dead-hang pull-ups with an additional load equivalent to 66 percent of their bodyweight is pretty damn impressive in my book.
12. Become as lean as you can:
Doing chin-ups with extra bodyfat is like doing chin-ups with a back pack.
We have touched on this subject previously but with the other movement...pull-ups..., click here to see how quickly you can improve them! So by following the guidance of experts you can see how important they are to many aspects of your training life, but also by keeping your back strong, you will also keep a posture that will delay the onset of the "bad back" in later life, especially important for all you desk jockey's out there like us....Right. I'm off to do some chins....Mmmmmm 30 reps minimum!