How to Conquer the Chin-up to Build a Stronger, More Youthful Body.

Working towards achieving your first chin-up is a worthy goal if you want to build a stronger, leaner, more youthful body.

Although they can be challenging to master, once you conquer this skill, you’ll experience a sense of accomplishment that is incredibly empowering.

Being able to pull your own bodyweight over the bar is an AUMazing feeling!

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You’ll discover that chin-ups work your back, shoulders, arms and abdominals like no other exercise.

- Coach Chris

Like many of the newer members of our personal training studio in Boston’s Back Bay, you may believe that doing a chin-up is beyond your reach.

However, with a smart approach, you can make significant progress toward building the upper body and core strength necessary to reach this goal. 

Let’s begin by discussing the most effective strategies my Boston personal trainer team and I have used to help our AUMies conquer the chin-up:

1️) Focus on driving your elbows back and down toward the floor instead of aiming to “pull” yourself up to the bar.  This will help you to engage your lats and will prevent you from over-working your upper traps, which tend to already be overdeveloped in most people!  


2️) Look straight ahead instead of up towards the ceiling.  When you look up, your neck becomes over-extended which can lead to neck and shoulder pain.  Looking straight ahead makes for a much stronger, efficient movement. 


3) Go through the full range of motion (dead-stop at the bottom) and avoid using momentum. Swinging your legs is a compensation that may help you get your chin over the bar in the short term.  However, from a long-term perspective, using momentum will not help you develop the strength necessary to do a proper chin-up(s)!


To work your way up towards achieving your first bodyweight chin-up, my Boston personal trainer team and I are big fans of initially using bands for assistance.

We start with thicker bands that provide enough assistance to allow good form and, as our clients become stronger, we gradually use thinner bands until they eventually no longer need one.

Place a band around the bar and slide your feet or knees in the loop for assisted chin-ups. 

Practice going slowly and keeping your shoulders down away from your ears throughout the movement.

We encourage you to work your way up to a point where you can do 10-12 reps with the same band before progressing to a thinner one (less assistance).

Always remember to focus on maintaining good form in order to avoid injury.

If it is too difficult to pull yourself up with the assistance of the bands, you can also build strength by doing isometric holds at the top position.

Stack blocks under the chin-up bar and jump up so your chest is near the bar.

Keep your chest puffed out, elbows pulled back and down, and squeeze your shoulder blades together tightly.  

Hold for 30-35 seconds or until you start to feel your shoulders shrug or your body start to lower.

After years of experimenting and tweaking our training methods, we’ve found that training chin-ups twice per week (on non-consecutive days) is highly effective in getting results.

As you build strength, you’ll find this exercise to be one of the most rewarding ones you’ll do in the gym. 

Start implementing these tips and show us your best chin-ups.

And don’t forget to share with a friend who’s working on improving their chin-up game!

If you’re fed up with not seeing results in the gym, schedule your Complimentary Consultation with one of our expert Boston personal trainers to design a personalized fitness and nutrition plan that’s designed just for you.