Floor to the Bar: Mastering the Chin-Up

Floor to the Bar: Mastering the Chin-Up

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At TS, we like to teach chin-ups before moving to the more complex pull-up. We recognize that chin ups are difficult for many of our clients so we’ve mapped out a series of progressions that will train you to be able to complete a set of chin ups in no time (ok, some time).  

Progression #1: The Hollow Body Hold

You may be surprised to learn that the first progression to a proper chin up starts on the floor with the hollow body hold. The hollow body hold mimics the way that your body needs to be held during a chin up movement.

Start on the floor in the position that you will ultimately be in when your hands are on the bar. Put your arms up overhead and legs out, while making sure to keep your lower back in contact with the floor the entire time. Breathe in through the nose while exhaling through your mouth. Hold for 45 seconds.

Progression #2 Hollow Body Rocker

Once you’ve mastered the static hold, you can add light rockers to the movement, careful not to not use your legs and arms for momentum or to hinge at the hips. Keep your pelvic tucked and your lower back in contact with the floor while maintaining your breathing. Rock for 45 seconds.

Progression #3 Chin Up Hold

Time to get off the floor and use the skills that you’ve learned from the first two progressions.

Standing on a box or a bench, grab the bar with an underhand grip, keeping your hands about shoulder width (or a little less) apart. Tuck your pelvis, keeping your belt buckle to your chin, just like the hollow body hold. Step off and hang on the bar, pulling down your shoulder blades, tightening your shoulders as if you were making orange juice with your armpits. You should pull your body up so your chin is above the bar. Eventually you should be able to get your bar to the chest. Like the other movements, make sure you to maintain your breathing. Hold this position for about 45 seconds.

Chin Up Hold with Jump Up

If you aren’t strong enough to pull yourself up yet (which we understand, as you’re reading this blog), you can stand on something a little higher so you can jump right up and hold that hollow body position. Try to hold it for 45 seconds.

Progression #4 Negative Chin Up

Typically, people are stronger in the negative (or downward motion of a pulling exercise). We will use this extra control to our advantage. Start by jumping up to the bar like in the previous progressions. Once your chin is above the bar, tuck your pelvis, and slowly lower your body all the way down as not to limit your range of motion. This should take about 5 seconds. Repeat for 6-8 reps.

Progression #5 The Chin-Up

You’re now ready to do go for the real deal. Grab the bar, hands about shoulder width apart. Start from a hanging position in your hollow body hold. Initiate the movement from the lats, pull up, and get your chin above the bar. Remember to exhale as you go up and inhale on the way down. Slowly come down to a full stretch. Don’t forget to your cues--making orange juice with your arms and keeping your belt buckle to the chin. Reset and repeat about 6-8 times.

If you’re comfortable with the chin-up, you can add more of a challenge by wearing a weighted vest or a belt with a kettlebell or plate attached.

For our visual learners, Coach Elvin and Coach Noam have put together a great video to walk you through the progressions outlined above.