I’m proud to announce that this week I completed my first unassisted chin up! I actually did one last week but I had to make sure it wasn’t a fluke before posting about it.
My husband I set a goal to complete an unassisted chin up almost three months ago. I knew that Rob’s hopes for me achieving a chin up in only 30 days was too steep, even for me.
Nevertheless, in just eight weeks I went from using an assist of 20 kilograms to nothing. I can’t believe how much strength I’ve gained, and the new muscle definition isn’t bad either! I know completing a chin up is a goal for many of my readers, so here’s how I did it:
- Practice makes perfect: For five or six of the eight weeks, I managed to work on chin ups three times a week. Two of those sessions were just spent using the assisted machine, while one was made up of eight brutal sets of negatives. I had some setbacks with my training in the middle, where I only got in one session per week for a while. From experience, it is clear that you need to practice chin ups all the time to see serious improvement. I would not recommend doing them every single day – every other day is more than enough.
- Abandon the assist: I can promise you I wouldn’t have been able to do this so quickly if I didn’t have a training partner, so I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to make friends in the gym. It is so much better having someone to simply help you through your sticking point rather than a machine assisting you the entire time. Rob would let me struggle for a few seconds but then give me a soft push. And, during my negatives, he would push me to the top position each time so I could save my energy for the hold itself.
- Embrace the negative: For the first five weeks, all I did were sets of negative chin ups. I only did single repetitions, where Rob helped me (or I stood on a box and jumped if I was on my own) get to the top position. Then I slowly lowered down to the bottom position, and then rested for 1-2 minutes before trying again. I only did one rep at a time, but I tried to beat my previous time each week by lowering myself slower.
For the last three weeks, I’ve been doing two or even three consecutive negatives in a set. I also did some weighted negatives with 10 kilograms chained around my waist.
- Try half reps: My last couple of sessions have involved me jumping to the half way position and pulling myself up. Practice the top and bottom of the range, but keep in mind that it’s much harder trying to pull yourself up from a dead hang position.
- Experiment with grip: I didn’t neglect my pull-ups during the past eight weeks, and I still did them twice a week. All of my negatives were done with a reverse (palms facing me) grip. But the very first chin up I did was with a neutral grip.Rob and I were training arms together last week, and I was waiting for him to finish his set. While I swear I’m normally completely focused on my workout, I find arm day so boring because I’m not needed to spot. We just so happened to be standing next to a pull up bar which had a neutral grip attachment and I thought “what the heck, I’m going to try to pull myself up”.
Lo and behold, I did it! I didn’t even make it all the way to the top because I was so excited! I jumped down, screaming at Rob and asking if he had seen it. I had tried to pull myself in the past, but it was a massive struggle.
Here is what I did during my last back session (AKA my first unassisted chin up workout!):
Chin ups: 4 x 5 (one rep completely unassisted, followed by four partially assisted reps)
Straight arm pulldown: 4 x 12-15
Lat pulldown: 2 x 12, 1 x 8, 4 layer drop set (6, 8, 8, 15 reps)
Seated cable row: 2 x 12, 1 x 8, 3 layer drop set (8, 12, 15 reps)
Bent over row: 4 x 8
The chin ups were done with a reverse grip. The four ‘partially assisted’ reps involved Rob giving me a slight nudge through the sticking point – a lot of it was still me busting my guts. My first three sets were awesome but I really struggled to get up there the fourth time. I’m sure I will continue a pattern like this until I can do more than one rep on my own.
Even if you’re not trying to do a chin up, this workout was brutal! My entire back is still aching two days later, and I rarely feel soreness in my back after a workout. I think it was those killer drop sets!
I know I have promised video footage of me doing a chin up, but I can assure you it’s coming! I want to be able to do multiple reps before I start getting too excited and post it all over the internet. The important thing to note is that anyone out there can do a chin up. You just have to put your mind to it, focus and practice!
Any questions? If anyone wants me to elaborate on anything please let me know! Does anyone else have any other tips?