How To Get Better At Chin Ups : Your Complete Guide

how to get better at chin ups

If you have been desperately wondering how to get better at chin ups, wonder no more because in this guide I got you covered.

I am going to to give you everything you need to know for how to get better at chin ups.

Whether you are currently doing a few bodyweight chin ups, but they are a struggle and you want to improve.

Or if you are no where near getting your first chin up and you want to work your way up to getting your first.

No matter where you are on the spectrum, this article is going to have you covered.

I am going to clearly and concisely lay out a step by step program on how to get better at chin ups so just be sure to follow each step.

There is a reason I am taking my time and yours to write this article and have you read it, I want you to use it and see results from it.

Therefore, sit back, grab your favorite protein shake, and let’s get this party started!

How To Get Better At Chin Ups

True Test Of Strength

The chin up is a true test of upper body strength. Who doesn’t want to be able to pull their own bodyweight up in the air multiple times?

Plus if you ever stuck hanging from the edge of a cliff, you will be pretty glad you read this article, just saying.

Yet the fact remains, yes, your bodyweight does play a role when it comes to performing chin ups.

Generally speaking the less bodyweight you have the easier it is going to be to do a chin up.

You don’t need to be skin and bones or shredded like a body builder on stage.

Yet point being your bodyweight does play a role. This article is going to be primarily for the training that goes into how to get better at chin ups but if you want some extra help with your nutrition, I encourage you to check out some of my other articles.

As well as feel free to head HERE To calculate how many calories you should eat in order to lose bodyweight.

Also, before you ask or think, yes you should still do everything I say here in this article whether you are at your goal body weight or you have 50lbs to lose.

You should never “wait” until you have lost weight to lift weights or get stronger. You should be doing them simultaneously.

So again, whether you are currently doing 1 or 2 bodyweight chin ups, or you want to make your way to your first, you should be doing everything here in this article.

Capeche? Groovy, now let’s get right into the meat and potatoes.

How To Get Better At Chin Ups : The Progression Model

There are certain exercises that you should go through to progress your way up to performing perfect chin ups.

I am going to lay each one of those exercise out here below, as well as guidelines on how many sets, reps, etc to perform before heading onto the next one.

This is in order therefore you should start with the first exercise, then progress your way up the ladder until you get to perform chin ups.

Also, even if you are currently doing SOME chin ups right now, I still strongly believe following this order of movements is going to massively improve your chin up game.

You can re learn movement patterns, strengthen them, and put yourself in a position to rep out chin ups like it’s no one’s business.

Let’s get into how to get better at chin ups : The Progression Model.

Barbell Invert Row

The first exercise that you are going to want to master is the barbell inverted row.

The is essentially a horizontal chin up. You are working to get your chest to the bar just as you would on a chin up.

Coaching Cues

  1. When you first start off, keep your feet flat on the ground to allow for extra push from your legs. This is a-okay and will allow you to build up the muscles in your upper body to perform a chin up correctly. When you get confident and strong enough, move to your legs being extended out and keeping just your heels on the ground.
  2. Think about getting your chest all the way to the bar and your arms fully extended at the bottom. Don’t cheat the range of motion, think quality over quantity. I would rather you do 3 full range of motion reps than 10 half range of motion reps.
  3. Think about keep your shoulders away from your ears shoved down into your back pockets.
  4. Keep your elbows close to your side the entire time.

How many reps and sets?

Sets: 3-5 sets

Reps: Work up to sets of 10 unbroken reps in a row

Frequency (How many times to perform this movement throughout the week) : 2-3x per week

When to move to the next exercise?

When you can perform 3×10 reps unbroken with good form, you have conquered this movement can move onto the next exercise.

2. Barbell Chin Up

The brother to the BB Invert Row, the BB Chin up now gives you the vertical movement pattern that you will be doing when you eventually get to your regular chin ups.

Coaching Cues:

1. Use as much or as little of your legs as you need to here. It will be easier to use your legs since you are going to have your knees bent and flat on the ground. Yet if you want to make it more challenging, try not to use any leg drive. Simply have your legs act like stabilizers and have your upper body pull your dead weight up.

2. Bring your chin up and above the bar. Think about your chest going to the bar, not your chin.

3. Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears the entire time. Don’t shrug your shoulders up in an effort to get closer to the bar. Let your upper body continue to pull your chest up.

4. Think about your elbows are pulling down towards the ground, not out or back behind you.

How many sets and reps?

Sets: 3-5 sets

Reps: Work up to 10 unbroken reps

Frequency: 2-3x per week

When to move on to the next exercise?

When you can perform 3×10 unbroken reps with minimal to no use of your lower body to help assist you up, you can move onto the next exercise in the progression.

3. Eccentric Only Chin Up

Now that you have conquered the invert row and BB Chin up, it is time to get you on a chin up bar!

You are going to be performing eccentric chin ups. Eccentric means the lowering portion of a movement.

When it comes to how to get better at chin ups, I am not quite sure if there is a more underrated movement.

This is where the muscle gets taxed the most and the most stress gets placed on it.

Therefore building up this eccentric portion can build top strength in the entire movement, leading to you being able to perform and control regular chin ups.

Coaching Cues

  1. Grab a box or surface that allows you to jump up the the top of the bar with ease. You don’t want to be fighting to get yourself up to the bar, the point of this movement is not the way up it is the way down.
  2. Get your chin fully above the bar, keep your shoulders away from your ears, then work on lowering yourself down for 3-5 seconds at a time.
  3. Be sure to fully extend your arms at the bottom. You want to make sure you go as slow as you can on the way down while keeping proper range of motion.

How many sets and reps?

Sets: 3-5 sets

Reps : 3-5 reps (with 3-5 seconds on the way down)

Frequency: 2-3x per week

When to move onto the next exercise?

Move onto the next progression exercise once you are able to do 3 full sets of 5 reps with a 5 second eccentric on the way down each time.

4. Assisted Chin Ups

Oh boy, you are getting close!

Can you feel it?! The sheer satisfaction of pulling yourself up the bar, it is right within your reach!

You are going to go to assisted chin ups.

This can be done with a band or with a machine at the gym. Personally speaking, I am a fan of the bands and if you have access to them, I believe they are more optimal for keeping proper form and range of motion.

You can buy some HERE if you don’t have them.

If you do not have access to them you can use the chin up machine at the gym as the theory will be the same.

You are going to slowly but surely lower and lower the amount of resistance you are using each time.

This is where it kind of goes backwards. Normally “more is better”, not in this case. For example the bands, the heavier the band you use, the easier it will be. Or the heavier you go on your chin up machine, the easier it will be.

Your goal is to keep proper form the entire time as you start to progress down in thickness of bands or weight on the machine.

Coaching Cues

  1. Be sure to continue to get that full range of motion. Don’t cut the movement short at the bottom or the top.
  2. Think about driving your elbows down and bring your chest up to the bar. Once again, keep your shoulders away from your ears and use your upper body to pull you up.

How many sets and reps?

Sets: 3-5 sets

Reps: 5-10 reps

Frequency: 2x per week

When to move onto the next exercise?

You may stay in this phase longer than exercise because there will be different levels of resistance that you work through.

When you can do 3 sets of 10 full reps with a given band, move down to the next thinnest band (or less weight on the machine).

Then each band you make it to, be sure you can do 3×10 reps with a band before moving onto the next one.

Once you make it to the thinnest band you have, you are now ready for… You guessed it, your first chin-up!

How To Get Better At Chin Ups : Get Your First Chin Up!

how to get better at chin ups congratulations

Congratulations! You have made it through the progressions and now it is time to start improving your chin ups with bodyweight.

First, let me make this very clear.

If you can get 10 full reps with the thinnest band you have, you 100% can do a bodyweight chin up.

I need you to be very clear on this because oftentimes we put glass ceilings on ourselves that we can’t do something.

Especially something like a chin up where we are pulling our body weight up, it can be scary sometimes!

Just know that I know for a fact, with all of my heart, if you can do 10 reps in a row with the thinnest band you can find, you are ready to do bodyweight chin ups.

Now, when you get to this point, lets cover a few of the basics when it comes to form and execution.

Chin Up Form Recap

  1. Start with your arms extended, but shoulders not shrugged up. You want to shove your shoulders down into your back pockets.
  2. Do not initiate the movement by jerking your chest up, initiate the movement by pulling your elbows down. Your upper body will follow. If you start by moving your chest you are going to arch your lower back and probably create injury.
  3. Think about bringing your chest to the bar, not your chin. When you bring your chest to the bar, you don’t over extend your neck, which can lead to pain.
  4. Slowly lower yourself down with full control.

Now once you get here and you are doing bodyweight chin ups, there are a few ways for how to get better at chin ups.

The first method is one of my favorites and that is called grease the groove method.

Grease The Groove

GTG (Grease The Groove) is a method known for years to build up strength for a specific movement.

A lot of what strength is is in fact a neurological adaptation. Your brain and nervous system need to be more proficient at executing the movement.

Think about Tom Brady. He has thrown the football the same way for 20+ years. He doesn’t throw everyday to throw out his arm though, he throws just to practice greasing the groove with his movement.

Making sure his body gets and stays used to the movement pattern, build muscle strength and endurance in that move.

You can use this grease the groove method to build up strength in your chin ups especially if you are in the earlier stages of getting your first couple.

The GTG method goes like this.

You are going to multiple sets through your way. But, these sets are going no where close to total failure.

Let’s say right now you can only do one chin up unbroken (which, congrats!).

The GTG method would look like

Breakfast – do 1 chin up

Lunch – do 1 chin up

Dinner – do 1 chin up

Before bed – 1 chin up

And that is it. Just one set, just one rep, then move it along.

Not multiple sets, not going to absolute failure, just training the movement pattern consistently.

It may not seem like much but that is 4 chin ups over the course of a day right?

That is 28 chin ups over the course of a week (excluding any extra you are doing in your training program).

That is 112 chin ups over the course of a month.

That seems like a lot of chin ups to me. All while without over taxing your body to the point where you can’t recover and it becomes counter productive because again you are not going to failure.

Just doing one chin up then calling it.

Then over time, you go to 2 chin ups… Do that for a month or two.. Then 3 chin ups.

Then before you know it, you are repping out sets of 5, 8, 10 unbroken chin ups in a row.

You are a beast!

The GTG method is by far my most favorite method when it comes to how to get better at chin ups.

I would start implementing it today!

Cluster Method

Another great way for how to get better at chin ups would be something called cluster sets.

You can watch what a cluster set is here below.

Essentially you are doing one set of lower reps put together, adding up to one set of higher reps.

Confusing, but give me a second.

Let’s say right now you can do 5 chin ups in a row. That set would be 5 total reps.

Let’s say you do a cluster set of 3-3-3-3.

So one set of cluster chin ups would be you do 3 reps, rest 15 seconds, 3 reps, rest 15 seconds, 3 reps, rest 15 seconds, then 3 final reps.

Over the span of the set, you did 12 total reps in one set, instead of just 5 total reps in your previous sets.

Therefore you are doing more volume over time which is going to lead to you being able to increase strength in your chin ups.

This is a great way to get to increase the intensity and volume, without needing to do more reps in a row.

Work in cluster sets into your training today!

Don’t Forget About Tried & True Progressive Overload

Nothing is ever going to top the hand over fist progressive overload gains per week when it comes to increasing your chin ups.

These two concepts above were fancy and cool, but don’t forget you can simply do “straight sets” ( which is just regular sets and reps ) and get better at chin ups that way.

You simply just apply the progressive overload concept. If you don’t know what progressive overload is, I highly encourage you to check out this article I wrote HERE .

Essentially you are just going to try and beat what you did last week.

So if last week you did 4×2 chin ups, this week, try to get at least 1×3, 3×2.

That would be doing more than you did previously, and if you do that each time, you will get stronger!

How To Get Better At Chin Ups : When To Add Weight?

So let’s say you are starting to crank out some chin ups. You are feeling good, and you are like “damn, I might be able to add weight to my chin ups soon!”.

Congrats my friend, congrats.

Here is how and when you know you can add weight to your chin ups.

When you can do one set of 10 unbroken chin ups, you can start add weight to your chin ups.

I would start small, with maybe 5 -10lbs max.

Then from there, do all of what we talked about here above. Work to increase your reps, increase your sets.

How To Get Better At Chin Ups: Accessory Work

Let’s face it, no one ever got super good at doing chin ups just from doing chin ups.

I know, sounds weird.

But when you throw in accessory work into the mix, you are exponentially going to increase and improve your chin up strength.

Accessory moves are just movements that are going to help strengthen the muscles that perform the chin up.

These muscles are

  • Lats
  • Traps
  • Rhomboids
  • Biceps
  • Rear delts

To name a few.

Now, you don’t even necessarily have to know what those muscles are, just know you want to strengthen your upper / mid back to optimize your chin up strength.

I can put some examples of a few here below.

Sets: 2-4 sets

Reps: 8-12 reps

Sets: 2-4 sets

Reps: 8-12 reps

Sets: 2-4 sets

Reps: 10-15 reps

These are just a few of the accessory exercises that you can work into your overall chin up program to help accelerate your gains!

How To Get Better At Chin Ups : Final Word

Welp, there you have it.

Hopefully everything you need to know on how to get better at chin ups from if you are a total beginner to if you have been doing a few already.

I hope you found this guide helpful.

I know this can be a lot of information, so if you want to get better at chin ups and you want a program that takes all of the guesswork out of it for you, I got you covered.

I have an entire 4 month program dedicated to improving your chin up. It gives you exact sets, reps, times per week to workout, accessory movements, everything you would need.

The guesswork is taken out for you. You just follow the program and see results.

You automatically gain access to it when you join my Clubhouse.

If you are looking to take your chin ups to the next level, check it out.

Other than that, hope you at least learned something from your time here, thank you for reading, and chat soon.