The squat is often called the king of exercises because it can
build huge muscle all over your body in double quick time. But did
you know there is an equivalent exercise that can transform your
I'm talking about the pull up, also called the chin up. This exercise builds your back, arms shoulders and traps. It's a
terrific compound exercise that you should try and get into your
routine as a major upper body mass builder.
First, you need a safe set up to work from. Most commercial gyms
have a pull up area these days if they're any good.
What you absolutely don't want, is one of the old
fashioned pull up bars that screw into the doorframe. They have a
nasty habit of coming unscrewed while your doing the exercise, so
they're pretty dangerous. Nowadays you can get a pull up bar that
is held In position by leverage, this is much safer.
The ideal is a free standing pull up station, but these are not
cheap. If you train at home I suggest you use one of the safe
doorway set-ups, and think about upgrading to a more solid set up
in the future.
If you have access to a power rack, you might be able to fix a
pull up attachment to it. An average power rack is around 7 feet
high. You want to ideally be able to reach the pull up bar by
standing on tiptoe. One danger of the chin that you need to be
aware of is that you must stay tight at the bottom of the exercise.
By that I mean don't allow your body weight to stretch your
shoulders out - you can get injured this way.
Pull Ups Variations
So let's assume you have a solid pull up set up. Next, you'll need
to decide which grip to take on the bar. Three choices here:
We're all built different, and you'll most likely find that one
grip will suit you more than another. There are no rights or wrongs
here, just find the one that is most comfortable for you.
The pronated grip means your palms of your hands are facing away
The supinated grip means your palms are facing towards you.
The parallel grip means your palms are facing each other.
In the old days coaches used to say that one grip was better for
building width and another grip was better for building thickness.
This has proved to be total rubbish so ignore any advice you get
as regards that. It's academic anyway because if it's not
comfortable for you it won't work for you in the long run.
You may find that you can use more than one grip. Or you may even
be able to use all of 'em in which case the worlds your oyster. If
this applies to you, try a different grip over time to
see if it affects the amount of muscle you can build. In theory the
pronated grip affects the back more, and the supinated grip affects
the arms more.
The last thing to say about grip is stay away from very exaggerated
hand positions - as in the bench press. You want a couple of inches
wider that shoulder width, not much more or less than that. At the
top of the pull your forearms should be bolt upright.
Now, in theory it's just a matter of pulling yourself up until the
bar is about neck height, lowering under control to the start
position, and then pulling up to the neck level and so on.
It actually takes a fair amount of strength to pull your entire
bodyweight up by upper body strength, so its possible you may not
have enough strength to even do one chin when you start out. I'd go
so far as to say that if you can do say 2 sets of 10 chins, you're
far stronger than the average.
How To Do The Pull Up
Take a look at the video above. This guy gives a lot of good
advice. He gives a couple of ways to do assisted chins if you're
not strong enough to do proper chins when you start out. Just doing
the negative is a great way to start if you need to build strength
Take particular note when he points out you must never, ever chin
so the bar is behind your neck - this is really bad for the
shoulders and there's really no point in doing this anyway.
One thing I would say is that his grip is way too wide.
Another thing you can do if you can't chin yet that he doesn't
mention is the lat pull down exercise. You need to have the correct
set up for this. In this exercise you pull a bar down which is
attached to a weight stack. Here is a really good example.
How To Do The Lat Pull Down
Here is an example of how to do chins the wrong way.
Behind The Neck Pull Ups
Don't Ever Do This!
The trouble is, you see a reasonably well built person doing an
exercise and you copy because you assume they know what they're
You could argue that I'm making things worse by including this
video, but I needed to prove to you, that there is a whole load of
poor advice out there by people who haven't a clue what they're on
about. Makes my blood boil and I'm sick of it!
If you follow the advice in this article you won't go far
wrong. But make me a promise - Don't just accept
advice from anybody - the other purpose of this article is to
give you enough information to build the body you've always wanted
as quickly and safely as possible, as you will always be your best
trainer because you know your own body.
Never just take advice at face value - and if an exercise hurts
you, that's your body telling you not to do it. Question
Another example of how not to do the chin.
It must have been my unlucky day when I wrote this edition. Above
you can see more lunacy, and I defy anyone to make sense of the
commentary that goes with it.
The reason I included it here is that this is another example of
how not to do the chin. Do it this way and you'll screw your
shoulders up double quick. The other thing is if you use momentum
in any weight training exercise you diminish it's muscle building
Chins should be done in the fullest range of motion that is safe,
and under strict control, especially the negative part of the
If you have the chin as part of your routine, and either the bench
press or the overhead press in your routine, you pretty much have
covered all the bases as regards upper body compound movements.
Build up your poundage in the bench or overhead press, build up to
being able to do 2 sets of 10 chins with perfect form, and you'll
slap more muscle onto your upper body than you can imagine right
When you can do 2 sets of 10, now's the time to add weight above
your body weight. The easy way to do this is to attach a plate
around your waist with a harness. These harnesses are pretty cheap
and easy to come by on line these days. You simply thread the
harness through the hole in the plate and your good to go.
Do you see where this is all going?
What I'm doing is giving you the skinny on the exercises you need
to do to build your ideal body as fast and safely as possible.
Bodybuilding is not rocket science - all you need is knowledge of
the best compound exercises and how to do them the right way, then
just do them consistently, in good form, adding weight in small
increments, and keeping your form tight.
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assume any liability for the information contained herein.
The Information contained herein reflects only the opinion
of the author and is in no way to be considered medical advice.
Specific medical advice should be obtained from a licensed
health care practitioner. Consult your physician before you
begin any nutrition, exercise, or dietary supplement program.