Learn to do Chin-ups (Women CAN Do These!)

Today, we're going to explore one of the most challenging bootcamp basics: the chin-up.

Chin-ups are a version of pull-ups. In a chin-up, the palms of the hands are facing you as you pull yourself up, eventually lifting your chin over the bar. Traditional pull-ups are done with the palms facing away from you. Men tend to struggle less than women with this particular exercise due to a favorable upper body strength to total body weight ratio. Women (and men!) who are overweight are going to have a much more difficult time with this exercise so I'd recommend sticking with the modified versions until weight loss is achieved. However, women are definitely capable of performing chin-ups.

I'm emphasizing chin-ups as the best place to start for women as these are a little bit easier than pull-ups. The biceps are an important component of the chin-up, but the large muscles of the back and chest (the traps, the pecs, and the lats) are the real powerhouse movers for this exercise.

The key to gaining the type of strength needed for a full chin-up is to work the upper body using a variety of pulling actions. In a chin-up, you will be pulling your entire body weight off the floor and into the air. Doing biceps curls with even a ten-pound weight is never going to get you there! However, movements like tug-of-war with a heavy rope, the rope climb, and rowing are good places to start. Remember: you want to practice a PULLING action rather than pressing or pushing. This will engage all the back muscles you need for a chin-up.

Most of us don't have a chin-up bar installed in our homes, so you're going to need to find a jungle gym with monkey bars in your neighborhood park. You will also need to find some stable bar or heavy furniture (like a dining room or pool table) which will allow you to perform a modified pull-up or chin-up with your body underneath. At my bootcamp, we use both a heavy, wooden guardrail and the bannister which runs up the concrete stairs. By walking the feet under the bannister and lifting the hips into a modified bridge, we can perform chin-ups only pulling up the weight of the upper body. The feet stay on the floor throughout the exercise. This is one version of a modified chin-up. (See the link below for a visual on this and other modifications.)

If you would like more information about how to build up to a full chin-up (or pull-up) please check out this article I found in Women's Health magazine: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/chin-up-challenge-workout. There are more suggestions about building the strength needed for the chin-up.

And if you're a local Howard County resident, you can check out my bootcamp in Alpha Ridge Park where we work on chin-ups and a whole lot more. If you're looking for a challenge and don't mind sweating (a lot!) this might be exactly the right workout for you! Leave a comment to request more information.