On Your Way to 20 Chin-ups


I really like chin-ups…and calisthenics in general, for that matter.

About 4-5 years ago, the most chin-ups I could do in one set was 3.  In other words, I was pretty weak, man.

Now, last time I checked, I could bust out about 25 in a set.  BIG DIFFERENCE.  I think I can say now that I am no longer a weakling.  No bragging intended, though…only motivation.

You can do it too, if you are not already.  Want to know how I got beyond 20 chin-ups?  Glad you asked; I’ll tell you.

  1. Since I could only do 3 or so at a time, I started doing 5-6 sets of 2 repetitions as part of a circuit.  I did not do my max amount, because I wanted to be able to do 2 reps each time.
  2. I allowed myself enough time to fully recover between sets.  That was probably 1-2 minutes.
  3. I did that workout 3 days a week.
  4. Each week, I pushed myself to add one more rep for each set.  In other words, instead of two reps per set, I did 3 reps per set.  This added up over time.

That’s it.

Now, I am not going to tell you that you will get 20 chin-ups in 20 days or any falsehood like that.  It is going to take time.  It took me several months to get to 15, then 19, then 23, and beyond.  It is worth it, though.  Chin-ups are excellent for strengthening and adding muscle to your back and arms, with emphasis on the ‘wings’ (lats) and the biceps.  Don’t worry about becoming bulky though, ladies ;).

Try it.  Why not?

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10 thoughts on “On Your Way to 20 Chin-ups

  1. I used to be able to do 3 or 4, I believe…maybe even up to ten. It’s hard to remember. It’s been too long since I’ve done them, so sadly I’m back to zero. As soon as I have this baby (and recover of course), I plan to start regaining the ground that I lost.

  2. I’ve done pulls up assisted with a band. Do u think it helps or creates too much handicap to always need it?

    • Hi…yep, I think that a band can work well. If you want to eventually get to unassisted pull-ups/chin-ups, I would practice with the band A LOT, while testing often to see if/when I was able to do one or two unassisted. At that point, you could try doing the sets and reps mentioned in the post. Thanks for the comment!

  3. For those of us who do not like going to gyms and look for ways to modify exercises so that they can be done around the house without investing in expensive equipment, do you have suggestions on options or alternate way of doing pull-ups at home? I have visions of my shower curtain rod or closet rack pulling apart the sheet rock and me crashing to the ground in a helpless heap. Needless to say that would be my last attempt at a pull-up. 🙂

    • Lol…thanks for the comment first of all, Tachunta! To answer your question, yeah I definitely understand where you’re coming from. I was always trying to find somewhere to do pull-ups/chin-ups. And yes, the shower rod or closet rack would very likely result in the last attempt. The options that come to my mind would be 1) if you could find some sort of table at home or a low hanging piece of wood secured at both ends to do ‘assisted’ pull-ups with your feet still on the ground and back straight, or 2) buying one of the doorway pull-up bars and using it. Those usually aren’t too costly, and you could use a chair to get you most of the way up there if need be. Only thing with that is you’d have to make sure that you really pad where the bar meets the doorway frame, or it can kinda mess it up (personal experience, unfortunately).

    • I would say that the opposite of chin-ups would probably be dips. Push-ups could be a good opposite too, but considering the movement, perhaps dips are closer to opposite. I’m glad you posted this, because it is definitely important to have a ‘pull’ movement for every ‘push’ movement to prevent muscle imbalance.

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