Women often neglect to train their back thinking that it is unimportant – out of sight out of mind. However, exercising your back is vital to maintain healthy posture as well as looking amazing when done right.
The best exercise for the back is the chin up. It is easy to do and brings quick results. However, many women tell me they cannot perform a single chin up and so they give up. With this in mind I have written this post to show you how to work up to the perfect chin up in order to bring your back up to par.
What muscles does the chin up target?
As usual, I like to talk a little bit about what muscles the exercise actually exercises before getting into the how to. It always amazes me how many people do an exercise thinking it works out a muscle that is completely wrong. My brother is forever doing rows and telling me that he is working out his triceps! Idiot!
Here is a image that shows the lats muscles, the main target of the chin up.
However, the chin up also works out the:
- forearms and
There is also a fair amount of abs involved in the motion as they are brought in to stablize the body as it is pulling up. As you can see from this the chin up is a compound exercise that uses many muscles at once and is therefore and important part of our muscle building or weight loss workouts.
The perfect chin up technique
Now we know the muscles the chin up targets I will go through the perfect way to do a chin up.
- Firstly, find a chin up bar that is high enough so that you don’t have to bend your legs to prevent them from touching the ground. This will mean you will have to jump slightly to reach it.
- Next, pull yourself up to the bar with an out breath so that your upper chest is touching the bottom of the bar. During the motion you should imagine that your elbows are pulling your body up and you should be tensing your back muscles the whole time.
- At the top of the motion stop for only one second and then begin a slow decline back down to a position where you can feel a stretch in your lats all the time breathing in.
Some pointers that you should follow to ensure your technique stays good:
- Try not to use your arms to pull yourself up, focus more on the back.
- Don’t slant your body by leaning back as this makes the movement easier.
- Make the pulling up motion about three seconds.
- Make the decline LONG – anywhere between five and 8 seconds.
What to do if you can’t do a chin up?
Now to the core of the article. As I said, many women cannot even do one chin up. I have read in fitness magazines for years that the average number of chin ups a woman can do is 0.
While this may seem a little discouraging I can assure you it is a good thing. The reason for this is that it means the back muscles are underdeveloped and as soon as you start working them out they will grow and respond. You may find a lot of back complaints go away and the rest of your body will look and feel more stable. Work hard on your back.
Here are some techniques you can use to both help you do your first chin up, OR, do more chin ups when you reach a plateau:
1. Slower declines
This is my favorite and should be used all the time. Quite often I will do a one repetition chin up where I pull myself up and then lower myself down as slowly as I can, often for longer than two minutes. This really tests the muscles and it will surprise you at how fast you will see new strength coming through on your regular chin ups.
2. Half chin ups
If you cannot do any or are at a point where you want to start pushing yourself then try using a chair or ladder to get to the top position and then lowering yourself down over and over and over again. The decline muscles are pretty much the same as the pull up muscles so doing declines for ten minutes will really get you ready for the real thing.
3. Bent over rows
The bent over row that is done with a bar bell is the closest movement you can do to the chin up. Start out with a light weight and progress upwards, adding more weight each session. Within a couple of weeks you will be able to pump out some chin ups and that, in turn, will cause you to be able to do more weight on the bent over row! All this chinning and rowing will really pump your back muscles.
When doing the bent over row keep your hands a bit wider than shoulder width and keep your back straight. Always look straight ahead and not down at your feet as this can cause your spine to come under some stress. Keep your back on about a 45 degree angle from the floor; NOT horizontal like many websites will tell you. Lastly, make sure your shoulder blades are tight together and you are mentally focussing on tensing your lats during the motion.
These are the best three ways to work up to the chin up. If you have any other successful methods then drop us a comment and tell us about it.
Evelyn grew up in a quiet town of Shaftesbury, hunting, fishing and enjoying the outdoors with her family. She has been an avid rifle hunter, chasing whitetail for more than 12 years and has harvested many deer through the years. Turkey hunting, grouse hunting, fishing, and camping are just some of the other outdoor activities she enjoys.