How to Radically Improve Your Chin-Ups in 16 Weeks

How to Radically Improve Your Chin-Ups in 16 Weeks

One of the biggest problems many personal trainers and strength coaches have is not being able to integrate training principles into program design. While it’s great to be able to discuss the pros and cons of linear periodization versus undulating periodization, often that knowledge doesn’t translate into improving an athlete’s squat or enabling them to jump higher or run faster.

To show you how to bridge the gap from theory to practice, here is a 16-week program to improve chin-up performance. The program is divided into four phases, with each phase building upon the next. It’s understood that some gyms may not have all this equipment (we do), so you will have to make compromises. Consider this an “optimal” program – what you may actually have to do falls into the category of “reality.”
To make certain that we’re on the same page, consider that the pull-up is a type of chin-up; the only difference between a chin-up and a pull-up is the grip. Chin-ups traditionally use a supinated grip, while pull-ups use a pronated grip. When you perform either one, always lower your body to a full extension; don’t use straps (they take away from developing your forearms and grip) or kipping – these should be honest reps.
Note that during the third week of each phase you’ll decrease the volume of each exercise. This “deloading” week will help you perform more resistance on the fourth week than if you did the same volume of training for four straight weeks.
Phase 1: Weeks 1-4, Accumulation 1
A1. Chin-Up, Neutral Grip
Week 1: 4 x 1, 20-0-1-1, rest 60 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 1, 20-0-1-1, rest 60 seconds
Week 3: 4 x 1, 20-0-1-1, rest 60 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 1, 20-0-1-1, rest 60 seconds
Note: Use a parallel grip with the hands shoulder-width apart
A2. Bench Press, Thick DB, Neutral Grip
Week 1: 4 x 4-6, 5110, rest 60 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 4-6, 5110, rest 60 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 4-6, 5110, rest 60 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 4-6, 5110, rest 60 seconds
B1. Semi-Stiff-Arm Pulldown
Week 1: 4 x 15-17, 4020, rest 60 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 15-17, 4020, rest 60 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 15-17, 4020, rest 60 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 15-17, 4020, rest 60 seconds
B2. Flye, 30-Degree Incline, Thick DB, Unrolling Grip
Week 1: 4 x 12-15, 3120, rest 60 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 12-15, 3120, rest 60 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 12-15, 3120, rest 60 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 12-15, 3120, rest 60 seconds
Note: At the bottom, the elbows should be in line with the ears.
C. Sideways External Rotation, Low Pulley, Thick Handle
Week 1: 3 x 12-15, 3010, rest 60 seconds
Week 2: 3 x 12-15, 3010, rest 60 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 12-15, 3010, rest 60 seconds
Week 4: 3 x 12-15, 3010, rest 60 seconds
D1. Scott Curl, Seated, 45-Degree, Thick DB, Neutral Grip
Week 1: 3 x 12-15, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 2: 3 x 12-15, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 12-15, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 4: 3 x 12-15, 4010, rest 60 seconds
D2. Triceps Extension, 15-Degree Decline, Thick DB, Neutral Grip
Week 1: 3 x 12-15, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 2: 3 x 12-15, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 12-15, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 4: 3 x 12-15, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Note: Dumbbells must touch the shoulders.
Phase 2: Weeks 5-8, Intensification 1
A1. Pull-Up, Thick Bar, Pronated Grip
Week 1: 5 x 2-4, 6010, rest 90 seconds
Week 2: 5 x 2-4, 6010, rest 90 seconds
Week 3: 3 x 2-4, 6010, rest 90 seconds
Week 4: 5 x 2-4, 6010, rest 90 seconds
Note: Hands are shoulder-width apart and pronated. Extend the arms fully at the bottom position.
A2. Bench Press, 30-Degree Incline, Thick Multi-Grip Bar, Mid Grip
Week 1: 5 x 5-7, 5010, rest 90 seconds
Week 2: 5 x 5-7, 5010, rest 90 seconds
Week 3: 3 x 5-7, 5010, rest 90 seconds
Week 4: 5 x 5-7, 5010, rest 90 seconds
B1. Rowing, Bent-Over, Kneeling, Thick DB, Scott Bench, Unilateral, Neutral Grip
Week 1: 5 x 6-8, 3011, rest 90 seconds
Week 2: 5 x 6-8, 3011, rest 90 seconds
Week 3: 3 x 6-8, 3011, rest 90 seconds
Week 4: 5 x 6-8, 3011, rest 90 seconds
Note: Bring dumbbell forward before pulling it to the hip.
B2. Flye, Supine, Thick DB
Week 1: 5 x 7-9, 4020, rest 90 seconds
Week 2: 5 x 7-9, 4020, rest 90 seconds
Week 3: 3 x 7-9, 4020, rest 90 seconds
Week 4: 5 x 7-9, 4020, rest 90 seconds
Note: At the bottom the elbows are in line with the ears.
C1. Incline Curl, 45-Degree, Dual Pulley, D-Handle, Supinated Grip (1 ¼ top) Week 1: 4 x 6-8, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 6-8, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 6-8, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 6-8, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Note: Pulleys are behind the bench, one handle per hand. Keep upper arms as perpendicular to the floor as possible.
C2. Triceps Extension, Supine, EZ Bar, Mid Pronated Grip to Forehead
Week 1: 4 x 6-8, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 6-8, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 6-8, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 6-8, 4010, rest 60 seconds
Note: Bring bar to the forehead.
Phase 3: Weeks 9-12, Accumulation 2
A1. Chin-Up, Supinated Narrow Grip
Week 1: 4 x 6-8, 3011, rest 75 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 6-8, 3011, rest 75 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 6-8, 3011, rest 75 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 6-8, 3011, rest 75 seconds
Note: Hands should be 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) apart and supinated.
A2. Bench Press 15-Degree, Thick Bar, Mid Grip
Week 1: 4 x 7-9, 4210, rest 75 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 7-9, 4210, rest 75 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 7-9, 4210, rest 75 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 7-9, 4210, rest 75 seconds
Note: Bring the bar to a point slightly lower than the nipple line.
B1. Rowing, Seated, Pronated Wide Grip
Week 1: 4 x 10-12, 3011, rest 75 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 10-12, 3011, rest 75 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 10-12, 3011, rest 75 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 10-12, 3011, rest 75 seconds
Note: Bring handle to waist. Hands should be outside the shoulders.
B2. Flye, 30-Degree, Rope, Pronated Grip
Week 1: 4 x 10-12, 3020, rest 75 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 10-12, 3020, rest 75 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 10-12, 3020, rest 75 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 10-12, 3020, rest 75 seconds
Note: At the bottom the elbows should be in line with the ears.
C1. Standing Curl, Pulley, Neutral Close Grip
Week 1: 3 x 8/8/8, 3010, rest 60 seconds
Week 2: 3 x 8/8/8, 3010, rest 60 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 8/8/8, 3010, rest 60 seconds
Week 4: 3 x 8/8/8, 3010, rest 60 seconds
Note: Palms are facing each other and closer than shoulder-width apart.
C2. Pressdown, Standing, V-Handle, Neutral Grip
Week 1: 3 x 8/8/8, 3010, rest 60 seconds
Week 2: 3 x 8/8/8, 3010, rest 60 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 8/8/8, 3010, rest 60 seconds
Week 4: 3 x 8/8/8, 3010, rest 60 seconds
Note: Hinge at the elbow. Forearms must cover as much of the biceps as possible.
Phase 4: Week 13-16, Intensification 2
A1. Pull-Up, Subscapularis, Wide Grip Week 1: 7,5,3,7,5,3, 3010, rest 100 seconds
Week 2: 7,5,3,7,5,3, 3010, rest 100 seconds
Week 3: 7,5,3,3, 3010, rest 100 seconds
Week 4: 7,5,3,7,5,3, 3010, rest 100 seconds
Note: Hands are outside your shoulders and pronated. Push yourself away from the bar upon lowering.
A2. Chest Dips, V-Bar
Week 1: 7,5,3,7,5,3, 3110, rest 100 seconds
Week 2: 7,5,3,7,5,3, 3110, rest 100 seconds
Week 3: 7,5,3,3, 3110, rest 100 seconds
Week 4: 7,5,3,7,5,3, 3110, rest 100 seconds
Note: Lean forward slightly. Elbows flare out. Grip is one palms-width outside shoulder distance.
B1. Rowing, Bent-Over, Kneeling, Thick DB, Unilateral Arc, Neutral Grip Week 1: 4 x 4-6, 3012, rest 90 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 4-6, 3012, rest 90 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 4-6, 3012, rest 90 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 4-6, 3012, rest 90 seconds
Note: Bring dumbbell to the hip.
B2. Bench Press, Supine, Thick DB, Full Stretch Grip
Week 1: 4 x 5-7, 4020, rest 90 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 5-7, 4020, rest 90 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 5-7, 4020, rest 90 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 5-7, 4020, rest 90 seconds
Note: Supinate your hands 15 degrees at the bottom position for maximal stretch of pecs.
C1. Standing Curls, Thick BB, Wide and Supinated Grip
Week 1: 4 x 6-8, 3010, rest 75 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 6-8, 3010, rest 75 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 6-8, 3010, rest 75 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 6-8, 3010, rest 75 seconds
Note: Keep wrists cocked back and hands shoulder-width apart.
C2. Incline Bench Press 30 degrees, BB, Close Grip from Pins
Week 1: 4 x 6-8, 3010, rest 75 seconds
Week 2: 4 x 6-8, 3010, rest 75 seconds
Week 3: 2 x 6-8, 3010, rest 75 seconds
Week 4: 4 x 6-8, 3010, rest 75 seconds
Note: Bring the bar towards the chest. Shoulder-width grip. Bar starts from the pins.
What type of results can you expect from this type of program? As an example, consider that when this type of program was used by the women on the Canadian National Ski Team, the average number of chin-ups increased from zero to 12 reps in just 11 weeks. Further, the skiers could perform reps holding a 35-pound dumbbell with their feet. Your results may be slightly less or even better, but you’re certain to be pleased with the outcome.
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