Tutorial: How to do your first chin-up & pull-up!

  If you are in a relatively good physical condition where you are not overweight and not too old you should be able to get a hold of the chin/pull-up in a very short period of time! And if you have ever done any physical sport(sports like professional gaming and chess are not counted!) you […]

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Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!


If you are in a relatively good physical condition where you are not overweight and not too old you should be able to get a hold of the chin/pull-up in a very short period of time! And if you have ever done any physical sport(sports like professional gaming and chess are not counted!) you should be already able to do one. If not however keep reading!

Before we start however if you don’t have a pull-up bar and are looking for one here are two good and very cheap suggestions that I have for you. Option OneTutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up! and Option TwoTutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!.

Many of you might find it surprising but my first chin-up took me one whole summer vacation of 3 months. I was around the age of 10 I believe. During the school year I saw some of my classmates being able to pull out 3 or 4 chin-ups(nobody even considered doing pull-ups at the time) and that got me interested. I had no clue how to train for it, nor was there anybody to help me. What I did was go to the pull-up bar and attempt a chin-up everyday.

 At first I was just hanging on the bar. I remember I would grab the bar and be unable to even move an inch from the bottom position. I was attempting a chin-up every single morning until I started seeing a slight progress. I would start moving up. At first just an inch, then two by the end of the summer vacation I was finally done with the chin-up and could do one. 

Needless to say that is not an effective method to consider when learning the chin-up/pull-up. That’s why I sat down and thought about the easiest and most efficient approach. I also asked several fellow athletes from the gym and many of you on my facebook page. So now, let’s begin with the tutorial.

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

Exercise Involved Muscle Groups Aditional Skills Needed Difficulty Level
The Pull-Up Back, Shoulders, Biceps, Forearms Standard Grip Endurance AA

0. Warm up
Start with a warm up always before you jump on any exercise or tutorial. If you are unsure how to do that click here for a detailed warm up article.

1. Hanging on the bar
Your first preparation for the pull-up should be hanging on the bar. Why? Because you need enough endurance in your fingers and grip so that you can completely focus on the pull-up as an exercise. If you find hanging on the bar difficult because your fingers hurt then you will be unable to complete your workout sets there.

That’s why, Goal #1 – Hang on the bar for over 30 seconds! It will be even better if you develop enough endurance to hang there for a whole minute but it’s not obligatory.

2. Assisted Pull-Ups
There are 2 easy methods that I suggest to use when assisting yourself with your pull-up.

2.1. Chair

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

All that you need is a chair. Put it on the left side of your body, step on it with your left foot and pull yourself up. Go for 8 to 10 repetitions. Once that gets easy move the chair away from you. The process is very simple, every time you reach 10 repetitions move the chair by a feet away from you.

2.2. Rubberbands

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

There are 2 brands of rubber bands that I suggest. For the purpose of this exercise your best option would be the standard wide rubber bands. They are great for assisted pull-ups and also could be used appropriately in your push-up workouts! Here’s where you can find them on a good price and good quality:  http://www.ironwoodyfitness.com

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

Depending on your initial physical condition and weight you are most likely to start with a black, green or blue rubber band. Just pick a colour and attach the band to your pull- up bar in a way that there is a place for you to place your foot and step on the rubber band. Now attempt a pull-up. You know you have picked the right colour when you can hardly reach 8 or 10 repetitions. If you can only do 2-3 it means the rubber band is not helping you enough. If you can go past 10 it means the rubber band is making things too easy. Settle for a colour that puts your repetitions in the 8 to 10 range.

The progression here is more easily observant than the one with the chair. With the chair it would be hard to establish your progress for you will be putting a different amount of pressure on every workout with your leg. With the rubber bands the amount of pressure is limited and you can’t press with your foot past it. That’s why if you have the opportunity buy a pack of bands they will come very handy with many different exercises later like the one arm chin-up and your push-ups variation. Totally a worthy purchase you won’t regret!

3. Additional, not bar-related exercises
You should always start your pull-up workout with some assisting pull-ups(using a chair or ruber bands) on the pull-up bar. All the assisted pull-ups are going to be your direct exercises. After you are done with them you should continue with assisting exercises away from the pull-up bar.

These exercises are going to focus onto developing the muscle groups involved in the pull-up but indirectly, working them with weights or rubber bands. I prefer using rubber bands over weights for they keep me agile(weights will make you stiff), they save my joints and because I can train anywhere even when I am on vacation out of the country.

You will have to exercise your back, biceps, shoulders and forearms for the pull/chin-up.

The rubber bands that I recommend for the assisting exercises here would be any model with handles. You can find such in every fitness store but I tried different brands and models and settled for the bands of bodylastics. You can find them on this link. I have been using my set for 2.5 years now and all bands are like new. I just love this company for they offer a 3 months guarantee on their products and continuously improve them. Their bands might seem a bit pricey at first glimpse but there’s never cheap high quality, everything comes at a certain price.

So anyhow once you are finished with the direct exercises on the pull-up bar you should continue using the lastics.

3.1. Seated Back Rows

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

The seated back rows overally will develop the muscles in your back. Your back is your second largest muscle group in your body and is the most involved muscle group in the pull-up.

Attach your rubber bands to something in front of you so that the bands come at chest height for you. Pull the bands, keeping your arms close to your body, to the point where your fists touch your stomach. When performing this exercise it is of crucial importance to keep your back straight. Otherwise you are risking injuring it. Do this exercise for 3 sets of 8 repetitions.

3.2. Biceps Curls & Negative Biceps Curls
After the back the next most involved muscle group involved in the pull-up is the biceps. They are even more engaged in the chin-up, making it an exercise that will seriously target that muscle group. Thus if you pay good attention to the biceps the time for learning the pull-up and especially the chin-up will drastically shorten.

There are a lot of exercises for the biceps out there but I picked just 2 for this tutorial. I look at both of them as fundamental biceps exercises.

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

First the standard biceps curls – an exercise that imitates movements you will experience on a daily basis such as doing groceries, cleaning your yard and just pretty much any physical activity that involves your biceps during the day. Step on the bands and grab both handles in your hands. Widen your feet apart to the point where you can feel the bands being just slightly stretched at the bottom point. Curl your arms towards your chest. On the video you will notice that I don’t lower my arms all the way down next to my body. The reason for this is because I don’t want my biceps to rest.

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

The second exercise, the negative biceps curls, is particularly related to the chin-up. Attach your bands to something above your head, typically the pull-up bar will do the work. Then grab the endings of the bands and sit on the ground/chair. Now keeping your back straight pull the bands behind your neck. I picked this exercise because it highly resembles the chin-up movement and will hit the biceps in a very similar manner.

3.3. Exercising the Forearms
The forearms are not the leading muscle group in this exercise. Nevertheless they are still involved and exercising them will help you tremendously with the pull-up and the chin-up.

Strength in the outer forearms is needed for the pull-up. The inner forearm muscles are involved in the chin-up. That’s why you will have to work both the inner and outer forearm muscles.

Forearm Curls

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

This exercise is going to work the inner forearm. Attach a rubber band somewhere behind you on the height of your wrists. Now having the band behind you, grab it with one of your hands and stand apart from it at a distance where you can feel the band been slightly stretched. Next curl the band forward isolating any additional movement in your body. Only your wrist should be moving. Alternate both of your arms.

Reversed Forearm Curls

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

Again grab the band in one of your hands and face the band with your back. Now curl your wrist upwards. This is going to exercise the outer part of your forearms. Again the whole movement should be done from the wrist. Alternate both arms for equal progress.

Exercise both the inner and outer forearm muscles on every workout. Combine them both in mixed sets. This is what I mean – you should perform 12 repetitions of the standard forearm curls followed by 12 repetitions of the reversed forearm curls in one set. Making it altogether a 24 repetitions set. Do this for 3 sets.

3.4. Push-Ups

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

The last exercise which I chose for your pull-up/chin-up workout is the push-up. You might ask how are push-ups related to the pull-up and chin-up. Their relation is indirect, the push-ups will develop all the other muscle groups that are less involved in the pulling motion on the bar such as your shoulders and chest.

A stable foundation is needed in sports just as much as it is needed in construction. And even though your chest and shoulders are not involved that much in the pull-up they are still part of your upper body’s muscular structure. Exercise them to build a solid foundation for the pull-up.

Alternate narrow grip push-ups and wide grip push-ups on different workouts. Go just for one set and perform as many as you can keeping the form steady and the pace average. 1 rep should take you 2 seconds, that is the pace for your push-ups. Your goal is reaching 25.

Pull-up training chart

Exercises Repetitions Days
1. a) Assisted Pull-ups 3 x 8-10 Monday, Friday
1. b) Assisted Chin-Ups 3 x 8-10 Wednesday, Sunday
2. Seated Back Rows 3 x 8 Monday, Wednesday, Friday
3. a) Biceps Curls 3 x 8 Monday, Friday
3. b) Negative Biceps Curls 3 x 8 Wednesday, Sunday
4. Forearm Curls 3 x 12 Monday, Wednesday, Friday
5. Reversed Forearm Curls 3 x 12 Monday, Wednesday, Friday
6. a) Wide Grip Push-Ups 3 x 8 Monday, Friday
6. b) Narrow Grip Push-Ups 25+ Wednesday, Sunday

Notice the presence of a) and b) for certain number of the exercises. It means that you have to choose between a) or b) for your workout and never do both in the same workout. Refer to the “Days” row of the table, it indicates on which days you have to perform a) and on which days you have to perform b). NB! The rest intervals between each set and each exercise should be kept in the 1-3 minute interval. 

4. Rest days

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

As you can tell Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are being your rest days. You have 4 training days and 3 resting days. However don’t mistake arthlete’s resting days with lying on the couch all day doing nothing. On your rest days you should at least go for a couple hours walk outside, go swimming, biking or something similar. The physical activity should be always present even on your rest days. You can read more about the rest days here.

5. Nutrition

Tutorial: How to do your first chin up & pull up!

I will give you just several quick tips here. Keep the animal protein products high – meat, eggs, milk, cheese, fish are just several to mention. Add fruits and vegetables to your eating plan. Avoid the mass consumption of bread, instead consume rice and potatoes. Boil or roast your food, no frying allowed. Forget about all junk food such as sweets and chips from the stores. Instead replace them with raw nuts! For more information you can read more about the nutrition gymnasts need here.



A video to the article: