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Improving chin up quality


Huntress

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A little while ago I asked Rebels for their thoughts on whether resistance bands would be enough to get me to be able to do an unassisted chin up. Turns out they were!

My next challenge is to improve the quality of my chin ups. My form is not perfect - I start close to a dead hang but not quite there, a very slight bend at the elbow. I do quite like this because it seems to be easier on my shoulder joints than a dead hang but at the same time it'd be nice to be able to do strict form.

Besides MOAR CHIN UPS, what would be a good way to build the strength needed to improve my form? I find negatives really awkward but I like flex hangs a lot so I wondered if that would help. Or should I maybe do partial reps, starting from a dead hang and then pulling a quarter way of the way up? 

Thanks for your help :)

Huntress

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The top half of the ROM is more important than the bottom anyway.  More important than strict dead hanging is to make physical contact with the bar at the top of the rep (or get as close as you can).  If looking to improve the quality of your reps, that is the first place to look.

 

To strengthen the dead hang break do toes to bar and knees to elbow reps with as little momentum assist as possible.  Take your arms out of the equation, they are not used to break the dead hang; the dead hang pullup/chinup motion begins in the lats.

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Thanks, that's good to know - I have been wondering how important it is to start from a dead hang - with the underhand grip I find it uncomfortable. I think it's looking ok top of the rep, my shoulders are in line with the bar when I'm at the top.

When you say knees to elbow do you mean this movement? http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/HipFlexors/BWHangingLegRaise.html - and toes to chin the same thing but with straight legs as far toward the bar as possible?

Huntress

Current challenge - Rebels - Huntress lays the foundations


"The effort yields its own rewards"  - Data, Star Trek: TNG.

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Close. 

 

Toes to bar and knees to elbows both require you to lean back in addition to lifting your legs/knees with straight arms.  It is the exact same movement you need to break the dead hang, that lean back is all lats.

 

Now with leg/knee lift, there is some momentum assist (the slower you do them, the harder they are).

 

Toes to bar is basically what the name says.  With straight legs, get your feet as high as you can.  You'll find that to lean back, you'll have to push the bar away.  Just make sure not to overstretch your back as you do them.  Most important for what you want is the lean back.

 

Knees to elbow is somewhat similar (and possibly a bit harder, really depends on your strengths/weaknesses).  You want your knees bent instead of straight, and you want to tuck your knees toward your chest, making contact with your elbows.  Kicking your legs/knees will make it a lot easier.  Just like with the toes to bar, you want to strongly lean back, pushing the bar away duing the rep.  If you do it right at the top of the rep your back will be parallel to the ground momentarily (holding that position for time is a tuck front lever, much harder to do than knees to elbows reps w/ momentum, something to eventually work towards).

 

Strengthening pushing the bar away like that with straight arms will really strengthen the bottom of your pullup/chinup (will also help you feel your lats working), that really is how you start a dead hang pullup; push the bar away and lean back, once you're to about 45 degrees then engage the arms and start pulling up.

 

There should be a lot of videos of both out there, especailly toes to bar, since it is heavily used in Crossfit.

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Interesting! So I just started doing negatives with a neutral grip, which feel very much like a pure up and down motion. Does that mean I'll struggle translating that to a full pull-up/chin-up? Or am I just doing them incorrectly?

 

I wouldn't say you are doing your neutral grips wrong. But you may struggle more with achieving your first concentric pull up without learning to engage your lats and back muscles like Waldo was saying.

 

Waldo's tips to starting from a dead hang are useful for generating the maximum amount of power. It places the body in such a way as to use larger more powerful muscle groups. Once you gain enough strength you can potentially ignore all of it and just pull yourself up in a perfect up down motion (I have a particular penchant for wide grip head in front of the bar pull ups using a dead straight up/down trajectory). However the caveat to this is - it is a much harder variation, which uses a different combination/% utilisation of muscles. I can do far less reps and generate far less power doing pull ups in this fashion. So for someone aiming to do their first pull up - it's not the best idea.

 

My first paragraph sounded contradictory, but I hope the second explained things somewhat. I personally wouldn't change your negative/eccentric form, but I would add in Waldo's initiation from dead hang drills to gain the coordination using a concentric exercise.

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Ah, and I always thought I was doing them wrong because I have so much trouble starting from a deadhang.

 

My problem is that I can do one, but I can't manage the transition from going down from the first to going up for the second. Will the toes to bar and knees to elbows exercises help with that also?

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Ah, and I always thought I was doing them wrong because I have so much trouble starting from a deadhang.

 

My problem is that I can do one, but I can't manage the transition from going down from the first to going up for the second. Will the toes to bar and knees to elbows exercises help with that also?

 

Yes. It will strengthen the very bottom of a dead hang pullup, breaking the dead hang, as well at the lats in general, the prime movers in a pullup/chinup. It also lets you feel your lats working in isolation without the arms. Learning how to use the lats is one of the key ways to progress on pullups when you can do less than 5.

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More questions!

 

I played around with the exercises yesterday (fairly unsuccessfully) and I can see how knees to elbows would work the lats as you have to get the back in a pretty horizontal position in order to reach. But for toes to bar the the upper body remains almost vertical if you have good pike flexibility. Would you still get that lat activation? 

 

Slightly tangential, but how much stronger is the eccentric portion in a pull-up? I did a quick google search and saw numbers between 10% and 75% (for different muscles not specifically pull-ups, though I didn't actually read any of the articles) Or in more practical terms, how big is the gap between negatives and full pull-ups strengthwise? Would a pull-up before say the end of the year be realistic? Thinking about long term challenge goals :)

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