Chinup Variations

Just so we’re on the same page, chinups are performed with either a semi-supinated grip (palms facing each other) or a supinated grip (palms facing your body). Pullups are a variation of chinups and are performed with a pronated grip (palms facing away from you).

If you watched men’s gymnastics during the London Olympics, you were probably as impressed as I was at the upper-back development of the gymnasts who competed in the still rings. In these athletes’ training, chinups are essential. Chinups have always been a key exercise in my workouts as well because they develop the latissimus dorsi, teres major, posterior deltoid, rhomboids, the sternal portion of the pectoralis major, the lower portions of the trapezius, and the elbow flexors. They also stimulate growth in the biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis, and pronator teres.

Getting back to your question, the best type of chinup is the one you’re not doing! One reason for this is you can’t optimally work a muscle’s entire strength curve with just one exercise. Another reason is the lats are big and powerful, and as such you need to train them from a variety of different angles to stimulate all the motor unit pools of this muscle group. That’s why as a general rule I change exercises every six workouts. Here are my favorite chinup variations:

Narrow Parallel-grip Chinup. A narrow, parallel grip provides greater overload for your shoulder extensors. Use V-handles, so your hands are about six to eight inches apart. Focus on bringing your lower chest to the handles as you pull yourself up.

Narrow Supinated-grip Chinup. This variation increases the overload on your elbow flexors. Your grip is supinated, and you leave only four to six inches between your little fingers.

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Medium Parallel-grip Chinup. In this variation your hands are semi-supinated (palms facing each other), about 22 to 24 inches apart. This position places your elbow flexors in their most effective line of pull, and very likely you’ll use this type of chinup when you start using additional resistance. I found this grip places the least amount of stress on the wrists, elbows, and shoulders.

Sternum Chinup. I consider the sternum chinup the king of compound exercises
for the upper back because it places great stress on the scapulae retractors and 
lats. This chinup, popularized by Vince Gironda, requires you to hold your torso in a layback posture. The beginning of the movement is more like a classical chin, 
the midrange resembles the effect of the pullover motion, and the end position duplicates the finishing motion of a rowing movement. As you pull yourself to the bar, extend your head back as far from the bar as possible and arch your spine. Toward the end point of the movement your hips and legs will be at about a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keep pulling until your collarbone passes the bar, your lower sternum makes contact with the bar, and



How 9:27 PM Thick Is Thick?


I recently started using thick grips for curls. What is the best size to use?

As with all the variables of program design, you’ll respond best to a variety of grip thicknesses to continually provide new methods to stimulate growth. My favorite sizes are 3-inch diameter barbells and 2- to 21⁄2-inch dumbbells. I’m such a fan of these weights that at the Poliquin Strength Institute I have 86 sets of fixed-weight, thick-handled dumbbells, ranging from five pounds to 150 pounds. For trainees working out at home, or for gym owners on a modest budget, simply invest in a few sets of adjustable barbell and dumbbell handles—a little inconvenient, but the results are worth it.

I also recommend thick- handled implements with rotating handles, as fixed handles place considerable stress on the elbows and wrists. One reason it took so long for thick-handled barbell and dumbbell training to catch on was that the early versions of this equipment lacked rotating handles, which increased the risk of in- jury. Now, with the popularity of thick-handled implements, the price has come down and more gyms are offering them.

By the way, thick-handled implements can be used for more than just movements— they can be used for virtually all upper-body exercises. Just be sure when using thick-handled barbells for pressing movements to perform them in a power rack with safety pins because it’s easy to lose control of the weight.



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