Setting fitness goals is a good way to stay motivated because it teaches you to physically challenge yourself. It also puts you in a different mindset compared to when your only goal is getting in shape for bathing suit season. For example, maybe you’re looking to achieve your first chin-up because you want to get stronger—and look like a bad ass doing it. First, there are a few things you need to know before achieving this feat. Women tend to have a harder time performing chin-ups because biologically we have smaller upper body muscles than men. If getting your chin over that bar is one of your goals, have no fear! Just because it’s easier for men, doesn’t mean it’s impossible for women. “Chin-ups are important for women to master because they help improve upper body strength, shoulder mobility and allow the joint to maintain proper alignment to reduce stress on the rotator cuff,“ explains personal trainer, Colin Remillard. Additionally, he says that chin-ups are a good way to develop strong healthy shoulders. “So many people do a lot of pushing movements with their shoulders like shoulder presses and front raises, but many who don’t do enough to strengthen that pulling motion will eventually lead to shoulder pain or possible injury,“ he elaborates.
But before you hop up on the bar, there are some other key things to know. “Don’t neglect building strength in your other exercises,” warns Remillard. That means getting stronger in your squats, deadlifts, and push-ups. Remillard suggests doing chin-ups at the beginning of your workout when you are most fresh, but advises against some people adding this exercise to their workout.
He says, “The people who should avoid chin ups are anyone who has shoulder or elbow pain.“ A good way to test this out is by seeing if you can get your arms overhead without pain. If you pass this test then you’re a good candidate for chin-ups. In order to hit your goal of achieving chin-ups, follow this workout regimen Remillard created specifically for HipLatina. Practice these exercises regularly in addition to your other training.
30 Second Plank
“The first thing you need to be able to do is hold strong through the core, because having a weak core will not allow you to properly use the lats (the main muscle used to pull),“ explains Remillard. In order to determine if your core is solid, you should be able to hold a strong plank for 30 seconds. “The plank elbows should be bent at 90 degrees and under the shoulders, press the elbows into the floor, and without moving try to slide the floor towards your hips with your elbows, engage the abs and think of pulling the ribs in towards your spine, squeeze the glutes and thighs.“ instructs Remillard.
Hollow Body Hold
The hollow body hold is a core exercise that is done on the ground. “This is a basic core strength exercise that is used by gymnasts, with a dowel in their hands,” Remillard explains. This exercise can be best described as an “upside down plank,” which forces you to brace your core. “In the hollow position, lay on your back with your hands overhead with a dowel in your hands, cross your feet and press your ankles together, flex your abs and glutes, and let your shoulders and legs come off the ground so you are laying on your low back and have a slightly flexed spine,” describes Remillard. He suggests holding the hollow hold for three sets of 30 seconds, and should be done during each workout three to five times a week after your warm up.
Straight Arm Hang
Before you even try to attempt a chin-up, it’s important to strengthen your wrists and grip. The straight arm hang may seem easy, but it’s harder than it looks and is an ideal exercise to improve your grip and wrist strength. Do this exercise for three sets of 30 seconds.
Plank with a Cable Row
With this exercise you will need a cable machine or resistance band tied around a sturdy bar. Get into the plank position and reach overhead with one arm and pull in to a row. Remillard explains that this mimics the same motion if you were doing a chin up. Take a little wider stance with your feet so that is it easier to stay stable. Do not allow your weight to shift while doing this, hips and shoulders should stay parallel to the floor the whole time. Perform three sets of eight reps on each arm, two days a week (space them out a couple days apart).
Once you’ve successfully completed the hollow body hold exercises, you can move on to the bar. But before you even attempt your first chin up, you want to practice the chin up hang from the bar. Remillard says first grab the bar full fist. Then jump up to the top position and think about pulling your shoulders down towards your hips so you get your lats engaged, making sure your abs and glutes are tight just like in the hollow position exercise (should be a slight curve in the spine). Do these for three to four sets up to 20 seconds, three days a week.
This exercise is done where you lower yourself down from the top position of a chin-up slowly. Use a box or step to help elevate you back up to the start. Once at the top, use a count of four to five seconds while slowly lowering yourself. Remillard suggests doing four to five sets of three to five repetitions, two to three days a week.
Resistance Band Chin-Ups
Once you feel comfortable with negative chin-ups, you can do resistance band assisted chin-ups. For this exercise, Remillard says to use a heavy monster resistance band and wrap it around the bar, put one foot in the band and cross your feet like the hollow body exercise and perform your chin ups from there. You should perform band chin-ups three to five set of three to five repetitions, two to three days a week.
Grease the Groove
Remillard says one of the fastest methods for increasing the ability to do chin-ups is a technique called grease the groove, where you would do one chin up every hour while you are awake (this is much easier if you have a chin up bar at home). “During the workouts start with three sets of one to three repetitions, three days a week, then increase repetitions as you get stronger,” he explains.
Another way to increase strength is to hold a dumbbell between your feet, or hooking your toes in the handle on a kettlebell when doing a chin-up, which is a little more comfortable.