There is one exercise that provides more ‘bang for your buck’ than almost any other, yet so many avoid it. Some people are intimidated by it, and others simply don’t realize the countless benefits it provides.
This ONE movement can uplevel our training program, improve our confidence, and increase our strength.
Transform YOUR Fitness
To complete just one of these – with proper form – means we’ve put in the foundational work of preparing our whole body for serious strength. It means we’ve trained safely and are injury-free. Most importantly, when we train this movement, we put ourselves in a permanent growth mindset!
I know curling dumbbells to strengthen our biceps is fun, and for many, it’s easy. Well, this movement is a bicep curl on steroids because it activates countless other muscle groups in the same span of time.
This exercise requires pulling our body vertically from the ground above a bar using all the strength we’ve got.
This exercise brings many gym-goers to tears and, at the same time, brings others to elation.
Ready for the big reveal? Any guesses?
This coveted exercise is the chin up, the very close cousin of the pull up.
The chin up will build a better and stronger core, a stronger grip (an indicator for longevity), emphasize our chest, biceps, core, and more.
With practice, focus, and determination, we can turn on those back muscles by ensuring full range of motion (AKA go all the way to the top where the bar meets your chest – not our neck – and squeeze the heck out of your lats).
Here’s a video of me performing it so you can see the chin up in motion:
Learning how to activate our lats (the muscles along the sides of your back) will help us pull ourselves over the bar.
I prefer the tactical chin up, where we pull straight up without any hinging or bending of the hips. This way, we can target the abdominals. I’ve seen many let their lower back arch excessively, which is not only unsafe but sub-optimal. If we brace our lower back (tuck) and keep a straight line from the shoulders to knees, the core musculature has to work extremely hard to prevent the low back from extending; therefore, it’s like a vertical plank!
What can be better for the core?
The Magic of the Chin Up:
- With our hands facing toward us in a supinated position, the chin up targets the chest and biceps.
- Chin ups require activation of the core; the initial connection of the shoulders downward to the rib cage allows the core to do a lot of the work.
- Anyone can access or install the necessary equipment. The options are everywhere if you open your eyes to them. Consider installing an inexpensive door mount or seeking out a pull up bar at the local playground.
- In a word: it is SPECIAL. Those who do it are far fewer than those who do not.
Need more inspiration to add chin ups to your movement routine?
Here are my top five reasons to incorporate the chin up into your strength training program:
- Requires a strong core. To begin to develop the foundations of the chin up – or pull up – proficiency in the hollow-hold position of the body is essential. “Hollowing out” puts the core in an engaged position and trains the brain on chin up basics while still on the floor. Adding in a tuck of the pelvis and straightening the legs is in-and-of-itself a serious challenge and took me years to master. Add a hang and a pull to the hollow position, and we have pretty much every muscle working to get you above the bar.
- Strengthens many different muscle groups. This movement is a great way to engage the back, shoulders, glutes, legs, grip, and core – all in the same short period of time! Again, back to that efficiency thing!
- Requires proper breathing technique. The chin up turns into master breathwork by demanding proper breathing techniques. An improper breathing pattern can negatively impact our form, but with the careful breath control this movement invites, you’ll experience a wide range of physiological benefits.
- Up-levels your effort. The chin-up can turn any training session into a challenging one, requiring very little space, time, and equipment.
- Enables more variety in our training programs. Practicing and perfecting the chin up gives us the ability and confidence to push ourselves into other challenging movements we otherwise would avoid.
Embrace the chin up to transform your fitness!
This is the movement that opens doors to power and stability — and I definitely don’t just mean physically — and invites us into a mindset of perpetual growth. Build your foundational strength with this one exercise and reap the many rewards.