Kickstart your bicep & back growth with the close grip chin up! Plateau breaking strategy to increase gains included.
Basic Upper Body Training
Close Grip Chin Up
Pull up bar! Or anything sturdy to pull yourself up on!
To clear the question on terminology, a pull up is when your palms are facing away from you, a chin up is when your palms are facing you. Both are equally great exercises.
A close grip Chin up is with a grip width less than your shoulder width.
While the first thing generally thought of with training the biceps would be doing curls with a straight bar/EZ bar or dumbbells, the truth is for most guys who have not attained significant level of mass in their body, they are better off using a compound movement such as the chin up to stress the muscle groups further to build a base. The chin up will stimulate your biceps far more than curling a pair of 2.5kg dumbbells for an endless amount of reps.
I have seen way too many guys throughout the years pumping mindlessly away at light curls without really seeing much results or the pump they develop quickly fades away after not training for a short while. This is because they have not developed a base in their muscles with compound movements.
A compound movement is a movement that involves multiple groups of muscles and in this case, both the biceps, lats and even your core are stimulated creating a far greater stress for muscle growth instead of a single joint exercise like the bicep curl. As they get better with the chin up, they can combine the chin up with the bicep curl on the same training session to achieve even better results. But for now, stick with the basic multi joint movements.
In most cases, you will notice guys that can do a lot of chin ups or even weighted chin ups have well developed biceps while a guy that only does bicep curls without significant chin up strength will almost always come across as less developed.
OK enough convincing, here are a couple of ways to train the chin ups for optimal performance:
If you can’t do a chin up:
Let’s get this out of the way first, if you cannot perform a chin up, and this is not a bodyweight issue (In this case dropping bodyweight would be the best solution) there are generally 3 ways to handle this issue:
1. Bodyweight Rows, you will have to find a lower bar for this, make sure you are touching with your sternum each rep, when you can comfortably do 5 sets of 10 reps, re-attempt the chin up.
2. Jump up to the bar and end up on the finishing position of a chin up, you will then try to lower yourself slowly in the eccentric phase. Try controlling yourself down as slow as possible and increase the seconds it takes for you to lower yourself. Generally, after a few weeks of this most guys will be able to do their first chin up. If you can’t, either repeat this for a couple more weeks, plus strengthen your bodyweight rows further.
3. Resistance band, this is another common method, hook a resistance band on the bar and either step on or connect yourself with the band via a belt. This obviously will reduce the amount of weight you will need to handle in the chin up. As you manage to do more reps of this each week, you can reattempt the chin up.
If you can do chin up:
If you already can do a chin up, but is not making progress with it much or is stuck with a number, the best way to handle this is to use the 50% method for three to six weeks. This is a proven method and could also be used for many different exercises if you need to break out of a repetition max. This is commonly used by people wanting to pass pull up/chin up tests.
The 50% method is to cut the reps you have now on your max repetition set into basically 50% and do sets of it, generally we stick to 10 sets.
Your max chin up repetition set is 10 reps, you can’t seem to beat this number.
What you do now is take 50% of this number, which will be 5 reps, and do 10 sets of it.
What actually happens now is you sort of “tricked” your body into doing 50 reps, notice 10 sets of 5 totals 50 reps. This is different to actually doing a full on 50 reps set but this will train your body to do more work with better results. This is also known as density training.
Do not rush the sets, make sure you complete all the reps, take as much rest as possible in between sets. You will do this work out twice a week.
You might ask, what if my max repetition is 3 reps only? Do I cut to 2 or 1? The answer is always round to the smaller number because you do not want to miss a set. The answer would be do sets of 1, so 10 sets of 1 if your max is 3.
As you progress further, you will find that you can start to do weighted chin ups and see even more growth in your body. You can use this exact same method to train your weighted chin up.
For example, your max set of weighted chin up is 20kg for 5 reps, you can now train this lift with 10 sets of 2 reps for a couple of weeks and re test as you see fit, either doing a heavier set (less than 5 reps) or go for a new personal record with 20kg, this will be down to your judgement.
With this proven method you can progress very far, keep training and stop at no plateau!