Triple Your Chin-Ups in 8 Weeks

December 13, 2012 | Douglas Scott

Must See Strength Training Videos

Let me tell you a story about Evan and what he accomplished last winter. Evan is a 6'3", 190-pound sophomore football and lacrosse standout who wanted to improve his Chin-Ups for an upcoming lacrosse fitness test. At the start of his winter program, he could do only four or five reps with good form, and he wanted to perform at least 10 reps. I challenged him with one of the most difficult exercises I know: the Negative Chin-Up.

Negatives (technically called forced lengthening contractions) have been around for a long time and are proven to develop strength rapidly. However, they are very intense, physically exhausting and require a high level of focus to complete. Quite simply, they are too demanding for many athletes—except those who accept the challenge and stay consistent with their workouts.

To understand why Negative Chin-Ups are so effective, you need to know how muscles contract. (Find out how muscles work.) There are three types of contractions:

  • Concentric: muscle shortens (e.g., upward motion of Chin-Up)
  • Eccentric: muscle lengthens under tension (e.g., lowering phase of Chin-Up)
  • Isometric: muscle contracts but stays the same length (e.g., holding Chin-Up with chin over the bar)

Most athletes focus only on the concentric phase of the exercise, which is a huge mistake. They miss out on potential gains by failing to work their muscles during the lowering phase, where they are actually 40 percent stronger.

Now, back to Evan. Remember, he could only perform four or five Chin-Ups when he started the program. But how many reps could he perform when he only did the lowering part of the exercise? And if his strength improved in the negative phase, would that carry over to the concentric?

We had Evan perform eight Negative Chin-ups three times each week. He climbed on top of a plyo box to start with his chin above the bar. He held this for one second, then lowered for eight seconds (timed by a spotter), until his arms were completely straight. He then climbed back up on the box to perform the next rep. He never pulled himself up.

Once Evan was able to perform eight reps on an eight-second count, we added weight around his waist. If the weight was so challenging that he could not complete eight reps, he stayed at that weight for the next few workouts until he mastered it.

After eight weeks of training, Evan went from lowering himself with only his body weight for eight reps to lowering his body weight plus an extra 60 pounds for eight reps. In addition, he built upper-body muscle and improved his other upper-body exercises. When he performed the Chin-Up test, he was able to knock out 15 reps with perfect form, tripling his previous best!

This story shows not only the value of Negative Chin-Ups, but also the simplicity of training and getting stronger. Choose an exercise, develop a basic system for improvement, stay focused and work hard. Getting stronger and reaching your goal is not magic, it's effort.

Below is Evan's complete workout from winter 2012:

Topics: PULL-UP
Douglas Scott
- Douglas Scott, CSCS, has been a member of the faculty at Pingry School (Martinsville, N.J.) since 1999, serving both as a teacher and coach. Currently...
Douglas Scott
- Douglas Scott, CSCS, has been a member of the faculty at Pingry School (Martinsville, N.J.) since 1999, serving both as a teacher and coach. Currently...
Must See
Jadeveon Clowney on Making Big Hits
Views: 4,946,245
Why You Should Never Doubt Colin Kaepernick
Views: 20,314,158
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 37,055,677

Featured Videos

A Day in the Life of NBA D-League Star Seth Curry Views: 68,298
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 6,362
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 131,367
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,758
What Ryan Hall Eats for Breakfast
Views: 795,225
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,651
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 705,761
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,560,472

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Get Faster to Pitch Harder

When I was in college I was told as many others were as well, to run distances for leg strength. Now many pitching coaches will say that running...

Build Muscle With the 2-Second Pause Workout Program

Build a Strong Upper Body With These Landmine Exercises

Speed Drill of the Day: Weighted Arm Swings

Build Athletic Strength with the Playground Sandbag Workout

Train Like a Pro: Henrik Zetterberg's Hockey Strength Workout

The 4 Best and Worst Cable Machine Exercises

Abby Wambach's Strength and Speed Workout

The Un-Liftable Inch Dumbbell: Can You Handle Its Challenge?

Train Like a Pro: James Harden's Basketball Maintenance Workout

Build Bulletproof Chest Strength With This Unconventional Method

Increase Athletic Strength with Rotational Bodyweight Training

Jump Higher After a Month With These 3 Exercises

Kevin Love's In-Season Workout

5 Quick Workout Fixes for Faster Muscle Growth

Paul Rabil's Powerful Rotational Strength Workout

Get Faster With This Weightlifting Technique

Train Like a Pro: Julio Jones 3-Day Sandbag Strength Program

3 Keys to Better Softball Workouts

Use Sled Pushes to Increase Speed, Strength and Power

Speed Drill of the Day: Reverse Lunges

3 Habits of Highly Successful Coaches

How to Recover From a Soccer Game or Workout

2 Brutal 10-Minute Workouts That Deliver Serious Results

Use Wave Loading to Take Your Strength to the Next Level

3 Keys to a Solid Squat Setup

The Top 10 Mistakes Athletes Make in the Weight Room

Train Like a Pro: Baseball Strength Workout Program

Train Like a Pro: Los Angeles Lakers Strength Training Program

Train Like a Pro: MLS Soccer Strength Program

Is It Too Soon for Olympic Lifts?

How You Can Olympic Lift With an Injury

Todd Durkin's Complete Football Strength Training Program

Bicep Curl Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

How to Use the Pallof Press for an Iron Core

8-Exercise Advanced Chest and Back Workout

4 Tips for Reducing Deadlift Back Pain

Tobin Heath's Powerful Leg Workout

Abby Wambach's Soccer Power Workout

3 Tips to Blast Through Training Plateaus

Train Like a Pro: Dustin Pedroia's Baseball Power Workout

Build Strong Legs with the Leg Press Lockdown Workout

Not Making Bench Press Gains? Try These Strategies

Add Surprise Sets for a Great Workout Finisher

3 Reasons Why You Should Do Full-Body Workouts