Building to Your First Chin Up

Achieving a body weight chin up is a common goal in the gym – but how do we get there?

If you’ve ever looked wistfully at the bar and thought, “I wish I could pull myself up there”, we’ve got you covered! This week, we’re talking about where to start, and how to progress to build towards your first chin up.

First: Build up your back strength with lots of horizontal pulls

Before jumping straight into chin up progressions, we need to build a solid base of strength through the muscles of your back. A great way to do this is with a ton of horizontal pulling, such as rows and rear flies. Here are just a few of our favourite variations to use:

Next: Start adding in vertical pull progressions

When you start adding in some vertical pulls, you could move to pulldowns first, using the cables or machine to start to build strength – but any practice you can get to control your own body will carry over better to your future chin ups. So, we prefer to use tools like hollow holds, eccentrics, or modified chin ups (such as the level 1 TRX version below) to mimic the conditions you’ll be in when you start doing chin ups! This allows you to build not only the back strength required to pull yourself up, but also the core and grip strength that you’ll need.

The hollow hold – set your shoulders down and keep the core engaged…then just hang out! Moving the feet slightly ahead of the body helps to keep that good core tension.

Then: Increase that challengeĀ 

Can you knock out 8-10 reps at the level 1 TRX Chin Up now? Up the ante by extending the lever (in this case, straightening or elevating your legs), as in the level 2 and 3 variations from the video above. You could also mix in some band assisted chin ups, moving to smaller bands (providing less assistance) as you get stronger. Keep up with the eccentrics and holds – they are powerful tools in building up your core and grip as you continue to move closer to that elusive body weight chin up.

And finally: Go for it!

You’re ready – what are you waiting for? Give it a go, and then give yourself a pat on the back!


Let us know if you give these a try! And, if you’d like more help reaching your goals, use the contact form on our training page to request your free consult and get started.


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