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How To Get Your First Chin-up

The thought of ever performing a chin-up can strike fear and disbelief. This tends to be a challenging task for Females. Chin-ups are one of the best displays of relative body strength.

Chin-ups are one of my favorite exercises for many reasons. They target a majority of all the muscles in the upper body including the core.

Even performing one repetition of the “impossible chin-up” is hard for some to imagine. Truth of the matter it's possible. It’s not an easy task and could take up to a full year depending on many factors (age, experience, body mass etc…).

In school the chin-up was part of a series of physical performance test. The boys performed a full range of motion repetition. The girls held a flexed arm hold for a time because they lacked the strength to perform a full repetition.

Early in life a seed of defeat and disbelief is cultivated and continues to blossom.

I often hear some of my female clients say,“I’ve never had any upper body strength” or “I hated gym class”. It's been over 20 years but those memories of feeling inadequate are still fresh.

The first step in achieving a chin-up starts in the mind. You have to believe that they are possible.

Anyone can perform a chin-up if they set their minds to it. I've had the joy in helping and witnessing many individuals get their first chin-up ever. Believe me this did not happen overnight--it took several months. Did I mention that two of those individual just happened to be grandparents. How many chin-ups can your grandmother do? Check them out below!

One does not simply walk into the gym and perform chin-ups.

Performing that one chin-up took these women about 3-5 months!! Talk about determination, resilience, and focus.

How many of you are willing to do what it takes to reach your goal?

If you're committed, dedicated, and not willing to accept defeat as an option. I will help you get your first chin-up. I've highlighted a few steps below to help you.

Grip Strength Requirement

If you don’t have the grip strength and endurance it will be impossible to

get 1 chin-up.You have to be able to hang onto the bar for at least 6 seconds.

Jump up and practice holding your weight up. Perform 4 sets of 5 second holds.

The farmer's carry is a great supplementary exercise to develop grip strength and toughness.

Core Strength Requirement

We can agree that that having strong arms will help to get over the bar, but how about a strong core? A strong core will keep you from swinging out of control and give you a fighting chance to get one.

Effective Core Exercises

It doesn’t get any simpler than push-ups.

Push-ups carry over to chin-ups quite nicely. Both moves require a strong core and total body strength.

If you are not able to perform a strict push-up not to worry there are a variety of modifications to assist you. My clients have had success following variations: Elevated Push-ups and Band assisted push-ups.

2. RKC Plank

Traditional planks are timed anywhere from 30 seconds up to a minute. In comparison the RKC planks are held for 5-10 second intense intervals.

Train The Pattern!

Now it's time to practice the chin-up. My clients have had success with the following moves.

1. Flexed arm holds

Hold your chin over the bar for 5-10 seconds and rest for 10 seconds shake of your arms and repeat for another 5-10 seconds (that is 1 set)

Perform 4 sets x 2 (bouts of 5-10 second holds)

Once you are able to perform the prescribed sets you should be ready to move onto the next phase.

2. Eccentric chin-ups

Start with a flexed arm hold and slowly lower yourself down until your arms are completely straight. Perform 4 sets x 2 (5 seconds lowering)

Once you are able to perform the prescribed sets you should be ready to move onto the next phase.

The 2 exercises above works on top end strength.

Next we will work on the bottom strength.

3. Band assisted Chin-ups

At this point it’s time to get down and dirty and work on the dead hang position of the chin. This is where I see most people struggle. Usually once they get halfway up they are able to lock it out and finish over the bar.

The beauty of the resistance band lies in it’s ability to help where you need it most (the bottom position). From my experience the dead hang position is where people are the weakest. Yet I have seen people get halfway up and get stuck inches from the top.

A common mistake

While using the band there is a tendency to use momentum. Make sure you pause at the bottom to avoid bouncing back up.


There is no magic recipe or perfect program to get that first chin-up. The key is repetition, consistency, and of course hard work.

Sample Program

Day 1

Day 2

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