Chin-Up Check-In

Turns out, pull-ups are impossible challenging. Chin-ups are hard, but slightly easier than pull-ups. The difference? Hand grip.

Pull-up hand grip:

photo credit: Marion Doss

Chin-up hand grip:

I always practice chin-ups on cross walk signs
photo credit: david_shankbone

During a pull-up, you use mostly the lats, middle back, or latissimus dorsi for you fitness nerds educated exercisers. Changing your grip to the chin-up position involves the bicep muscles as well. Anyone who has tried both pull-ups and chin-ups agrees that they both suck chin-ups are slightly easier. So naturally, I’ve been practicing mostly chin-ups.

My Training

Two months ago, I vowed to work up to an unassisted pull-up. I would practice four exercises: lat pull-down machine, assisted pull-up machine, negatives on a pull-up bar, and partial pull-ups. Being the half-ass dedicated exerciser I am, I occasionally regularly completed one all of these drills. And tracked my progress on a detailed and elaborate spreadsheet. Right after I flapped my buff arms and flew to the moon. Riiiight.

My chin-up workout went something like this:

  1. Do nothing chin-up related for approximately a month.
  2. Occasionally use the assisted chin-up machine at the gym. Do however many reps at whatever weight felt good at the time. Record nothing, because my mind is a steel trap, and I can always write it down later.
  3. After a month of this, realize I don’t remember any of my workouts or how often I have been training.
  4. Record one workout on my smarter than me phone.
  5. Record the next workout on a sticky-note I begged off a trainer.
  6. Lose the sticky-note.
  7. Randomly try an unassisted chin-up, and become ecstatic when I discover I can lift myself up from flat feet:

8. Become slightly less excited when I discover this is what happens when I attempt a complete unassisted chin-up:

But hey, 2 months ago I couldn’t lift my body up AT ALL, so let’s celebrate the pathetic small victories too.

Actually, when I did manage to practice chin-ups once or twice a week, my routine went something like this:

  • 10 chin-ups on assisted chin-up machine
  • 12 reps on a chest weight machine
  • 10 wide-grip pull-ups on assisted machine
  • 12 reps on shoulder weight machine
  • 10 chin-ups on assisted chin-up machine
  • 12 reps on a different chest weight machine
  • 12 reps on an upper back weight machine

At the end of each exercise set, I cried piteously wanted my muscles at or near failure. If I wasn’t struggling to complete the last 2 reps, the weight was too light. On the assisted chin-up machine, I started with a counter weight of 55 and have brought that down to 40. Not much change, but not bad for a complete lack of routine or tracking.

Perhaps I will begin recording what machines and weights I use in each workout. Sessions would become more efficient, and I would progress faster. But you know, that’s never been my style.


Usually, DOMS attacks me the day after practicing chin-ups. DOMS is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or why you NEVER want to work out again. Check out my guest post on to find out what it is, how to prevent it, and how to treat it (kinda).

Goodness, this post got long! Have you ever set a performance-related fitness goal? How long did it take to reach your goal and/or did you give up before you completed it?

6 Comments on “Chin-Up Check-In”

  1. Kiya–you really need to get this blog out there in the ethers beyond friends and acquantances! Each post is an absolute delight (and of course, I revel in the way you combine your sarcasm and gift of language 😉

  2. Once upon a time I had fitness goals, then I had three children and my goal was just to make it through the day……………

  3. Pingback: Vacation Masochism « Runs with Blisters

  4. Pingback: StairMaster Dancer | Runs with Blisters

Share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: