Working your Way Up to One Arm Chin-ups

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a training article, but you can check out my latest piece in the September issue of Planet Muscle and Bodybuilding titled “Get Pro Level Muscle.” The article lists my favorite set extension techniques for every muscle group. Pick up a copy the next time you’re at a Barnes and Noble. I just came from Border’s, and they’re going out of business. Yeesh! Times are tough.

So I got asked on my YouTube Channel if the subscapularis pull-up could be performed on an assisted pull-up machine. Here’s how I answered:

This is a very advanced pull-up variation, so you can only perform it if you can do 12-15 real pull-ups (not machine assisted). So I suggest weaning yourself off of the machine and work on upping your reps for real pull-ups and chin-ups. This will take some time.

Let me say that I flat out hate the machine assisted pull-up. For one thing, most people use way too much counter weight and make the exercise so easy that it becomes meaningless and ineffective. You should work on performing actual pull-ups and chin-ups. If you have to use a machine, then use the lightest counter weight possible and struggle through each rep.

All things worth fighting for must be fought for. That means you must struggle somewhat in order to gain and achieve. Your mind and body learn from being physically challenged, and struggling just enough through a pull-up calibrates your nervous system and teaches your muscles to perform the action.

Now in order to learn a difficult skill, you must struggle and succeed, not struggle and fail. Otherwise you calibrate your nervous system for failure. This means you should work on smaller intermediate steps which will lead to your goal.

For myself, I’m currently trying to work my way up one-arm chin-ups. Now if you start off trying to perform one-arm chin-ups, then you would be completely discouraged by how difficult it is and give up right then and there. So what you have to do is perform and practice the intermediate exercises to one-arm chin-ups.

The intermediate step between 2 handed chin-ups and one-handed is the mixed grip chin-up:

Performing the mixed grip version shifts the emphasis of the chin-up to the side with the supinated (underhand) grip. So one side does more of the chin-up while the other side supports. It’s sort of like doing an assisted one-arm chin-up, but without the stupid machine.

Once you’re able to knock out several of these, you can transition to one handed chin-ups:

One handed chin-ups are different from one-arm chin-ups. Even though you’re hanging by one hand with one-handed chin-ups, both of your arms are still pulling up your weight. Once you’re able to do several of these one-handed chin-ups, then you can transition to one-arm chin-ups.


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