Chin-Up Progressions for Women (The One Rep Hump) – Part II

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Okay, before I continue with second part of this post, two things need to happen:

1.  If you haven’t already, you need to check out PART I. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s the best thing ever written on the internet (although it’s pretty close), but it definitely sets the tone for the entire piece as a whole, and well, not reading part I before reading part II is kind of like watching The Empire Strikes Back before A New Hope.  It’s just crazy talk!

2.  And since that was an obvious attempt at a segue for me to briefly talk about the Oscars last night, I’m rolling with it.

  • It was great to have Billy Crystal back hosting.  The man is a class-act. Sure, there were some awkward silences when a joke or two (or seventeen) didn’t work; but whatever.  I was entertained, and that’s all that matters.
  • Angelina needs to eat something for the love of god! In fact, while watching the show, both Lisa and myself commented on how Skeletor skinny many of the women appeared.  Granted, she’s now spewing out nonsensical dieting tips like eating apples only grown underneath rainbows or anything like that, so who am I to judge? But is it any wonder why there’s an on going image war in our society on what’s the ideal “look” for women to aspire for?
  • I was really happy to see that Hugo won for Best Cinematography as well as Art Direction.
  • J-Jo was bringing it last night.  Like whoa!

  • In general, 2011 was a pretty weak year for movies.  I mean, sure, The Artist was a good film, and I’m “okay” with it winning for Best Picture, etc.  But lets be honest:  come this time next year, NO ONE is going to remember that it won, and it’s certainly not going to linger in people’s minds.  When they showed one of the numerous montages of past films, I couldn’t help but feel that NONE of the films that were nominated for Best Picture this year would ever be included in such a montage alongside classics (and not necessarily Best Picture winners) like GoodFellas, The Godfather, Jaws, Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump, so on and so forth.  Here’s hoping that 2012 is a little more spectacular.

Okay, on to matters at hand:  how to rock your first chin-up.  Unfortunately, not every woman is like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 busting out chin-ups in a psyche ward.

Then again, not everyone banged a dude from the future and is preparing for the end of the world run by machines. To each his own, I suppose.

Nevertheless, the point here isn’t to necessarily compare yourself to John Connor’s mom (although that’s pretty badass), but rather to show you some strategies you can implement to help take yourself from from Point A (you want me to do what now?)…………

……to Point B (I can do a chin-up, bitches!).

As you may recall, in part one, I went out of my way to suggest that having a little attitude is a good thing, as well as described some unique TRX progressions one can use to help “grease” more of a vertical pulling motion.

Of course, this begs the question:  what happens if you don’t have access to a TRX unit?

Well, you could always purchase one (hint hint, wink wink). For what it would cost to buy a knock-off Coach bag, you can get a TRX.

Just sayin……

In addition, you could also try these other modalities that we like to use with our female clients at Cressey Performance.

Eccentric Only Chin-Ups

Put in simple terms, the eccentric (or the yielding/lowering portion of the movement) is a fantastic way to help build specific strength within that ROM.

Getting geeky for a second, in terms of the actual mechanism, the muscle lengthens while under tension due to the opposing force (body weight) being greater than the force produced by the muscle. Unlike a concentric contraction, where the joint is pulled in the direction of the muscle contraction, in an eccentric contraction the muscle acts to decelerate the joint at the end of a movement.

What’s more, and this is pretty cool:  the body is a shit ton (<– that’s a lot) STRONGER eccentrically than it is concentrically.  Put another way, it’s much easier to lower yourself (controlled) from the chin-up bar than it is to lift yourself from a dead-hang, where you have to “overcome”  the weight of your own body.

Depending on one’s height, you may have to play around with how high of a box you use to stand on to jump to the bar.  A little piece of advice, however:  set the box a little more forward so that when you do jump up, the body won’t sway back and forth as much.

From there, the concept is pretty self-explanatory.

  • Jump up to the bar so that your sternum touches the bar.  Remember, too, to keep your shoulder blades together AND depressed (shoulder blades in the back pocket)No shrugging.
  • As controlled as possible, lower yourself until your arms come just short of locking out. The “controlled” part is what’s important.  This shouldn’t be a dive bomb towards the floor, but rather a nice 5+ second descent.  Don’t worry if you can’t get a full five seconds – again, it’s the controlled part that’s important.
  • Hop down, jump back up to the bar, and repeat.

Now, of course, how many reps one can do is going to be highly individual.  Grip strength is going to be a limiting factor, not to mention one’s strength levels from the get go.

To that end, I like to use several options.

1.  For the stronger females (one’s who can easily control the eccentric), I’ll shoot for straight sets.  Typically sets of 5-6 reps.  Eight if I really feel like being a masochistic bastard.

2.  Another option I like is to shoot for a specific number of repetitions.  For instance, I may say in their program “25 reps.  Get it done.  No complaining.” Which, if that’s the case, they have to hit that number regardless of how many sets it takes.  If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll go as high as 40-50 and I’ll just pair their chin-ups with something else (preferably with a exercise that won’t challenge the grip).

A1.  Chin-Ups (50 reps) – sets of five
A2.  Goblet Squats (x8), Push-Ups (x8) – alternate between sets of chin-ups.

***Meaning, they’ll perform a set of five eccentric chin-ups, and pair it with a goblet squat.  On their next set of chins, they’ll perform a set of push-ups.  From there, they’ll alternate back and forth until all required reps are completed.

3.  For those who are a bit weaker and can’t really perform five (controlled) reps, I’ll utilize more of a rest/pause approach.

So, in this case, I’ll still have them perform sets of 3-5, but with a little “break” in between each rep.  It may look something like this:

Perform 1 Rep
Rest 10-20 seconds
Perform 1 Rep
Rest 10-20 seconds
Perform 1 Rep
Rest 10-20 seconds
Perform 1 Rep
Rest 10-20 seconds (most likely give Tony the look of death)
Perform 1 Rep
Rest 2-3 minutes (flip Tony the bird)

4.  Another point to consider – and this is something that a female reader brought up in the comments section on Friday – is the whole “embarrassment factor.”  Understandably, some females are just intimidated and feel like the spotlight is directly on them when performing anything in the weight room.

As such, sometimes it’s more prudent to give them “homework” and have them perform “x” number of eccentric only reps throughout the day…….on their own……at their own discretion…..in the comfort of their own home.

I’m completely cool with that.

That said, go HERE and buy an Iron Gym.

With this option, again, the objective is to shoot for “x” number of reps throughout the day – 5, 10, till you can’t feel the left side if your face, whatever.  So, whether you allot a specific time to train, or you just happen to walk past the bar on your way to blow dry your hair, and you want to bang out a rep or two, it’s your call. The bar is there and no one is watching.  Have at it!

I’ve used this “homework” approach with several of our female clients, and they LOVE it.

Okay, that should keep the palette wet until tomorrow where I’ll discuss a handful of other options I like to use to get over that one rep hump.  Till then, as always, feel free to share your thoughts below.

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