Jen set a new PR on chin ups this week, beating her old max of 13 by four reps (17). We determined that her strength endurance was good but in order to bring up her numbers we would need to improve her explosiveness and maximal strength.
Over the last few months we’ve had her do nothing but low reps on chin ups. Except for the rare sets of five we haven’t gone above three in quite a while.
Basically we worked on maximal strength and speed. She would often do twenty explosive singles, 8-12 doubles, or ten triples as fast as possible or as heavy as possible. Each day would start with something explosive, like a med ball slam to fire up the CNS before she hopped on the bar.
Ladders are another effective way of bringing up your chins that we use as well.
For example, you start with one rep, rest 15-45 seconds, then do two reps, rest again, then do three reps, rest again, then do four reps, rest again, then do five reps, then start the ladder over.
Again, it looks like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
This allows you to build up a good amount of volume while minimizing fatigue. And unlike some other muscle groups the lats can handle a lot of volume. Vince Gironda and many old school Russian strength coaches came to this conclusion many years ago and has proven to be true a million times over.
You burn out a lot slower when doing ladders than you do with traditional loading parameters. Use a prescribed rest period or do the ladders with 2-3 partners. You do a single, they do a single. You do a double, they do a double. And so on and so on up the ladder. Then you start back down at the bottom again.
If you can only do five chins or pull ups don’t go up to five reps. Instead stick with three as the top rung of your ladder.
Each workout try to beat the total number of reps you got in the previous workout. So if you got three full ladders as shown above, that would be 45 reps. You need to get at least 46 reps at the next workout.
When trying to improve chin ups high frequency works quite well so consider training them three times per week or more. Be sure to always keep the sets strong and fast. The quickest way to kill your progress on chin ups and usually get weaker, is to do slow, grinding, shitty looking reps.
They must be perfect or you get nowhere. I would even say that this applies to kipping pull ups. When the kip starts getting way uglier and harder than the first rep was the set is over.
Finally, make sure your body fat is low. You will never score high on the ultimate measure of upper body strength with a huge spare tire around your waist.
Below is the video of Jen’s new PR. Since this was her first day above five reps in quite a while I expect her to be hitting a new PR of twenty reps pretty soon once she gets used to the higher reps again.
Note that she is rounding her shoulders forward at the end and letting the reps get slow and “grindy.” This is never, ever allowable in training; only on a test day once every few months where you are just going for numbers. If you do that regularly you will get weaker. That I can promise you.
Drop a comment below and let me know what you think or if you have any questions.