Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World


Training the Chin-Up, Pt 2

by Niki Sims, SSC | March 30, 2017

weighted chin-ups

And we’re back! What follows is a plan for training your chin-up once you are able to do at least one unassisted rep at bodyweight.

For these more advanced phases, we will continue to use the banded chin-up and the negative. For instructions on how to perform these, please refer to part one, Training the Chin-up. Do read this anyway as there are some important things to keep in mind regarding range of motion and understanding chin-up progress with body weight fluctuations.

Just like in Phase I, you will have two days to train the chin-up. And again, it’s best to do these at the end of the workout on either end of your training week or on rest days with 3-4 days off in between. 

Phase II: from 1 rep to 5 reps

Day 1: Bodyweight reps + Negatives

Perform 2 sets of “AMRAP” (as many reps as possible) at bodyweight. During this Phase, you’ll be getting between 1 and 4 reps for each of these sets. It’s okay if the number of reps decreases from the first to the second set. Rest 2-3 minutes between these sets.

Once completed, perform 3 sets of 4 negatives with a “3-count” down. You may get yourself over the bar either with a jump from straight arms or an actual chin-up, what’s important is that you are able to maintain the 3-count on the way down.

If you cannot maintain the 3-count on the way down, start by getting a 2-count and work your way up across the weeks to a 3-count, but keep the reps and sets the same. 

In your Training Log, you’d write this as: 

  • BW AMRAPx2 (2,2)
  • Negatives at 0-0-3 x4x3

In the above annotation for negatives, “0-0-3”, which is also the annotation used for Tempo reps, the first digit corresponds to the speed of the ascent, the second digit to any pause to occur at the top of the rep and the last digit to the speed of the descent.

Day 2: Banded work for volume

On this day, you will perform 4 sets of band assisted reps. To start, choose a band that enables you to perform 4 sets of 5 reps. We want sets across here so the first set should not feel like a max effort. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.

Our objective here is to eventually get to sets across at 7 or 8 reps with the same band and will look something like this:

Week 1 – ​ Purple Band x 5 x 4
Week 2 – Purple Band x 5 x 4
Week 3 – ​ Purple band x 6; x 5 x 3
Week 4 – ​ Purple band x 6 x 4
Week 5 – ​ Purple band x 6 x 4
Week 6 – ​ Purple band x 6 x 4
Week 7 – ​ Purple band x 7 x 2; x 6 x 2
Week 8 – ​ Purple band x 7 x 4

Again, the first set should not feel like an AMRAP or max effort attempt, you need to finish with either the same number of reps or one less than the first set. The last set may feel like a max effort.

If you get up to sets of 8 across and haven’t started getting 5 reps on your unassisted reps on Day 1, start again with a skinnier band. If you don’t have access to a skinner band switch out the first banded set with 2 sets of unassisted AMRAPs.

You have completed Phase II once your BW reps on Day 1 are 2 sets of at least 5 reps. If your arms aren’t too jacked at this point, reach around and give yourself a pat on the back!

Phase III: from 5 reps to 10 reps

Training complexity at this point is quite low. On Days 1 and 2 you’ll perform 3 sets of AMRAP with the objective of getting your first and second set of each session to at least 10 reps. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.

If progress dips, i.e. reps are consistently dropping over 3 weeks with no associated increase in body weight, you can change out Day 2 to a submaximal banded day. For example:

  • Day 1 –  3 x AMRAP - 7,6,5
  • Day 2 –  Purple Band x 8 x 4

Once able to perform 2 sets of 10 reps you may begin adding weight.

A trainee in his late novice or intermediate phase of the barbell lifts who is eating and sleeping enough will add in 3 sets of 8-10 curls on the day between chinup days. It’s also something that can be dropped if recovery appears to be compromised.  

Phase IV: Adding weight

You’ll want to use a dip belt for this. Try to use the same belt from session to session to keep the weight of the belt itself consistent. If you don’t have access to a dip belt, you’ll have to get creative. I once did 3 sets of FAHVE with a 50lb dumbbell squeezed between my thighs at an LA Fitness #AThighMasterForTheModernLady.

Weighted chins progress at much different rates for men versus women. Most women will add less weight and increase the weight with less frequency while most men can add weight to themselves every session.

We’ll keep the same 2 day model with a day for curls in the middle (for the deserving trainee). In the beginning, this will look like a novice linear progression in the sense that we’ll add weight every session.

Example Program for Men:

WeekDay 1Day 2
15 x AMRAP x 3 - 7, 6, 6* 10 x AMRAP x 3 - 7, 7, 6
215 x AMRAP x 3 - 7,6,5 17.5 x AMRAP x 3 - 7,7,6
[* If you get more than 10 reps, jump up by 10 lbs, if not, jump up by 2.5-5 lbs.]

Example Program for Women:

WeekDay 1Day 2
12.5 x AMRAP x 3 - 8, 6, 55 x AMRAP x 3 - 7, 6, 5
27.5 x AMRAP x 3 - 6, 6, 5 7.5 x AMRAP x 3 - 7, 6, 5
[Weight increases can be smaller than 2.5 lbs.]

Weight can be added the next session if at least 5 reps are completed per set. I’ll sometimes keep women at the same weight for 2 sessions in a row if they get 6 reps on their first set.

This will stall eventually at which point we have some options to get it started again and then to diversify the program on an individual basis:

  1. Switch to 5 sets of 3
  2. Take a reset
  3. Ramp the weight through the sets
  4. Switch to 3 sets of 5 with a bodyweight AMRAP at the end of one of the sessions
  5. Keep Day 1 a weighted chin day and Day 2 an accessory day, such as lat pull downs.

There is indeed more than one way to progress from 5 chins to weighted, just as is the case for intermediate and advanced barbell programs. Keep looking for progress from session to session or week to week. If you’re gaining body weight consistently, expect your output in number of reps or added weight to stay the same or increase only slightly. If you train with consistency, you should have expectations of getting better at chin-ups. If you skip this part of your training, expect to stay the same or regress. Duh. 


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