One of the easiest ways to spot a Warrior is to see him hanging from a chin-up bar. Chin-ups and Pull-ups separate the men from the boys (or for our female readers, the women from the girls). Most people stay away from the bar because these exercises are difficult. It is much easier to play with a barbell than to pull yourself over a chin-up bar.
Before we get into the specific exercises, let me once again remind you of "Paralysis by Numberalysis". Chin-ups and Pull-ups are two of the most common exercises that suffer from this disease. Most people are satisfied with 3 sets of 10 or 12. Why settle for this number? What is stopping these individuals from reaching 15, 20, or 25? There is no answer to this question. These people have settled for their current fitness levels with no desire to improve. They may wish to improve themselves but the hard work that is necessary often changes their mind.
We need to take this mindset and flush it down the toilet. Let me remind you once again of our quest for CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT.
The chin-up bar that I use in the exercises that follow can be attached inside a door entrance. I purchased this device for around $20. If you do not have access to a chin-up bar, I strongly recommend one of these portable bars.
Pull-up - The traditional Pull-up involves a shoulder width grip on the bar. Your palms should face away. Lower yourself until your arms are completed extended and straight. Pull yourself up so that your chin comes over the bar. You can add variety to this exercise by gripping the bar with a narrow grip or a wide grip. The wide grip will shift emphasis to the upper back while the narrow grip works the shoulders.
Chin-up - For the Chin-up you will turn your palms to face you. Once again you should lower yourself all the way and lift up until your chin comes over the bar.
Commando Pull-ups - With this variation, grab the bar from a sideways stance. Your hands should be touching each other. Pull yourself to one side at a time. Your left shoulder should hit the bar first, then lower yourself and pull yourself up from the other side so that your right shoulder touches the bar.
Towel Grip Pull-ups - With this variation, wrap a towel around the bar two or three times so that the bar becomes nice and "fat". The towel will make the bar thicker and more difficult to grasp. Perform a Pull-up in a normal fashion. The thicker bar will really strengthen the hands and forearms. You will definitely feel this one!
Another great way to increase hand and grip strength is by pulling yourself up with only 2 or 3 fingers on the bar. This is an advanced movement that I recommend.
Hanging Towel Pull-up - Hang a rolled up towel or shirt over the bar. Grasp the towel and pull yourself up as you would for the Commando Pull-up. This variation will make your forearms burn!
Alternate Grip - Alternate your grip so one palm faces towards you, with the other away. Work both hand positions (left hand facing away and left hand facing towards you). In the illustration, my left hand is in the pull-up position with my right hand in the chin-up position.
Cliff Hangers - Cliff Hangers involve holding yourself in a half way Pull-up position for as long as you can. Your arms should be slightly bent. Pull yourself up half way and hold. This exercise is great for hand and forearm strength.
Cliff Hanger Variation - A variation to this exercise is to hold yourself with your chin over the bar. Hold this position as long as you can. You can hold this position with either a Chin-up or Pull-up grip. The Pull-up grip will be more difficult.
Also try hanging from only 2 or 3 fingers!
Include these variations in your routine and you will notice the results. You can perform 12 repetitions of EACH variation for a great workout. After a few weeks you will be able to bust out sets of 15 repetitions.
Lastly, whenever you wish to incorporate a hand/forearm workout into your Pull-up routine, use the towel. The thicker grip on the bar will give you amazing hand strength. Give these variations a try.
Always remember to incorporate variety to provide new ways to challenge your body and mind. Never settle.
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