Chinup Variations

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As gymnasts, wrestlers and judokas have proven throughout the years, there are many effective variations of this exercise that can boost your strength and back development. Here are a few:

Medium Parallel Grip Chin Ups

Chin-up Variations

A. Narrow Parollel-Grip Chin-up

B. Narrow Supinated-Crip Chin-up

C. Subscapulars Pull-up

D. Sternum Chin-up

E. Narrow Pronated Pull-up

F. Mixed-Grip Chin-up

G. Mixed-Grip Chin-up II

H. Medium Parallel-Grip Chin-up

Mixed Grip ChinMixed Grip Chin

Narrow Parallel-Grip Chin-up. A narrow, parallel grip provides greater overload for the shoulder extensors, and many gyms are equipped with V-handles on their chin-up stations that are set six to eight inches apart. Focus on bringing your lower chest to the handles as you pull yourself up. This variation is for the advanced bodybuilder.

Narrow Supinated-Grip Chin-up. This variation increases the overload on the elbow flexors, and in fact, 1 consider it more of an upper-arm exercise than a torso exercise. In this chin-up the grip is supinated, and you leave only four to six inches between the little fingers.

Medium Parallel-Grip Chin-up. In this variation the chin-up handles are 22 to 24 inches apart and your hands are semi-supinated (palms facing each other). This hand position places the elbow flexors in their most effective line of pull, and therefore this is the type of chin-up in which you are most likely to be able to use additional resistance. You will also find that this grip creates the least amount of stress on your wrists, elbows and shoulders. Arthur Jones, of Nautilus fame, was a strong proponent of this hand position and used it in many of his machines.

Sternum Chin-up. Popularized by Vince Gironda, this chin-up requires you to hold the torso in a layback posture throughout the entire movement. As you pull yourself to the bar, extend your head back as far away from the bar as possible and arch your spine. Towards the end point of the movement your hips and legs will be at about a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keep pulling until your collarbones pass the bar and your lower sternum makes contact with the bar and your head is parallel to the floor. You can use either a supinated or a pronated grip, and vary it from narrow to shoulder width, the latter requiring more strength.

I consider the Sternum Chin-up the King of Compound Exercises for the upper back. Not only does it create a great overload on the scapulae retractors, but it works more than just the lats. The beginning of the movement is more like a classical chin, the mid-range resembles the effect of the pullover motion, and the end position duplicates the finishing motion of a rowing movement. If you are an advanced trainee, especially if you are pressed for time, make the Sternum Chin-up a staple of your back routine.

Narrow Pronated Pull-up. With this pull-up you use a narrow, pronated grip so that the hands are spaced four to six inches apart. Because in this

A Franco Columbu was renown for his exceptionally wide lot development. In this vintage photo from the 1974 Olympia, Jom Platz keeps an eye on the judges in the final moments of the competition.

anatomical position the biceps brachii have a rather ineffective line of pull, this grip increases the overload on the brachialis and brachio-radialis muscles. The Narrow Pronated Pull-up is another very effective upper-arm builder, particularly if your brachialis muscles are underdeveloped, and it tends to be easier on the wrists than the supinated grip.

Mixed-Grip Chin-up. Here's one you may have never seen before. In this variation you use a mixed grip: one hand pronated, one hand supinated. For example, on your first set, with the left hand use a supinated grip and with the right hand use a pronated grip—this variation places a greater portion of the load on the left arm. The stronger the trainee, the wider the grip. Make sure to perform an equal amount of work for both arms by reversing the grip on each alternating set.

Mixed-Grip Chin-up II. This is an even more advanced version of the Mixed Grip Chin-up and is performed by placing the support hand on the wrist of the working arm. The stronger the trainee, the lower the hand is placed on the working arm.

Subscapulars Pull-up. This is the exercise that Professor Mengele of Nazi infamy would prescribe if in charge of a bodybuilder's training. To perform the Subscapularis Pull-up you assume the starting position of the Wide-Grip Pull-up and pull yourself to the bar until your upper pecs make contact with the chin-up bar. This is where the fun begins. At the top of the movement you push yourself away from the bar and lower yourself under control, a technique that will shock your subscapularis muscles. Believe me, you will curse me for three days after you perform this one.

"This routine is for the advanced trainee only and is inspired by the routines that Olympic gymnasts perform to condition their powerful backs."

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