The Most Underused Exercise

When it comes to strength and conditioning, we all know upper body strength is important. However, when we think of training the upper body typically exercises like bench press, military press, and biceps curl come to mind. However, one of the most underused exercises in strength and conditioning is actually one of the most beneficial exercises for you. Meet the chin-up.

Chin-ups involve the sternal portion of the pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, teres major, posterior deltoid, rhomboids, trapezius, and elbow flexors. For those who haven’t had a anatomy course, that is pretty much your whole upper-body! Working all these muscles with one simple exercise makes it one of the most beneficial exercises when trying to develop upper body strength. It is typically used in athletic testing as and upper body tester, as the bench press is not accurate, nor safe for young athletes.

The average male can do 1 chin-up. The average female can do 0 chin-ups. What does that mean? We need to do more chin-ups. I am not saying that they need to be done everyday, but they for sure needed to be added to your periodized program if they are not already.

Here is an example of a week long routine for one of my baseball players.

Monday: Upper body Lift
Tuesday: Lower body Lift
Wednesday: Speed and Agility work
Thursday: Upper body Lift
Friday: Lower body lift
Saturday: Aerobic Conditioning
Sunday: Off

He completes chin-ups on Monday as part of his upper body lift. Currently he is in a hypertrophy phase for his program so he is doing 4 sets of 8-10 reps. However, as he gets closer to the preseason, we will transition to power. As a result, the reps will drop to 3-5, but we will add weight to make it challenging.

The bottom line is, everybody can benefit from chin-ups. Of course if you have elbow or any upperbody musculoskeletal injuries you should get clearance first, but the average young athlete or adult should have no problem putting them in your program.

As far as technique goes, that is the benefit of the exercise, the technique is simple. Start from a dead hang with a supinated grip on the bar and pull your body up until your chin reaches or goes over the bar. Than slowly lower yourself ALL the way down to the dead hang, and repeat. Like I said, depending on your goals and where you are in your program will determine how much volume (setsxreps) you will do. For those who struggle to complete the chin-up you may tie a band atop the chin-up bar and place your knee in the band. This will give you a little extra boost up. Eventually you can switch to a thinner band, and ultimately eliminate the band.

So, lets work on raising those averages posted above and start doing some more chin-ups!

Spurling Training Systems brand new state of the art sports and fitness center is coming along great. We are scheduled to open January 2, 2012. Please support us by checking out our website and subscribing to our Facebook page.

As always, any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to ask.


Doug Spurling, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Spurling Training Systems, LLC
1 Colonel Gelardi Drive #105
Kennebunk, ME 04043


About Spurling Training Systems

At Spurling Training Systems, our focus is on providing a superior athletic conditioning experience. The combination of expert training, time spent understanding your specific goals and customized program development is what makes Spurling Training Systems a unique and effective training experience for athletes of all ages, levels and abilities. Doug is the founder and owner of Spurling Training Systems. He graduated from University of New England with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Exercise Science. He has several years of experience as both a personal trainer for general fitness and a strength and conditioning coach for athletes. His certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) include Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT).
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