A Killer Chin-up Variation

Weighted chin-ups

In today’s edition of Exercise of the Week, we’re going to cover a sweet variation on an old-school strength exercise.

You’re all probably familiar with the traditional chin-up/pull-up variation with the knees bent and ankles tucked behind you.  It looks something like this:

And while the standard chin-up/pull-up is still a great option, here’s a little tweak that I think you’ll find a bit more challenging.

The Pillar/Plank Chin-up is an exercise I originally heard about from physical therapist Charlie Weingroff.  I’m not sure if he calls it the pillar chin-up or not, but that’s really not here nor there. 🙂

Hang from a chinning bar, but before you perform the lift, do the following things:

  • Dorsiflex your toes (pull them UP towards your face).
  • Straighten your legs, extending your knees.
  • Squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward.

NOW, with all these things going on, perform your traditional chin-up.  Here are the big coaching points when it comes to chinning/pulling:

  • Elbows straight/extended at the bottom.
  • Initiate by pulling through the elbows, not just flexing the biceps.
  • At the top, the chest should touch the bar and you should squeeze your shoulder blades DOWN (think of tucking them in your back pocket).
  • Lower under control to the starting position and repeat for the necessary number of reps.

I really like this version, as it seems to integrate the body a bit better, versus dissociating between upper and lower bodies.

Along those same lines, you guys know how obsessed I am with getting the core and glutes involved in our lifts, and this version really cranks up the stabilization needs of our torso and hips.

Give this variation a shot TODAY! I think you’ll really enjoy it.

Stay strong



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  1. [quote]2) Also, I can do about 11 chinups but only a few pullups. My biggest problem is that I can't seem to stop my body from swaying when I lower myself to the ground. It makes the next rep very difficult to initiate. What should I do to remedy this? [/quote]
    Instead of using a dip belt try placing a dumbell between your feet. It doesn't make it absolutely impossible to cheat, but it serves as a good reminder not to.

  2. How many pull-ups are required to pass the HKC test? Is the pull-up test the deciding factor on passing the HKC? when is it administered during the cert. ? Thanks Frank

  3. Hi Mike! Wanted to know how can I do to improve my chinups (I can only do 5, because my biceps burn even though I try to initiate the movement by extending the elbows as you say) And how can I even do pullups!? I seem to have no strength at all at the upper back. I can do one perfect, 2 crappy hehehe. I know I am not strong right now (I am 6 ft 6 inches, 95 kg) and have never trained in a "formal" way. Used to play rugby, but started the gym this year.

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