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Mastering Chin-Ups

It has been awesome seeing so many of you working on our monthly fitness challenges up on the boards up at the front desk – so today’s post is going to pertain to one particular challenge. The Chin-Up! Now this exercise looks like it’s only made for those really jacked up guys in a gym setting and most people are intimidated by this but, in reality, it is a great exercise to get those back muscles working!
The three main muscles that are working during a chin-up include biceps, traps, and lats. The different types of grip and the width of your hands determines the amount of muscle activity for each of them.

There are three different ways to perform a chin-up:
#1) Neutral grip, where your palms are facing each other. This engages the bicep muscles to help assist the back muscles in order to pull yourself up. There is also
#2) Reverse grip, where your palms are facing you. Again this hand positioning engages the biceps, as well as your back muscles.
#3) Prone grip, where your palms are facing away from you. This third way is by far the hardest of all the different grips as it is strictly the back muscles.
So now we have gone over the different muscles being activated, the grips and widths for this exercise, it’s time to discuss form.
When it comes to doing a chin-up completely with proper form, there is a lot to think about. First and always most important, is keeping the core tight. Keeping the core tight will help stop you from you swinging your legs to get yourself up over the bar, as well as keep your low back safe in that neutral spine position. To help engage your core muscles think of drawing your belly button to your spine or sucking in your stomach.
Secondly, you need to engage your traps and lats properly. Engaging the lat muscles can be very difficult at first as many people do not know how it feels. In order to understand when they are engaged, stand up nice and tall, close your eyes and really concentrate on what you are feeling. Focus on pulling your shoulder blades back and down. To elaborate, imagine squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades when pulling them back. To pull the shoulder blades down, think of doing the opposite of a shrug. Where you would normally bring the shoulders up towards the ears, do the opposite and pull them away. Doing both of these motions together, you should be able to feel the muscles of your back engage from your shoulder blades down to the back side of your ribs. Doing this a number of times will help you know the feeling of having the lat muscles activate. Once you have got that feeling down, lets raise our hands above our heads and pretend you’re holding a bar. Again, focusing on your shoulders, bringing them back and down as you pull the pretend bar to your chest.
Taking what you have learned and putting it into practice will help you achieve your goal of pulling yourself up over that bar to perform those sought out chin-ups. Also, what you’ve learned about how to properly engage your back muscles can also be applied towards a very similar exercise, the lat pulldown.
Remember that practice makes us better, always have patience with yourself and that Rome wasn’t built in a day!