How Over Twenty Ladies Did Their First Chin-up Within a Year
Considering the absolute strength differences between men and women, a pull-up is a great challenge for women with strength goals. I train a number of women, so I decided to challenge my students (and myself) by embarking on a bold one-year plan to help as many of my students as possible achieve their first chin-up. […]

Considering the absolute strength differences between men and women, a pull-up is a great challenge for women with strength goals. I train a number of women, so I decided to challenge my students (and myself) by embarking on a bold one-year plan to help as many of my students as possible achieve their first chin-up. .

Start from the beginning

The saying goes, "If you don't assess, it's just a guess." Assessments are essential before starting any training plan with a specific goal in mind. They help us see where the majority of the training time needs to be spent, and then choose the best route to get there. I will describe my assessment process below, but first agree that an appropriate level of prerequisite strength must be present for the skills to be expressed.

My current ratings are:

  1. Artificially Controlled Environment (ACE) - This is a term known in StrongFirst to help movement find exactly what point of current friction the student must overcome. Applying ACE to movement shows us if the student needs a ton of support or if it's just at a point of friction.
  2. Is the student able to maintain an isometric contraction for ten seconds at the three main traction blocking points: the 170 degree elbow angle, 90 degrees, and the flexed arm hanging down with the chin above the bar ?
  3. Is the student able to do a 10 second lowering phase from the flexed arm suspended to a fully extended arm position?

For this article, I'm going to assume that the student has been training for at least a few months and is close enough to complete the assessments, meaning they are at least half the time recommended in # 2 and # 3 below. above. If this is the case, this article will serve to strengthen the maximum strength of the blocking points and to condition the neurological system for successful pull-ups.

If they fail in one or more of these positions, they must build a base level of strength which is a completely different program.

Build up maximum strength using performance isometrics, eccentric and eccentric supramaximal quasi-isometries

This article will focus on the production of isometrics (which maintains a weight at a specific position and prevents it from yielding against gravity), supramaximal eccentrics (using a weight on the slowly stretching part that is heavier than the shortening portion of the lift), and eccentric quasi-isometric (a combination of slow stretching and pauses at specific angles). This varied approach will allow us to emphasize different force curves as well as improve the performance of the nervous system.

Isometric training has many advantages. You can maintain maximum tension for a longer period of time compared to dynamic contractions. It helps to improve resistance at angles where the resistance curve is diminished. And it is less expensive metabolically and therefore will not cause muscle damage. Most of the movement choices during this phase will be in the vertical pulling force vector, as it will more closely mimic the type of contraction and directional force required in pull-ups and therefore produce a greater carryover.

Because eccentric training recruits less motor unit during contraction, the mechanical load per motor unit is increased. This is why the eccentric drive can generate up to 140% more voltage than a concentric drive.

Obstacles to avoid

One thing to note when programming the different phases of contraction is the interference effect between the neuromuscular aspects of the training. Try not to mix the eccentric, isometric, and concentric phases together in one day, especially if you are using the same force vector.

Competence development

It is only when a student has passed steps two and three of the assessment phase that I move on to skill development which can be done simultaneously with absolute strength. This is where resistance bands come in. On the other hand, I have found that using a band with resistance above 40-80 pounds is not helpful because the resistance curve is changed too much. The lower part of the pull is where most people are weakest, so too heavy a band will not allow them to build strength where they need it. In terms of frequency of training, since the skills need to be practiced often, I have found that three to five times per week is best.

The program

Now, with all of that information above, let's put things together in a periodized schedule. The number of repetitions is written as repetitions / sets, for example: 10/3 means three sets of ten repetitions. You will also see a written tempo for some movements. The first one listed below is 1-1-1-2. This means one second for eccentric (lowering phase), one second for full extension, one second for concentric (shortening phase) and a two second pause in fully flexed position. A1 and A2 below together represent a superset. After completing all sets of A, move on to B. Remember to rest as needed, taking up to three full minutes after completing a set of A or B sets.

Phase 1: Absolute strength, weeks 1 to 4

Day 1

  • A1: High efficiency eccentrics x 8-15 seconds / 5
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • A2: Rear scapular traction x 10/3
  • Rest for up to three minutes
  • B1: Lines on the ground x 6-8 / 4 (at tempo 1-1-1-2)
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • B2: Wheel Ab x 3-5 / 5 (at tempo 4-1-1-1)
  • Rest 90 seconds

Day 2

  • A1: Quasi Isometric Eccentric x 2/5 (Descent with control, 5 second pause at 90 degrees, descent with control, 5 second pause at 170 degrees)
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • A2: Supinated rear scapular pullups x 10/3
  • Rest for up to three minutes
  • B1: Ring Row supine x 6-8 / 4 (at tempo 1-1-1-2)
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • B2: Wheel Ab x 3-5 / 5 (at tempo 4-1-1-1)
  • Rest 90 seconds

Phase 2: Skills development (2-3 weeks), weeks 1-3

Day 1

  • A: Banded chin-ups - one rep per minute for a total of ten reps
  • B1: Quasi-isometric eccentric at 110% of body weight x 2/5 (Descent with control, 5 second pause at 90 degrees, descent with control, 5 second pause at 170 degrees)
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • B2: Supine rear scapular pullups x 10/3
  • Rest for up to three minutes

Day 2

  • A: Banded chin-ups - one rep per minute for a total of ten reps
  • B1: Supra maximal performance eccentrics x 8-15 seconds / 5 (Use a trimmer or go up to start at the top and go down with an additional 20% of body weight)
  • Rest for up to three minutes
  • B2: Arched scapula pullups x 10/3
  • Rest for up to three minutes

Day # 3

If you or your students haven't done pull-ups yet, this is a feat of strength that you absolutely must work towards. And the method I briefly described above is one that I have used successfully with many people. As with any program, remember at the end that it must be adapted to the abilities and physical limitations of the student. Not everyone has taken this specific program, these are just suggestions on how you can progress yourself or a student towards a solid pull. Remember that a good base must be present before trying the above protocol.

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Myren Fu
Myren is a StrongFirst Team Leader, Director and Head Coach of G1RYA, a Strength and Performance Center - the first and only StrongFirst Certified Gym in Singapore focused on kettlebell, barbell and strength training.

Myren has been groomed under the world's best in the industry, in a variety of performance and fitness education. He created G1RYA, a must-have facility, to help young athletes, gym owners, personal trainers, and even regional and Olympic ranks improve their technique and reach their highest levels of performance and fitness.


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Coming up with your perfect bodybuilding workout program and diet to match can seem like quite the process. You have to plan how many days a week you’re going to workout, what exercises you will include in your program, how long your rest periods will be, how many reps you should perform for each exercise, and on and on it goes.

Many individuals do tend to feel slightly overwhelmed with the amount of information available out there as to what works ’best’, and therefore take more time than they should to even get going.

You always must remember that half the battle is just getting started, so avoid going into too many details that are just going to hold you up from playing the game.

The sooner you can get into the gym and start actually pushing the weights, the sooner you will start building force and seeing your body transform into your ideal physique.

That said, you obviously do need to make sure you are following some sound strategies so that the workouts you are doing will help you build force. If you pay heed to these rules, chances are you are going to be on the way to success as long as you also are sure that the nutrition part of the equation is included as well.

The first bodybuilding tip that will make the solo biggest difference on your rate of muscle gain is whether you are able to consecutively add more weight to the bar.

It’s not going to matter how many fancy principles you use, if you aren’t increasing the sheer amount you are lifting over a few months of time, you aren’t building force as quickly as you should be.

The number one priority of any muscle gaining bodybuilding workout program should be lifting heavier and heavier weights.

When you get ’stuck’ and aren’t able to bump the weight up higher, that’s when you start tinkering with other strategies such as drop sets, supersets, etc., as a means to help increase the body’s potential, so that in a few more weeks, you can bump it up to the next weight level.

All those fancy protocols will definitely have an advantage down the road once you’ve attained a level of morphologie you’re satisfied with, but until that point, you should use them intermittently when you’re unable to lift heavier.

The deuxième bodybuilding tip to pay attention to is the rule on failure. Some people believe that lifting to failure each and every solo set is the best way to build muscle. They think that in order to get a bourrinage to grow, you have to fully exhaust it.

While it is true that you have to push the zones musculaires past their comfort level in order to see progress, you can run into a number of problems when you’re lifting to failure each and every set.

The first major issue is central nervous system fatigue. Workout programs designed to go to failure each and every time will be very draining on the CNS.

After a few weeks of such a program, it’s highly likely that you’ll find the CNS is so exhausted that you can’t even lift the weight you used to for the required number of reps little own increase it upwards.

The deuxième problem with going to failure is that if you do this on the first exercise out in the workout, you’re not going to have much for a second, third, and fourth exercise after that.

Since you should be doing at least a couple of different exercises in each workout you do, this becomes very difficult to accomplish.

Instead, aim to go one to two reps short of failure. This will still get you pushing your body hard and sérieux at the intensity level needed to build muscle, but it won’t completely destroy you so that you have to end that workout prematurely and take a day or two off just to recoup.

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