The Starting Line (Ready, Set, Chin Ups)


I’m not that big on making sweeping New Year’s resolutions.  Year after year they pretty much stay the same.  I reaffirm my commitment to fitness and to personal improvement in a variety of areas.  Rather than make a far-reaching resolution or two starting January 1st, I make lots of little resolutions throughout the year.  Biting off small projects with shorter term goals helps ensure my interest and therefore success.

To that end I’ve dedicated the next 12 weeks to adding muscle and stripping fat simultaneously.  By the end of March I want to be lean and muscle-y enough to be happy walking on the beach in a pretty bikini over Spring Break.  I’m always trying to get my biceps to pop so I’ve taken up a little challenge that I saw on another wordpress blog.  The hows and whys of this particular program make sense to me so I’m optimistic about the outcome. Besides, I happen to know that chin ups are great for more than just biceps. They challenge your entire upper body so whether I get the giant biceps I’m after or not, I can’t lose.  Currently, I’m on my second week of this program and all is going well.

Biceps! Here I am at my starting point.  Let's see what happens over the next 8 weeks!

Biceps! Here I am at my starting point. Let’s see what happens over the next 8 weeks!

I should note that I modified this program a little to fit my capabilities better (this article was written for a man)  I’m actually doing sets of 5 chin ups at a time instead of 10 and there are times when I do more than one set an hour although I do try to space them a reasonable length apart (at least 20 minutes…sometimes it’s not convenient to do a set of chin ups and sometimes you have extra time on your hands with which to do many).

Chicken scratch…my first week's efforts.  Did a total of 195 chin ups during the week then an extra 39 in the 5 minute challenge for  a final tally of 234. Let's see what I can do this week!

Chicken scratch…my first week’s efforts. Did a total of 195 chin ups during the week then an extra 39 in the 5 minute challenge for a final tally of 234. Let’s see what I can do this week!

I’m always happy and excited to have something new to work on.  Anybody care  to join me?  Even if this  type of program doesn’t appeal to you why not make up a 12 week challenge of  your own?  Short, sweet challenges help make fitness much more fun.

This chin up program is courtesy of my hardcore friend Fred  (

Great program to improve your chin ups
by Fred
The Chin-Up Project
This is a bad ass program and truly fit to be called hardcore!
Here’s what you need to know…
• If you’ve never used linear progression on basic chin-ups, you’ve left a “gap” in your development that’s just waiting to be filled.
• By performing frequent, non-failure, chin-up work and a once-per-week 5-minute challenge, you’ll gain at least half an inch on the upper arms alone.
• Following this volume cycle with a strength cycle can add another half inch to your upper arms along with developing a stronger, harder, more athletic upper body.
The most underrated exercise is the chin-up. Chin-ups are something I wish I would’ve done all the time. – Dave Tate
Chin-Ups For Pure Muscle Growth
There are two problems with most chin-up programs:
1. They’re usually designed to help you increase the number of chins you can do, not increase muscle mass. While doing a lot of chin-ups looks cool, we’d rather stretch out our T-shirts than turn into that skinny guy at the gym who can do a lot of chins and not much else.
2. These programs often require that you change your regular training program and cut back on your training volume or loads. With the right strategy, this is unnecessary.
The program presented here has none of those problems. First, it’s designed for hypertrophy: unadulterated muscle growth. Second, you can add this program to what you’re already doing in the gym.
In short, it’s an anabolic add-on.
Old School Training, New School Muscle
Old-school coaches and bodybuilders had it right: first get strong doing chin-ups, then focus on direct arm exercises.
Today people have it backwards. They start with advanced bodybuilding exercises to focus on a certain part of the biceps. They isolate their upper body musculature and forget to build systematic strength in the entire upper body.
The result? They’re trying to build a big house without first building a sturdy foundation. The body just doesn’t grow that way.
The truth is, if you can’t do at least 12 strict chins with bodyweight, your time is best spent there before you ever even try a reverse preacher cable curl with a thick grip and isometric stops. (Also, you could just be too fat, but that’s another program.)
The good news is that if you’ve made this mistake, your “newbie gains” are still on the table. That’s pounds of muscle just waiting to be picked up and slapped onto your body, giving you a powerful, athletic look and, yes, a bigger set of arms. Chin-ups are an effective exercise for the abs as well, especially when you add load. And you will add load.
The chin-up, performed with a neutral or supinated grip, is the foundational mass-building exercise for biceps, lats, and all the supportive upper back musculature.
The neutral grip: palms facing each other, as used when you do chins with a V-bar attachment or parallel chinning bars – will place more emphasis on the brachialis. This underlying muscle “pushes up” the biceps and makes your overall upper arm bigger. If your brachialis has been neglected, and it probably has, bringing it into play will result in rapid size increases, sometimes even up to an inch in upper arm size.
The supinated grip: palms facing you – overloads the elbow flexors and brings more muscles into action compared to the wide-grip pull-up, plus it maximizes cross sectional area of the muscle.
As a bonus, grip strength is correlated with arm size, and this program will give you a death grip if yours is lacking.
Put it all together and you have an inch of new upper-arm muscle mass just waiting to be built. And the plan is simple.
The Program
Phase I
Timeframe: Four Weeks
Method: Volume
Every day you’re going to do several sets of chin-ups. You’ll never go to failure on any set and you’ll separate each set by an hour or more.
For example, do some chin-ups after breakfast, a set before you train, a few after you train, a set in the afternoon or evening, etc. Use a dedicated bar, a tree limb, a bathroom stall door, or a beam in your garage. Display adaptability.
You’re going to accumulate hundreds of “extra” chin-ups over a 4-week period, probably over 800 in a month. Some days you’ll get 10 or 20; other days you’ll get 40 or 50. Each week you’ll shoot for more total chins than the previous week.
Challenge Day
Once per week, you’ll have a challenge day. Set a timer for 5 minutes and perform as many chin-ups as you can with good form. Add this number to your weekly total and take the next day off.
If you can already do 12 to 15 good chin-ups without kipping or looking like you’re having a seizure, choose 10 as your target number per set. If you can’t do at least 12 chin-ups already, get stronger and lose some body fat, then come back to this program.
Never perform more than 10 chin-ups at a time, even if you can. Again, you’ll never fail except on challenge day, once per week.
Grip Position
First Two Weeks: Neutral or semi-supinated grip (palms facing one another)
Last Two Weeks: Supinated (palms toward your face)
Off Day
Once per week, the day after Challenge Day, perform zero chin-ups. Don’t even rescue a kitten from a tree.
Other Training
Perform your regular workout as you always would. If you have an “arm day” and need to cut volume back slightly, that’s fine. But most lifters won’t need to if they’re using a solid workout nutrition protocol and optimizing recovery in their regular workouts.
Sample Lifter
We recommend you get a notepad for your records. You’ll keep this with you at all times to record your daily chin-ups.
Here’s the Phase I training log of one of our test subjects. Yours will look a little different.
Week 1
Monday: 10, 10
Tuesday: 10, 10, 10
Wednesday: 10
Thursday: 10, 10, 10
Friday: 10, 10, 10
Saturday: Challenge Day: 40 in 5 minutes
Sunday: Off
TOTAL: 160 reps
Week 2
Monday: 10, 10, 10, 10
Tuesday: 10, 10
Wednesday: 10, 10, 10
Thursday: 10, 10, 10
Friday: 10, 10, 10
Saturday: Challenge Day: 45 in 5 minutes
Sunday: Off
TOTAL: 195
Week 3
Monday: 10, 10, 10, 10, 10
Tuesday: 10, 10, 10
Wednesday: 10, 10, 10, 10
Thursday: 10, 10, 10, 10
Friday: 10, 10, 10, 10
Saturday: Challenge Day: 50 in 5 minutes
Sunday: Off
TOTAL: 250
Week 4
Monday: 10, 10, 10, 10, 10
Tuesday: 10, 10, 10, 10
Wednesday: 10, 10, 10, 10
Thursday: 10, 10, 10, 10
Friday: 10, 10, 10, 10, 10
Saturday: Challenge Day: 52 in 5 minutes
Sunday: Off
TOTAL: 282
FINAL TOTAL FOR PHASE I: 887 chin-ups in 4 weeks.
Results: Half an inch in upper arm growth (very rapid for an experienced lifter.) Noticeable increase in upper body size and strength. Stronger abs and grip, decreased body fat.
Tips and Reminders for Phase I
•  Do NOT kill yourself in the first week. The plan works because of accumulated volume, no need to do 250 chins in the first week. If you do not improve your total reps weekly, you started out too fast.
•  Do not train to failure except on challenge day.
•  Do not do this on a very low-carb diet or in a large caloric deficit. You don’t build muscle when you’re half-starved and neglecting vital anabolic macronutrients.
Phase II
Timeframe: Four Weeks
Method: Heavy Reps
After four weeks, switch to a strength-focused chin-up program. For the next month, perform the following:
Step 1: Establish your 6 rep max on the weighted chin-up. In other words, add weight with a dip belt, weighted vest, or by holding a dumbbell or plate between your legs.
Step 2: You’re going to perform 25 total reps per workout, using several sets with that 6 rep max weight. It doesn’t matter how many sets it takes, and it’s fine if you’re down to doing doubles or singles at the end.
Your 25 total reps may look like this:
Set 1: 6 reps
Set 2: 6 reps
Set 3: 5 reps
Set 4: 4 reps
Set 5: 2 reps
Set 6: 2 reps
This is just an example. Everyone will be a little different here. Just get 25 total reps with your 6-rep max, taking as many sets as you need. Rest as needed between sets. This isn’t a race.
When you can easily get more than 6 reps on the first set, add weight.
Step 3: Perform weighted chin-ups in this manner 3 times per week on nonconsecutive days for the next four weeks: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for example. Vary the grip between neutral and supinated. Grip width can also be varied to prevent any overuse issues. If three times per week is too rough on your elbows, perform twice per week for 6 weeks.
Step 4:  Re-measure your upper arms and note how your T-shirts are stretching out even more up top.
8 Weeks, One Inch of Arm Growth
For the experienced lifter, an inch of upper arm growth in a year would be phenomenal, and visibly shocking. Most people who do both phases of this program will see that kind of growth in eight weeks. How much bigger have your arms and upper body gotten in the last two months?
Start now.

17 responses

  1. Great post Lynn,like your routine.Hope your doing well.I’m sick & tired of being sick & tired,I should be better soon. (Optimistic) Great job,love ya Lynn.

    1. Hi Scott! How are you doing? Feeling MUCH better, I hope. All is well over here. I’m working hard especially on upper body (although I need to concentrate more on legs…need more time in the day). Having fun with the pull up challenge!

  2. So my beautiful (hopefully not so cheese smelling) spider monkey, it has been a few years hasn’t it? You continue to be more beautiful after each one! I wish you nothing but continued success and happiness in 2014! I will be sending you a more private note soon, just know that I think of you often and can’t wait to see what life has in store in 2014! May you and yours be blessed each and every day.

    1. Oh and I am going to make it a point to do more of this craziness that is called “pull ups”…

      1. It’s crazy GOOD…although I’m suffering today (so sore). So what?!? Going to get those pull ups done!

    2. Licious! You will be happy to know I took a bath and now smell like gingerbread soap. At least that’s what I think I smell like. It’s been established that I don’t have such a great sense of smell. What smells like peaches to me smells like grilled cheese to my son. It’s possible that I now smell like a ham sandwich…

  3. Happy New Year Doc. Your lookin strong and at the rate your going on those chin ups your going to need a larger piece of paper for you chicken scratches.

    1. Yay for a larger piece of paper! I’m doing OK this week. Just a couple of chin ups behind where I was last week at this time so I’ll have to make it up today and tomorrow! I WILL! Happy Thursday to you!

  4. You are such the Motivator Lynn. So thankful God put you in my life. Be Blessed dear friend

    1. Hi Mess!! Thank you. I’m chatty, that’s for sure. That’s why I have to have my own blog. So opinionated! Lol Guess God put us in each other’s lives so I consider myself a lucky woman! Have a wonderful day!

  5. You look amazing. I am not into the the new year’s resolution band wagon. I just make a commitment 24/7 to be a better person and to make a difference by touching others lives in a positive matter just like you my beautiful, beautiful friend. Wishing you a happy, happy and prosperous New Year….Always Matt

    1. Aw…we are very similar in many ways Matt. Hope your 2014 is off to a wonderful start. We’re going to have fun this year!!

  6. First of all you look awesome in a bikini right now….This is a very interest approach, similar to a pushup program I did, will have to give this a try! Happy New Year!

    1. Thank you! I’m very excited about the chin up challenge and my new lifting program. Looking forward to some good results. Hope the new year is off to fantastic start for you!

  7. Hi Dr. Lynn. I started your program from your bodybuilding page. Boy oh boy, it’s pretty intense. My back and shoulders are especially sore, but I hope to see results. Good luck with your new program and Happy New Year!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that you were able to incorporate some of my torture, I mean exercises into your routine! It’s pretty challenging but will definitely give you results! Keep going…I’m right there working hard with you!

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