T Nation

Chin-up Alternatives? Routine Advice?


Some questions to the educated masses

I have been training consistently for the last 10 weeks and have gotten some good results. I guesstimate that I have lost 3-4 kg of fat and gained 4-5kg of muscle (unscientifically based on my experience and what I see in the mirror and on the scales). I have also gained strength across the board and hit a bunch of PR's in almost every lift except deadlift. (I just cant seem to hold more than 200kg without my grip failing)

I have been doing HFT with pushups and chinups on top of my regular sessions. I do a few max rep sets after some incline treadmill walking in the mornings. I was doing quite well and had reached 21 consecutive strict chinups when I hurt my neck. Turns out of have a degenerating disk at both t1/2 and c5/6. This leads to a bunch of stiffness and stiffness and soreness. After 3 weeks of physio and no chinups and decided to give them another try. I managed a set of 18 but ended up with stiffness and soreness again.

I loved chinups and was doing both weighted (up to 25kg for 3 sets of 5) and bodyweight. I am not sure I can keep doing them. If I cant, what should I be doing instead? I already do deadlifts, and barbell / dumbell rows.

Second issue, I am deployed with the Australian Military at the moment. I go to the gym twice a day 7 days a week as there is nothing else to do. I do either 4 or 5 heavy sessions a week with all the other sessions consisting of walking on the treadmill (keeping HR below 120) and foam rolling. I actually consider these sessions NEPA as opposed to training. However due to the poor quality of sleep I am getting I am getting pretty run down.

I normally have to get out of bed 2 to 3 times a night to piss due to the quantity of water I drink daily (days are 45 degrees with the reflected hear being in the mid to high 60's centigrade) hence the poor sleep quality. I already take Z-12 before bed and go to bed as early as I can. I have gotten pretty good results with the routine I have been doing so far and dont want to go backwards. Any thoughts on what I should change?


Hi Oldnbroken!

I consider myself a novice in lifting, so I can't really offer too much advice, but can address a few things. First off though, 60c... holy hell man, that sucks.

Regarding the chin ups: Is the issue occurring with chin ups (palms facing you) or is it pull ups (back of the hand facing you)? The reason I ask is that my body and head tend to sit pretty far back when I do chin ups as apposed to pull ups. With chins, I don't really need to tilt my head back at all. So, if you're doing pull ups, switching to chins may be easier on your neck, though they do work out some different muscles. That said, if you're able to do 20+ of either at BW, you may consider doing behind the head pull ups. For these, you will dip your head in your chest and attempt to get your traps/shoulders as close to the pull up bar as possible. They tend to be a bit more difficult, but are an amazing exercise. They will really engage your shoulders near the top, so if you have any pre-existing shoulder issues, they may not be the best route.

There is always the alternative of seated lat pull down machines. You can do similations of pull ups and chin ups while leaning your torso back at an angle, so that you don't need to tilt your neck.

Just a question on your deadlift, as you mentioned your grip was failing. Are you using a standard grip (back of the hand facing out and fingers curling in towards the body) or a mixed grip? Also, do you have access to sports chalk?

For the recovery portion, are you taking any supplements like glutamine or daily vitamins?



I was doing pull ups (palms facing away) but switched my grip as you suggested. Chin ups (palms facing me) see to result n the same neck pain but neutral grip seems ok. I did 3 x 5 with 20kg on a weight belt last night and I seem fine so far today (managed a set of 20 after walking this morning). Hopefully I have my solution.

As for deadlift I am doing mixed grip but dont have access to chalk. The PTI (physical training instructor) is a boxer and doesnt lift weights, he removed the chalk as it was making the floor dirty. I have been working on doing triples (working up from 120kg, 10 kg increase a set). I can triple 170kg easy, but from 180kg I start to lose my grip and struggle to get 3 reps. I can single 190kg no probs but 200kg I lose my grip right at the top to the pull. The annoying thing is that despite working on my grip for the last 4 weeks I dont seem to be improving.

I take Flameout and a multivitamin. If I didnt have the Flameout I think I wouldnt be able to move after lifting. That stuff is gold.


That's great to hear about the neutral grip working. Hopefully that ends up being the long term solution.

You may want to start using standard grip for lower weight sets and warm ups, to help build some grip strength. Also, for the heaviest lifts, when your grip becomes the limiting factor, you could move to wrist straps. Also, 4 weeks in the grand scheme of things is not a long time, so don't be discouraged if you're not seeing immediate results.

Ya, the recovery thing is tricky. I'm pretty fortunate as I just rely on my diet and sleep. I try to make sure I get seven hours every night, but that's much easier done in an air conditioned house. Oh, I also ingest around 10g of L-Glutamine a day, along with my whey mix. I can't really say how much the glutamine works, as it's pre-mixed into my protein. Some people swear by the stuff and others say it's a waste.


Pavels pullup routine. Program it lower than your max reps. So if your best is 21 program it for 17 and follow it.

Works very well.


I'm just going to focus on the first issue. It actually belongs in the Injury forum but someone directed me to this thread so here I am...

Is it possible the issue of chin ups resulting in stiffness is related to slight (or exaggerated depending on your form) extension at the C spine as you near the top of the movement?

My guess is that you do the full (or close to full range) of pull ups and chin ups in which the head has to go past the bar. If this is the case, there must be some extension at along the C spine so you don't hit the top of your head on the bar. And it follows that the T1/2 will also extend.

So IF IF IF the inability to keep a neutral C spine is the culprit to your particular case, you may want to try the following set up. If there are other factors involved (other than the inability to maintain a neutral C spine), this set may only assist in preventing shoulder or elbow injury.

Below is a link to a post I wrote back in 2011. The reason for this set up is that it allows a more natural movement at the shoulder and elbows while performing the pull ups or chin ups.

Now there is a secondary benefit. You can keep a neutral C spine and never have to worry about hitting the top of your head.

When you go this web page, scroll down to the post dated 08-14-2011

EDIT: see the post 08-14-2011 6:05 PM


If you have access to a lat pull down station, the same set up can be performed.

As for doing behind the neck pull ups, this variation places your shoulders in an externally rotated position. Very few can actually do this not end up with shoulder issues down the road. In other words, it's very much debatable if the rewards outweigh the risk on for a large segment of the population.