T Nation

Chin-ups (overload???)

After a number of years training I’ve finally started to incorporate chin-ups/pull-ups etc as part of my training. However I can only manage three sets of full range chins(8, 6 and 5 reps using a 410 tempo with 90 secs rest between sets), and for 4 days after I still can’t straighten my arms totally. Then I started to think about what I had done…
I warmed up and stretched then got on and tried for my first set. I found that fatigue hit me pretty fast and I only managed 8 reps when aiming for at least 10. I then went on to do two more sets of 6 and 5 respectively. What I would normally think in a situation such as this is that I’ve got too much weight on the bar. But I can’t make myself any lighter so what should I do? Stick to ecentric movements only? More warm up? It seems crazy to me that I would never think of slamming a weight on a barbell way in excess of my 10 rep max when I want to do 3 sets of 10. Duh! What do you guys think I should do?

I say keep going as you are. You’ll be hitting 10 with relative ease in no time and will probally need to start adding some weight. If you have been accustomed to the higher rep range it will do you some good to use the heavier for fewer reps.

I had the same problem. You can do a light warm up on either the lat pulldown machine or if have an assisted pullup use that. Try not to go to failure on your first set. Your subsequent sets will suffer. Increase your rest between sets 2-3 minutes.

Cheers guys. My old gym had one of those assisted pullup machines but my new one doesn’t. I’ll avoid going to failure on my first set and bump up the rest while I’m in the learning phase, so to speak. I’ll definitely keep at it though - this is a damn fine exercise that translates very well to the real world. A good test of strength methinks, even though I hate it when you get the guys doing half-ass chins barely getting their arm extended beyond 90 degrees. Then they look at you like you’re the weak one. Man, some people.

Check this out: try negative reps on your last, or last two sets. If you can’t pull yourself up, just have something underneath you so you can “jump” up to the bar and use a long negative.

Simon, your rest periods are definitely too short. There needs to be an inverse relationship between time under tension per set and the rest period. I personally have poor muscle recovery, so for all but very high TUT’s, I take 3 to 5 minutes of rest. In your case, you are getting 40, 30 and 25 seconds to failure in successive sets, and I would recommend 3 minute rest periods or longer. If you have read much on the T-mag site, you will see frequent recommendations for working opposing muscle groups in alternating sets, and this can actually lead to greater strength for both muscle groups. So try working sets for chest, or if that’s too strenuous, shoulders after 90-120 sec. of rest after each back set. You might also try increasing TUT in your last chin set by doing a static pause of 10 seconds on your last negative. Even with no other changes, this would give you 40, 30, and 40 secs. Finally, I’ll just throw out that some people in the “high intensity” camp (such as Stuart McRobert and of course Mike Mentzer) would claim that even three sets is too many. This depends on the number of rest days you take, too.

If you have a partner have him hold your ankles on the first set. That way you can use your legs to help you up on the first set, turning into a warm-up.

I love doing pullups and when I plateaued I actually added weight after doing a short warm-up set(3-5 reps). Using a a dip belt or dumbell and starting with just 5lbs (I weigh #135)I would do three sets to failure ,resting 3 min in between and adding small amts of weight (2.5lbs) when I could do at least 6 reps x2 sets. It didn’t take long to achieve 3 sets of 10 with NO weight and it added thickness to my back. Search the T-Mag archives for more info.

I would try two methods to increase the number of chins you can do.

  1. The ladder method, i learned about this from pavel tsaouline (sp?).
    Basically, you do 1 chin, rest how long it took you to do 1 chin, do 2 chins, rest how long 2 chins took, 3 chins, rest, 4 chins, rest, 5 chins, etc. Don’t go to failure, so if you could do 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and doing 7 chins would be really hard, stop at 6, and start the ladder over. So your workout might look like
    1,2,3,4,5,6,1,2,3,4,5,1,2,3,4 chins

  2. Modified german volume traning approach. You can do 8 pullups when you are fresh. So aim to do 10 sets of 4 pullups.

Thanks for all the advice guys (and gal!). I’m gonna do the pavel ladder approach for a few weeks and see where it gets me, and then try the weighted, low reps approach suggested by A Girl. I can just about straighten my left arm now (my right arm’s ok if I don’t touch it), so I’ll wait until Monday and then crack on with it. Thanks again everyone for the info. It’s so good to hear different people’s views on things. It just goes to show there are many ways of doing things and there’s rarely one right answer. Simon.