T Nation

First Unassisted Chin-Up Attempt


I am a female who is 5 foot 4 inches tall and 132 pounds. At the beginning of June, with the help of a personal trainer, I started seriously training. I spent a lot of the time working on correcting my form with low weights and am now focused on building strength and muscle. My commitment and enthusiasm grows with each training session.

I decided that it is time to start to set goals for myself and the first one is to attempt an unassisted chin up on Monday. I have been doing assisted chin ups on the graviton and have been decreasing the counterbalance by ten pounds per week for the last three weeks. This afternoon, I managed 3 sets of 8 reps at level 8, which I interpret to mean that the machine is lifting 80 pounds of my weight.

I'm a little nervous about it as I'm afraid that I may be unrealistic about this and worry that if it doesn't go well, it may deter me from setting firm future goals. I am hoping to hear how other people's first attempts at chin ups went, particularly women.



Good for you, first off. And even better for you for using the assisted chinup machine and not the lat pulldown, or at least, not JUST the lat pulldown.

That being said, if you are worried about it deterring you, I personally would NOT attempt this monday.

If you're using 80 lbs counterbalance, you have to imagine taking any exercxise and just piling an extra 80 lbs on and trying it. Generally, it's not going to work so well.

I'll tell you what I would do if I were you....Continue with the 8 rep sets trying to decrease weights for another 3 weeks.....after that, try 4-6 weeks of 5 sets of 5 reps......You will automatically have to lessen the counterbalance because of 3 less reps each set.

Plus you'll be stronger by then. Depending on how close you are to only using 10 lbs CB, you could even go to 8 sets of 3 for 4 to 6 weeks after that. Once you get to the 20 lbs CB or lower, go ahead and try your chinup.

When I couldnt do them I used the assisted machine in similar fashion to this, but even when I could do all 5 sets of 5 at only ten lbs cb,I think I could only do 2 or 3 regular pullups at first when I tried.

The reasoning is there are a LOT of extra stabilizer muscles that aren't worked as much on the assisted setup....Its still a fine way to get there, but unless your 3 sets of 8 at 80 lbs is SOOO easy that you could really be doing 3 sets of 8 at 30 or 40 lbs, then bodyweight is, in all likelyhood, going to be impossible right now.

But, if you're dropping ten lbs every week, thats ten lbs more of your own bodyweight you're pulling, and you will get there very soon, so DONT GIVE UP!


I believe that you need to change your attitude. To reach your goals, your going to have to fail on the way. Attempt it on monday and if, for some reason, you don't succeed, don't give up. You will have plenty of chances to redeem your self.

As for your training, when i was able to only do one or two pullups with bad form, i stopped doing them and started to do negatives. Jump up or use a stool/chair and do the eccentric part of the pullup as slowly as you can for around 3 sets of 3 or 4 after you do you assisted pullups.

By the looks of it, you'll probably be able to do your first pullup/chinup by the end of the month. Negatives are really helpful though.


A woman's experience:
I did assisted pullups, gradually decreasing the assistance, until i could do a real one. It took a couple months (maybe would have taken less time if I did pullups more frequently.)

I'm still working towards an unassisted chin; given the rate I'm progressing on the assisted machine, should be there in a month or so. I'd also recommend doing negatives: jump up to the top, lower yourself slowly. For some reason these help a lot -- don't just use the machine.


I never did assisted pull-ups or chin-ups (I'm not sure how that works--is it a machine?) but I just put a pull-up bar in a door frame at home and tried it. After a few tries I got a pull-up.

Just try it and don't worry so much about failing because it's part of it.


I have a client that started with me a few months ago and could do 1 unassisted chinup. She bought a doorway pullup bar and practices them several times daily without fail. She is now up to 7.


I'll second (or third...) the doorway pull-up bar. I've had one forever, and it's a great way to practice pull-ups, chins, negatives, etc., as often as you want. I like to make a game out of it, like I have to to n pull-ups every time I walk into the kitchen (where the bar is). Also, the only judgmental looks you get are from your cat.


You are right, I'll have a 'er at it on Monday. Hell, I don't succeed at most things I try for the first time so why should that stop me from trying this. (I think that I just want this so bad because it is just for me.)


Okay, I'll pick up a bar later today, so I can do them at home. Thanks for the tip.


Hmm, don't use the graviton at all, or just for the negatives? I have been doing negatives after I have finished my upper body workout, as slowly as possible, repeating until failure. Then I have increased the counterbalance and continued with more negatives.

I've noticed that it is generally my forearms and grip that are giving out. Perhaps doing them more frequently at home will help with this.


I had great success with band-assited and partner-assisted chins/pull-ups in addition to negatives. The bands provide the most assistance where you are the weakest which is at the bottom of the pull and the least amount of assistance at the very top where you are stronger.

if you have access to bans of varying resistance, you'll progress even faster. Same with partner-assisted pull-ups. If you have neither one, negatives are your best bet.
Persistence pays.

I didn't have much luck using the graviton.

Best of luck, Monday!

Let us know how it goes.


My girl did her first unassisted chinup today. I told her to train the movement at least 5 days a week, for 2-3 attempts per workout. In addition, I had her do sets of negatives, and supplemented it with heavy lat pulldowns.

It took her about 2 months to get sufficient strength to do 1.


I made my first attempt at an unassisted chinup today. As I knew, I came nowhere near succeeding. I did, however, learn the difference between working on the graviton and just using the bars. I moved on to partner assisted ones with more success. My poor trainer was no doubt lifting more of me than I was. There are a lot more muscles involved in doing it without the machine. I want to thank everybody who suggested getting doorway bars and to keep working at it. I picked them up on Saturday and will install them near the bathroom tomorrow so that I use them several times a day both assisted and negatives. I shall conquer this!


I did my first unassisted chin up this afternoon. I know that compared to some of the people here who seem to be able to bench Mac trucks, it is a small victory. To me, however, it feels like a major victory. Now, of course I need to be able to do two in a row....
Thanks everybody!


Dont give up! =D
I always used to avoid looking at the bar because I knew that I wasnt strong enough, but one day, at 5 am, I was the only person in the gym and I said: Oh what the hell, nobody is gonna see me failing...that day I did 5 chin ups on my own. Keep up the hard work!


good job and keep it up. Failure is part of the process but quiting is useless


I'd advise not to try pullups every day... But give 1-2 day rests each time. I can do several good form chinups or pullups at a time now. When I was trying to train daily, I only felt fatique and weakness in back muscles and hit a plateau.

Actually, a few of those people who can bench Mac trucks can't do a one single chin up... they're too heavy.