T Nation

Magic One Arm Chins


I was feeling good in the gym this afternoon and at the end of my workout I was fooling around trying to do a one-arm chinup. (I deadlifted 110kg which is my new PB!)

I could hang for a while but couldnt move more than an inch (and it was just my shoulder shrugging up a bit).

But then a fellow lifter said when he is rock climbing and he needs to pull himself up wih just one arm he holds his working arm wrist with his free hand.

Magic! I shot up like a rocket. 3x3x3 no rest, alternating each arm - very exciting.

So what's the deal? I could definately feel one arm working harder than the other but directly afterwards my pecs were very sore. I was some how using my pecs for a chin? Confusing.

Does anyone know the science behind this superman strength?

And who here can/is trying to perform one arm chins/pullups? What is/was your training plan like?

One arm chins would just be a kick arse party piece!


Well, you didn't do a one-arm. There's no mystery, you used both arms to pull yourself up.


In reality, the weight you pull with your free arm is a lot more than you think. What you did isn't a one-arm chin, but a one-HAND chin. A real one-arm chin would require you pulling with only one arm with no assistance from the other.

BTW, the pectoralis minor is a synergist when doing pullups (if you pull with your arms in front of you), which is why your chest hurt.


Yes, what they said, it's not a one arm chin.

Here's some info/tutorials on getting a real one arm chin: www.beastskills.com/OneArmPull.htm


There is good stuff on this in the archives.

I trained towards the chin for a while using lockoffs (one-arm holds at the top for time) and one-arm negs. One-hand chins did not seem to help; I worked up from about 3 to about 7 per arm, if I recall correctly, and didn't see any improvement in my one-arm strength. But YMMV.

Here is a comprehensive tutorial:



I can do 1 arm chins. I got there by doing tons of heavy 2 arm chins. And yes, sometimes i feel like i ripped a pec off by doing them.


Sweet. Thanks for the info. I'm still gonna impress n00bs with the one hand chin when I get a chance (until I get the one arm chin down pat).



There was a guy who used to work out at the gym where I work who was a professional rock climber and could do real 1 arm chins while holding a 45 lb plate in his free hand. He could also rifle off sets of 1 arms with either hand at the drop of a hat. Best chinner I've ever seen in person.

Anyway, he actually showed me a progression from the one handed chin that you are describing to a real one arm chin.

Basically the progression goes like this:

1) start with free hand on wrist (like you mentioned),

2) as strength increases move free hand further down forearm until eventually you can do chins with the free hand on your working arm's bicep.

3) once that's mastered move on to keeping your free hand on the working arm's shoulder.

Once you've got that mastered, you should have the ability to do a real one arm chin.

Hope this helps.



Does that mean impressing yourself? I'm sure all people who train including "n00bs" could do a pull-up like that if they can do a regular one.

..if you were just being sarcastic, I apologize.


Yeah, Sentoguy, that sounds like it'll work quite well.


gotta admit, any time i hear of the fabled (legitament) 1 arm chinup, all i can think of is asking for a pic of his wheels...i think it should speak for itself why


This is the main difference between 1-handed chins and 1-armed chins.

I think 1-handed chins are still a great exercise. Everyone likes a strong grip after all.

Even if doing 1-armed is harder, you could always do both. 1-handed seems to let people pull more weight, so even if you're doing 1-arms, you could always do 1-handeds with more weighted added.


I weigh 195 and can DL 635. My legs arnt that tiny. Im no bodybuilder but im not a rail either.


12.5 inch biceps let me do two-handed chins with 20kg plate around my waist.

12.75 inches when I flex really hard!

5'6" tall guys are never gonna have 20 inch arms.

I've got my money on being able to 1arm chin sometime soon and I very much doubt I'll have biceps larger than 13 inches.


I am very easily impressed. :slight_smile:

I don't hide the fact that I am a newbie. I am proud of it.

Let me have my fun you big meanie.


coffee, first of all, thats really impressive, well done (on both accounts)

second of all, i'm sorry if it looked like a cheap shot, i was skeptical of you, but no more than of everyone who claims it, just a blanket skepticism...but you put me in my place, well done again


BTW, I didn't mention that doing one-arm chins is harder than doing normal chins with someone your bodyweight hanging on your back. You have less stability and you tend to turn if you use only one hand.


Brian, Its cool. I saw a guy on Crossfit crank out 8 1arm chins and he was very little. I dont think I could get there without losing a lot of bw.

Where in Ontario do you live?


ah, its those stereotypes getting to me again

i'm in Brantford, its about 30 min west of Hamilton roughly

ps, if your in the area and you have kind words for a local gym i'd appreciate a couple ideas, i'm currently working at a soccermom gym until i get an apprentiship, and they're cool with me working out how i want for the most part, but i'd really appreciate some bumper plates once i can start lifting "properly" again
(also, basically when i leave, i'll have to start paying for a membership so i'd rather pay somewhere where i want to train if possible)
-i've heard of places (where they're into oly stuff, pl, and/or strongman stuff) in hamilton, burlington, and waterloo so far that i plan on checking out

how long have you been training for, competing at all?


I live in Toronto but I grew up in Caledonia. You probably know the town.

I know of nowhere good in your area but there is a small Powerlifting gym outside Caledonia towards brantford way. I could point you in the direction if thats your interest.

Ive been Training about 9 years. Competed in BJJ and now trying to compete in raw powerlifting.