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Progressing Rack Chins to Normal Chins

Ive been doing 5 sets of 10 rack chins once a week on my latest programme (531 beefcake with a few (maybe a lot) of modifications).

I’ve always struggled with chins but have settled into 5 sets of 10 rack chins nicely. I feel it in my back a lot more and my form is top notch on 90% of my reps compared to proper chins where I seem to struggle to engage my back correctly and pull from the arms.

I’m guessing I wasn’t really strong enough in all the areas to get them done correctly.

Anyhow, now I want to progress somehow to eventually doing 5 sets of 10 real chins but just wondering about how to progress from 5 x 10 rack chins to 5 x 10 normal chins?

Was thinking of doing this:

Week 1, 1 rep real chin per set, 9 rack chins
Week 2, 2 real chins per set, 8 rack chins

And so on. Is this a dumb idea before I waste time trying this?


Maybe I’m picturing rack chins wrong, but how are you moving from one normal chin to a rack chin in the same set?

If I was in the same situation (and I kind of am), I would just use something frequency based like the Russian Fighter pull up program to get my pull up numbers up and leave the rack chins as they are.

Possibly not the answer you were looking for, but when I started doing chins, I took a page out of Lee Haney‘s book, and I would pick a number to do on that day, no matter how many sets it took. Eventually, the number of sets I was doing went down as I became stronger, as well as more proficient at the execution.



It’s not a dumb idea, but I’d say up your frequency. I’ve said this a lot of times around here - frequency is huge with chins, and not many things translate to them well. If you’re worried about using too much arms, focus on keeping the bar in front of you. But to do more chins, my favorite method for people who can’t do a lot is, separate to your lifting program, pick a number and do that every day. Start with 20. Don’t care if it’s 4 sets of 5 or 20 singles - just get them in. Your body has to adapt to the movement. Take a day as needed, switch grips regularly, once you can do 2x10 up it to 30. Lots of ways to progress.

Edit: Stu literally just wrote this out, ha.


Lol, this is ALWAYS what I tell people (and just wrote for the 10th time on here), but it was my drill instructor in the Marines who got it in my head. He started us on 60 a day. My skinny ass was unhappy for a while…

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I wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in the marines! Can’t do one??out!!!

That’s why I think the age limit is like 28, maybe 29 in the Marines, and the mid-20s guys had a tougher time than us 18 and 19-year olds! You’re a tough old bastard, you’d have done it. It’s either that or get yelled at and do pushups until you wonder if you’ll die, and if you truly give up you’ll sit with a med-sep group of sad looking people who wait for MONTHS as the military processes you out. Fastest way off Parris Island is to graduate.

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I had trouble doing high-rep chin-ups and pull-ups for a while, too. Here’s what helped me:

  • Learning to engage my lats more than my biceps. I did/do that by keeping my arms in front of my body, thinking of pulling through my pinkies, and flexing my lats all. the. time. until I established a solid mind-muscle connection.
  • As other have said, frequency. For me, three weekly pull-up sessions was sufficient.
  • Again, as others have said, volume was necessary. I started doing Arnold’s beginner bodybuilder program, which started with 50 pull-ups, done in whatever number of sets and reps were necessary. The goal was to progress to 5 x 10 strict bodyweight pull-ups.
  • Finally, I always did pull-ups as my first back exercise. It’s been noted we have more strength and energy in the first couple of lifts we do, and those lifts progress faster than the others. I applied that principle to my pull-ups, doing them before rows.