The Chin up & Pull up are arguably among the best ‘bang for buck’ exercises for athletic development and body composition improvement. To be clear on definitions here, I am referring to the variation with your knuckles facing you (pronated grip) as the “Pull up”, and variations with your palms facing each other (neutral grip) and your palms facing you (supinated grip) as “Chin up” variations.
This particular exercise and its variations create a vast divide in the abilities of the training population. While a large percentage of the female general population aspire to achieve just one full body weight rep, it is not uncommon for male athletes to complete 10 sets of 10 reps (total 100 reps) of weighted Chin ups in the torso workout of a German Volume training phase.
Specifically for fight athletes, the Chin up and it's variations bring a massive amount of value and benefits when programmed and performed effectively. I consider this exercise one of the foundational major compound movements in all of my relative strength & functional hypertrophy periodisation, with the ultimate goal being to achieve certain strength standards with additional weight hanging from a weight belt around the athlete's waist.
For grapplers, upper body pulling movements are vital for the development of grip strength and endurance, and there is almost no better translation of upper body strength to grappling performance than the Chin up and it's variations. If you get stronger and build better strength endurance in the Chin up and it's variations, you will be a stronger grappler. Period.
For strikers, the Chin up and it's variations provide the perfect antagonist movement pattern for all the upper body pressing you will inevitably be doing. This will be vital for maintaining structural balance, also for well rounded strength and force development through the upper body.
The Chin up and it's variations can be performed year round, and applied to all different kinds of training goals, but must be performed in all of it's variations to get the best results. For example, it is not desirable to be extraordinarily strong in the Neutral grip chin up, but abnormally weak in the wide grip pull up. There are different prime movers and force distribution between the different variations of this exercise, and ALL of them must be trained year round.
To be clear, the main differences between the variations of this exercise are as follows:
* The neutral grip chin up - palms facing each other. This is the easiest of them for most trainees because the force production and muscle recruitment is spread over the most amount of muscle fibres. Specifically, the force is produced most equally by both the Latissimus Dorsi and the Biceps. This would be the first in my progression for beginners.
* The supinated grip chin up - palms facing you. This is slightly harder than the neutral grip because there is slightly less recruitment of Latissimus Dorsi, and slightly more recruitment of the biceps. I would put this second in the progression for beginners.
* The wide (pronated) grip pull up - knuckles facing you. In my opinion this is the most difficult of the variations because there is the least amount of involvement of the biceps, and almost total recruitment of the Latissimus Dorsi fibres. I would put this third in the progression for beginners.
Be sure to cycle through all three variations of this excellent exercise as you periodise for relative strength, functional hypertrophy and athletic performance.
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