I like them. I'm not voting for them in the next "Five Awesome Exercises" election but they certainly have their place. I've championed chin-ups for years, mostly because they're great for the upper back, lats, and arms. And because you can do them anywhere – chin-up bar, top of the Smith machine, scaffolding, top of the monolift, playground equipment, etc. Weighted chins are a good idea IF you can do them, and even then you still need to keep bodyweight chins as part of your training (unless you can bang out multiple sets of 20 with good form). And if that's the case, gain some weight!
Now of course there are people, usually some sort of Lifting Forum Queen, that would like to point to the VERY strong Konstantin Konstantinovs and tell me how wrong the prior statement is. But you can't use the exception to prove the rule. And you just proved yourself to be unreliable and weak.
If you want to add some weighted chins as part of your training repertoire, start light and see how you do. Make sure you use something that doesn't allow the weight or dumbbell to swing too much when you do them. I recommend a good chin/dip belt or simply get a piece of chain and hang it from your lifting belt. One day I'd do bodyweight chins for 50 or more total reps. The next chin-up day I'd do a couple sets of weighted chins, either multiple sets at a given weight (for example 5 sets of 6 reps with 45 lbs.) or work up to an all-out set with the heaviest weight I can handle. Another great way to program chins is as follows:
Day One - Weighted Chins
- Warm-up and perform 5 sets of 3-5 reps. All the work sets are done with weight. It can be the same weight or different weight.
Day Two - Volume
- On this day, you do multiple sets of low reps (for example, 20 sets of 5 reps). Just do them between your sets.
Day Three - 20%
- On this day, do 3 sets of chins. The first set is done for max reps. Rest 5 minutes. The second set is done for 20% less than the first set (that is your goal, so don't freak out if you don't get it. It doesn't mean you have AIDS or have some mythical "weak point". Now rest again for 5 minutes. Your third and final set will be done with a goal of doing 20% less than the second set.
However you do them, just remember to do the correct number of total reps for each 5/3/1 program. Programming your assistance work for 5/3/1 is very easy provided you follow the guidelines.
Below is four easy ways to load a chin-up. Remember to use whatever you have.
Chains draped across your shoulders can also be done.
As much as I love doing chins, they're still not squats, presses, cleans, and pulls. They're great to do, but I'm not going to lose sleep if my strength on the big barbell lifts increases and my chinning strength remain stagnant. You can't sleep with all the women in the sorority, so just be happy you got some trim.
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