How To Learn And Clean Up Your Chin Up

Have you ever taken a critical look at how you are doing things?

Broken down every single exercise?

When you think about calisthenics, chin ups are usually one of the first exercises that come to mind.


Still, it’s not quite clear to a lot of people how to actually progress to their first chin up.

You might be one of those people.

And for the people who already have a chin up in their body weight workout backpack, they are usually missing some check points.

You might have skipped some steps to speed up the process.


Let me ask you this:

Do you know what a good chin up is?

You might think you already know.


What if I told you, chances are you don’t.

What if I told you that the chin ups you are doing right now will end up becoming weak spots down the road.

Want to know why?



5 Progressions To A Proper Chin Up


So you’ve been doing chin ups?

At least so you think.

When it comes to a chin up you need to keep a few things in mind.


Your shoulders have to be mobile enough.

Your grip has to be strong enough.

And you have to be able to activate different muscle groups. One after the other in the right sequence.


Done incorrectly and you will use momentum to lift yourself up.

Flare out your elbows which will cause tendonitis.

And you will never develop strength through the entire move.

Meaning you will have a big ‘reality check’ when you move on to muscle up exercises.


There are 5 progression which you can use to slowly build and to correct your current chin up.

Perfect each of those before you move on to the next.

No chin up will ever be the same again.

Ready to chin up?



The Passive Hang




Main goal: Developing basic shoulder strength and flexibility

Additional goal: Warming up for pulling exercises and providing decompression for the lower back


1) Start by grabbing the bar with an underhand grip at about shoulder width.

2) Allow yourself to hang completely relaxed.

3) The only thing working at this point are your lower arms and hands which you need to activate to keep hanging.

4) Hold this for time.


Mastery at 5×60 seconds


Note: While simply hanging from a bar probably isn’t the thing that makes you look cool. It’s the thing your shoulders need the most, especially if you want to prevent injuries or have a history of shoulder issues.



Active hang





Main goal: Increasing strength in the scapulae area/shoulders

Additional goal: Developing the skill to activate different parts of your shoulder, increasing the flow of blood and recovering from shoulder injuries


1) Start by grabbing the bar with an underhand grip at about shoulder width.

2) Allow yourself to hang completely relaxed.

3) From a fully relaxed position, both push your shoulders down and pull your shoulder blades together until they touch. These two things are called depression and retraction.

4) Hold this for 1-3 seconds and go back to your passive hang.

5) Repeat.


Mastery at 5×15 repetitions


Note: Most people have completely lost the ability to retract their shoulder blades, mostly because we sit behind desk and are front communicators so very little activity actually requires full retraction.

For a proper chin up this is essential however.

If you have lost this ability, I suggest you check out this video and work on your shoulder mobility first.



Chin Row






Main goal: Going through the entire chin up motion, understanding the movement and building strength for a full chin up


1) Find a lower chin up bar which allows you to place a part of your weight on the ground.

2) Start by grabbing the bar with an underhand grip at about shoulder width.

2) Allow yourself to hang completely relaxed.

3) From a fully relaxed position, both push your shoulders down and pull your shoulder blades together until they touch. These two things are called depression and retraction.

4) Activate your arms at this point and pull yourself to the bar until you chest touches the bar.

5) Hold it for 1-3 seconds and slowly lower yourself to the active hang and from the active hang go to the passive hang.

6) Repeat.


Mastery at 5×15 repetitions


Note: If you are unable to touch the bar with your chest, chances are that your retraction isn’t sufficient. I suggest you check out this video and work on your shoulder mobility first.



Chin Up Eccentric






Main goal: Conditioning the tissues in the lower arms and shoulders and building full chin up strength

Additional goal: If you are doing a full routine and are unable to do a full chin up, instead of completely stopping, transition to a chin up negative.


1) Find a bar which will allow you to jump into the highest position. Ideally a position where your chest touches the bar.

2) Start by grabbing the bar with an underhand grip at about shoulder width.

3) From full retraction and depression, slowly over a 6-10 second count lower yourself to an active hang.

4) Make sure you keep your elbows as close to your body as possible to prevent tendon issues.

5) Go from your active hang to a passive hang and fully relax.

6) Repeat by jumping into the chest to bar position again.


Mastery at 5x5x10 second repetitions


Note: Only transition to this exercise if you can complete the previous exercises with ease and have full retraction. The eccentric/negative chin up will place the biggest possible load on your body.

If you lack preparation and mobility in your shoulders you will run yourself into unnecessary injuries by compensating with your elbows. Patience is key.



Full Chin Up






Main goal: Going through the full chin up and building strength for more advanced moves

Additional goal: Feeling cool and victorious ๐Ÿ˜‰


1) Start by grabbing the bar with an underhand grip at about shoulder width.

2) Allow yourself to hang completely relaxed.

3) From a fully relaxed position, both push your shoulders down and pull your shoulder blades together until they touch. These two things are called depression and retraction.

4) From your active hang initiate your arm motion explosively, keep your elbows as close to your body as possible.

5) And touch the bar with your chest. No touch, no count.

6) Hold the tension at the top position for 1-3 seconds and slowly go down over a 3-4 second count.

7) Go back to your active hang and lower yourself into a passive hang by fully relaxing.

8) Repeat.


Mastery at 5×5 repetitions


Note: If executed correctly a simple chin up will become more effective and will allow you to develop muscles and strength at a much faster pace.ย  Over time you will automate the different steps.

If you break down a chin up it basically comes down to the following sequence: Passive hang -> active hang -> activate arms -> chest to bar -> active hang -> passive hang.

This sequence might mean you discover that instead of 10 bad form chin ups you can only do 3 good form chin ups, but please drop the ego. That’s a big part of becoming a master at something.



You Don’t Want To Go Back To The Basics


And it sucks. I know.

You’re probably like, “Rich really!$!@$%, do you mean I have to start all over again? You’ve got to be kidding me!”

The honest answer:

Yes and no.


Yes, when you embarked on your journey, you might have accidentally taken a step in the wrong direction.

Skipped a check point.

Completely missed the sign saying: ‘quicksand ahead’.


If you realize you have, this is the time to deal with it.

The good news is, there are also a lot of things you have learned down the road.

And you still carry those is your backpack of experience.


Just realize that ‘basic’ often isn’t as basic as it sounds.

And if you are facing or stuck in a ‘quicksand’ of injuries already.

Use this blog as a rope to climb out.


Beast mode ON!




51 thoughts on “How To Learn And Clean Up Your Chin Up

  1. Hi Rich,
    Yes, muscles are build on restdays and in bed. Will keep up this til the end of month 1. As I have to return to work on August 8th, the load will decrease automatically.

    For month2 I will only add leg wo’s. Thx for the advice and your great article about “Rest” . Appreciated Mate!

      1. Rich,

        I can passive hang 5*60 however it’s not easy i’ll be fatigued should I count it as mastery only if I can do 5*60 with ease? or is it fine to move on now?

  2. Hey Rich,
    Me thinking about adding the “back and biceps” wo as a negative Routine to my Plan. Will do this on the full body wo day. Do you think it works?


  3. Results of week 3:
    6% loss of bodyfat
    2,5kg decrease of total weight
    1st half legraise

    Have had 15 wo on 6 days, one restday. Have added the back and biceps wo as a negative to support my Progression of the pull exercises.
    And Tons of fun….

  4. hey i heard that calisthenics doesnt have enought exercises for leg muscle development is this true, i hope i’m wrong. So i just wanted to make sure

    1. Hey Op,

      It all depends on your goals, really. For some people sticking to ‘body weight’ is more than enough. For others who need more intensity adding some weight is definitely an option.

      This however should only be done if your technique and mobility is enough or you will head down the road of injuries pretty fast.

      So it’s not a black and white thing or a binary answer.

      Beast mode ON!

  5. Since I really have a Hard time finding a Spot with a PU bar in my area (no, not Even on a playground) I bought me some Rings and straps to further enjoy this addicting barbrother routines….. Hope this is ok?
    Otherwise you got to call me ‘Ringbrother’????

    1. Hey Marc,

      Great job!

      Rings definitely great to add an extra layer of difficulty to your training. The lack of stability might make achieving your first chin up on rings a bit more difficult however. So this is something to take into account.

      Beast mode ON!

      1. Hey Rich,
        Just figured it out…. Looked like a drunk Ape on hot coals. But that will pass by. Feeling like going back to Square one.It is demanding. But I could train everywhere. That was my top priority.

  6. Hi Rich,

    First of all, thank you so much for everything you do!
    The guides and the website, as well as the books and emails are a great help!
    I’m kind of stuck on the Chin Up Eccentric. I can do 5 repetitions, where each repetition takes 10-12 seconds, and they feel great.
    However, i can’t complete a single chin-up. I get “stuck” halfway in the middle, and can’t pull myself up the rest of they way.
    Any advice?

    Thanks !

    1. Hey Ron,

      You are more than welcome, I’m happy to read that it has been helping you.

      Awesome job on getting up to those 5 reps. If it hasn’t been working for you yet, we need to increase the volume. So instead of just 5x10sec reps now start working on 5x5x10 second reps. Make sure you maintain proper form and be aware of how your elbows respond, we want to prevent you from getting any type of tendonitis, because it will hinder your progress.

      In addition to that you can add some greasing the groove throughout the day:

      Do this for at least 4-6 weeks and re-evaluate your strength after that.

      By then you should be far stronger than you need to be for 1 full rep of a chin up.

      Keep me posted. Keep working and I’m sure you’ll get that first chin up before you know it. But most of all…patience.

      Beast mode ON!

      1. Hi,

        I did exactly as you said, and today I got my first full chin-up, going slowly and using the whole range of motion !
        I’ll keep at it until i can get more chin-ups, and than start working on pull-ups
        Thanks so much !!

  7. Hi, I am good on my chin ups but pull ups are a little harder. Do I use the same progression for pull ups as I did for chin ups? Thanks.

    1. Hey David,

      Great question.

      Yes, only change your grip and make sure your chin ups are initiated from a completely passive hang and end with a passive hang with your chest touching the bar in the middle. Without these 3 checkpoints no rep.


      Beast mode ON!

  8. PLEASE HELP!! Hi Rich its me again. In need help and advice because me convidence is dropping! My goal is too do 5 chin ups. Real bar brother chin ups with good form! So i can not do 2 chin ups i decided to follow your advice too go back too the basics and start all over again. With the 5 exercises. Si i begin with hanging. Like you expain i want too move on too the next exercise if i master the 1one. I began with 20 sec off hanging the first week. 5 times check. The second week 30sec 5 times check. Third week 40 sec 5 times check. And then the fourth week i can 3 times do 50 sec. The fourth and fifth time i can not hang too the and. But now i am 4 or 5 weeks further i still i didnt improve. The fourth and fifth time ican not hang on. My hands are not strong enough and slips away. And my owls on my hand still give my a lot off pain. I just want toi do 5 chinups. But the way this is going i am never getting there. How can i start with the 6 months training if i cannot do 5 chin ups. So my question is… is it normal that i am not impriving for so long now. 5 weeks without improving. A little bit off info: i am 180cm and 99 kilogram. I dont have problems with other exercises. Please help anyone with similair experience. Greeting Lowie

    1. Hey Lowie,

      Great question!

      Great job on working on those basics first. Is it grip or is it, because you are sliding down the bar. I suggest you get some good quality chalk to put on your hands, it increases your grip when they are sweaty.

      Keep working on those calluses ;), there isn’t an easy way out. Honestly the amount of times I’ve ripped my hands…

      What you can do is start introducing the next progression. The active hang. This way you start building on the next progression, while still working on the hanging, because it’s part of the exercise ;).

      5 weeks without improvement is not ‘common’. Once again:

      1) get some good chalk
      2) work on the next progression
      3) be patient
      4) keep in mind that your weight makes things more difficult, so you’ll generally need more time to master certain skills than someone who is just 50kg, but it makes the challenge more fun!

      Keep up the good work my friend!

      Beast mode ON!

  9. Thnx Rich for your response and explaination! I think my weight is defenitily a factor here with hanging :). I am not used to be so heavy. But iam not fat . Yess i have too much fat but that i ve to burn that later with cardio exercises. I really think about what you expain too my and i think my hand power and underarms are lacking behind with strenght and its exposing now with this exercises. But i have some good news. After i wrote my last post. I trained 3 times and the last time on friday. I Did 5 times 50 sec off hanging ๐Ÿ™‚ . So i can do it. I am not expecting that i can do it now all the time but i improved after 5 weeks. I want to do 3 times 50 sec then i go to the 60 sec. My problem is i am a perfectionist. Iff i still have trouble with this after 2 weeks i do like you said and progress to the active hanging. 1 thing you defenitily right about is i ve too be patience very very patience ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks Rich you are a good trainer! Ill keep you updated about my journey. Greetings your friend Lowie

    1. Hey Lowie,

      Great job! Just keep in mind that cardio, is NOT effective for burning fat. In reality the opposite can even be true. Don’t be misguided by the sexy videos you see, it’s really BULLSHIT ;).

      Losing fat is all about nutrition. Of course training plays a role, but strength training is more effective than cardio.

      Haha, being a perfectionist is a good thing, just don’t allow it to prevent you from making consistent progress.

      Keep up the good work my friend!

      Beast mode ON!

  10. Hey Rich,

    Super impressed with your site and information in general. Completely changed my diet and nutrition a few months back and have a friend in the callisthenics world who pointed me this way.

    Seen some epic things here and wanted to give my gratitude for the info and time you’ve given! I pulled 2 vertebrae out of alignment last week in an accident (non work out related) but as soon as I’m healed…

    BEAST MODE ON ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿป

    1. Hey Chris,

      It’s a huge honour to receive such a wonderful message. I’m happy I could be of assistance in your journey to good health.

      Wish you a good and quick recovery. Perhaps this exercises can speed up the process.

      It’s a very basic drill that allows you to segment the spine, clicking the vertebrae back in to place, increases the lubrication and and restores a healthy movement capability. This waving pattern is where the spine originates from.

      Keep up the good work and all the best!

      Beast mode ON!

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