If you asked me for a list of my favourite exercises, they would 100% be upper body, bodyweight exercises.
Let’s be honest, chin-ups, push-ups, and dips are super badass. Getting your first one of any of these exercises is an incredibly empowering goal to achieve (at the end of this I’ll give you some exercises to make sure you get there!). But first, let’s talk about how it can be quite overwhelming to set this type of goal. Especially if you find it difficult hanging from a bar or dread those days you have push-ups on your program.
Like with all other big goals, fitness or otherwise, you would go about achieving it by breaking it down into smaller parts. So, here I am, a bodyweight exercise lover telling you to break down your compound, bodyweight exercise into smaller, isolated, weighted exercises. In other words, time to do some bodybuilding!
Let's use the infamous chin-up as an example.
I have seen A LOT of "beginner chin-up tutorials" which usually tell you to start with banded or eccentric chin-ups.
Banded chin-ups require you to use a resistance band to assist you in pulling yourself up and eccentric chin-ups are when you jump up to the bar and perform the lowering phase of the movement.
And I'm not just saying this to go against the crowd...
Banded chin-ups are a great way to practice the skill of doing a chin-up. Unlike an eccentric chin up, they allow you to do both the upward and downward phase of the movement smoothly. You will be able to gain an understanding of what it feels like to do the exercise.
The downside of using bands is that they give you assistance at the hardest part of the chin up. If you’re continually getting assistance at the hardest part, your body won’t find the need to adapt and strengthen the area that you most likely need to work on the most.
Eccentric chin-ups are great to build strength IF you already have the strength required to do it. People often underestimate the strength it takes to perform a simple movement with the control and tension it needs. The result is people jump up, try to slowly lower but then end up "bouncing" out of it (if you need a visual see my Instagram post.) This could lead to some pretty serious injuries to your rotator cuffs which you 100% need if you want to do any upper body exercise.
The solution is simple, build your strength elsewhere.
Let’s break down the movement. A chin-up requires grip, bicep, core, and back strength as well as scapular control. Yes, it’s a lot which is why that feeling you'll have when you do your first chin-up will stay with you forever!
If you're not sure where to start your bodybuilding journey for your chin-ups, this will get you going.
If you're not sure how many reps you should be doing or how many days you should be training, I've created a $10 pull up guide which gives you a specific beginner and intermediate program. Oh and one last thing, enjoy your journey to becoming a badass!
Dani is passionate about skills-based training, plyometrics, bodyweight & strength training. Her goal is to use fitness to make people more confident as it did to her "I felt badass walking into a room knowing I could rep out pull-ups, deadlift 100+ kilos and hold a handstand". Click here to connect with her.