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If you've ever watched men's gymnastics during the Olympics, you were probably impressed at the upper-back development of the gymnasts who competed in the still rings. In these athletes' training, chinups are essential. This one simple exercise actually does a lot of body sculpting, including working the latissimus dorsi, teres major, posterior deltoid, rhomboids, the sternal portion of the pectoralis major, the lower portions of the trapezius, and the elbow flexors. They also stimulate growth in the biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis, and pronator teres.
Chinups have lost favor with many bodybuilders in recent years, but it's easy to get hooked on them when you see the tremendous gains you'll make in upper-body strength and size by performing them on a regular basis. The best type of chinup is always the one you're not doing. You can't optimally work a muscle's entire strength curve with just one exercise, so it's important to keep things fresh and try new techniques. Lats are big and powerful, and as such, you need to train them from a variety of different angles to stimulate all the motor unit pools of this muscle group.
Just to be clear, chinups are performed with either a semi-supinated grip (palms facing each other) or a supinated grip (palms facing your body). Pullups are a variation of chinups and are performed with a pronated grip (palms facing away from you). Add one of these expert-approved chinups in your next workout and move through the variations every other week. Master them all and your upper back will never look better.
1. Narrow Parallel-Grip Chinup
A narrow, parallel grip provides greater overload for your shoulder extensors. Use V-handles, so your hands are about six to eight inches apart. Focus on bringing your lower chest to the handles as you pull yourself up.
2. Narrow Supinated-grip Chinup
This variation increases the overload on your elbow flexors. Your grip is supinated, and you leave only four to six inches between your little fingers.
3. Medium Parallel-grip Chinup
In this variation your hands are semi-supinated (palms facing each other), about 22 to 24 inches apart. This position places your elbow flexors in their most effective line of pull, and very likely you'll use this type of chinup when you start using additional resistance. This grip also places the least amount of stress on the wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
4. Sternum Chinup
This is the king of compound exercises for the upper back because it places great stress on the scapulae retractors and lats. This chinup, popularized by Vince Gironda, requires you to hold your torso in a layback posture. The beginning of the movement is more like a classical chin, the midrange resembles the effect of the pullover -motion, and the end position duplicates the finishing motion of a rowing movement.
As you pull yourself to the bar, extend your head back as far from the bar as possible and arch your spine. Toward the end point of the movement your hips and legs will be at about a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keep pulling until your collarbone passes the bar, your lower sternum makes contact with the bar, and your head is parallel to the floor. You can use either a supinated or a pronated grip, and vary it from narrow to shoulder width (the latter requiring more strength).
5. Narrow Pronated Pullup
This grip increases the overload on your brachialis and brachioradialis muscles and is easier on your wrists than the supinated grip. Use a grip in which your hands are spaced four to six inches apart.
6. Mixed-grip Chinup
This variation alternates the most stress between your right and left sides. In this variation you use a mixed grip. One hand is pronated, one hand is supinated and you alternate your hand position between sets. Stronger trainees should use a wider grip.
7. Mixed-grip Chinup II
This variation places even more work on one arm. It is performed by placing your support hand on the wrist of your working arm. The stronger you are, the lower your support hand will be on your working arm.
8. Subscapularis Pullup
This method will shock your subscapularis muscles. You assume the starting position of the wide-grip pullup and pull yourself to the bar until your upper pecs make contact with the chinup bar. At the top of the movement you push yourself away from the bar, lowering under control. – FLEX