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30-Day Pull-Up Challenge: Getting Results With Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups

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I motivate myself to exercise almost every day by doing 30-day challenges. Now it is easy to stay motivated.

Pull-up and chin-up.

Pull-up and chin-up.

Pull-Ups vs Chin-Ups

Pull-ups are done at a wide grip with your palms facing away from you. Chin-ups are done with your palms facing you and with your hands closer together. Both exercises work your back and biceps. Using a wide grip is better for strengthening your back. For a better bicep workout, do narrow grip chin-ups. One is not better than the other; you should be doing both. Do a set of pull-ups, then do a set of chin-ups.

Both exercises work the arms, back, and shoulders. I feel that chin-ups are easier to do. I could feel and see that it was a better exercise for working out my biceps. You can also do neutral grip pull-ups. These are performed with the palms facing each other. Neutral grip pull-ups are easier on your shoulders and wrists.

If you ever get confused, remember that palms face away for pull-ups and face towards you for chin-ups.

Progression

Pull-ups are one of the most difficult bodyweight exercises. You are lifting your entire body weight, and your back muscles are doing most of the work. Chin-ups are easier because you get more help from your biceps. Before you try pulling up your body, I recommend doing some dumbbell rows and bicep curls. Strengthen your biceps, shoulders, and back first.

If you still can't do them, try doing some negative reps. Skip the part where you pull yourself up and focus on slowly lowering yourself down. Doing negative reps can be a good way to increase your strength. Instead of pulling yourself, up stand on something like a chair. Get in the raised position, then bend your knees so your feet are in the air. Do negative reps until you can pull yourself up.

Chin-ups are easier to do, so try that workout first. Wide grip pull-ups are harder to do. You should try that workout after you can do shoulder width pull-ups. Maintain a slow, steady pace, and try not to swing your legs. Stop or switch to an easier variation when you can no longer maintain good form. Cheating will not help you build muscle.

Pull-Up Bars

Like weights, a pull-up bar costs money. It also takes up space. However, the bars are fairly small and light. They are easy to move, and you could probably keep them under your bed. Their cost is relatively low since your body provides the weight. You could get a good bar for around $30 that can handle over 200 pounds of weight. Most door frames can handle 300 pounds.

You may be worried about breaking your door frame. My walls and door frame look the same as they did before I started using the bar. To be safe, and for a better workout, I recommend using your bar where you won't mind some small damage. If you are really worried about causing some damage, you should place a towel between the frame and the bar. Be sure to follow all setup instructions, and make sure the bar fits in the frame.

As a more expensive alternative, you could get a pull-up tower. Another alternative would be to look for something you could use for free. If your bar has handles that extend towards, you then you could do neutral grip pull-ups. These are good for working out your back, biceps, and elbow muscles.

Pull-Up Exercises Without a Bar

If you are unable to get a bar or can't safely set one up, here are some alternative workouts you can do.

  • Doorway row: Stand in front of an open doorway while grabbing both sides. Place your feet closer to the doorway and lean back. Use your arms to pull yourself forward.
  • Towel doorway row: This is similar to the workout above. Take a long, folded towel and wrap it around the door handle on the opposite side from you. Make sure the door closes towards you; you don't want to have an accidental tumble. With the door and towel secure, you can grab the towel, lean back, and pull yourself toward the door.
  • Inverted rows using chairs: Grab two chairs and set a pole or broomstick to lay across them. Lay on the ground between the chairs, grab the stick, and pull yourself up.
  • Pull-ups with towels: Take two sturdy towels and tie knots at their ends. Place the towels at the top of a door and close it. Make sure the door closes towards you. Grab the knots and start doing pull-ups.
Pull-up bar with protruding handles for neutral grip pull-ups.

Pull-up bar with protruding handles for neutral grip pull-ups.

Pick a Grip

For most of the challenge, I gripped between the protruding pull-up bar handles.

PalmsHands

facing away

wide grip

facing you

shoulder width

facing each other

narrow grip

30-Day Challenge

For this challenge, do 10 pull-ups and 10 chin-ups a day in sets of 5 for 30 days. You might want to include 10 neutral grip pull-ups. The main goal of this challenge is to get better at doing the exercises and to see the results. I wanted to know if it would be enough to change my appearance. Like most 30-day workout challenges, you should take 1 or 2 days off each week to recover.

If you have trouble with the exercises, then start with easier variations like negative pull-ups. You can increase the difficulty by doing two or more sets together. If you are building muscle, you will be adding more weight. This is a nice way of increasing the difficulty of the challenge. Modify the workouts so that they are difficult but possible. Pull-ups are hard to do because you are lifting your body weight. A small number of reps should be enough to build muscle for most people. Try to work up to doing sets of 10.

After doing this challenge for 30 days, you can increase the difficulty and start again.

Pull-Up Tips

  • Always maintain tension in your back: You want to constantly maintain tension in the muscles around your shoulder blades and collarbone. You should fully straighten your arms, but don't just hang on the bar. Letting your shoulders shrug up to your ears will put stress on your rotator cuffs and biceps.
  • Focus on your shoulder blades: You shouldn't just use your arms for pull-ups. You want your shoulder blades to move down and back as your elbows move towards your ribs. This is the key to building back muscles.
  • Try a static hold: If you are just starting out and struggle with the workout, you can try this exercise. Place a box beneath the bar and jump to the top of a pull-up position. Hold this position as long as you can; you eventually want to be able to hold this position for 20 seconds. This will help build strength.
  • Consider losing some weight: The more you weigh, the more challenging pull-ups will be. If you are on the heavier side and don't have much in strength or muscles, consider trying to lose some weight. By dropping some pounds and building some strength, you can make pull-ups much more manageable.

Pull-Up Challenge Results

When I started the challenge, I struggled to do five partial pull-ups in a row. They were partial reps because I could not get my chin above the bar. As I became stronger, I was able to improve my form and get my chin above the bar. Doing chin-ups was difficult, but they were easier than pull-ups.

During the first week, I gave myself lots of time to recover between sets. During the second week, I started doing pull-ups and chin-ups together. I did 2 sets of 5 twice a day. In the third week, I started doing it as one workout. I did 10 pull-ups in a row followed by two sets of 5 chin-ups. After 27 days, I was doing 2 sets of 10.

One of the things I liked about this challenge was that doing chin-ups felt good. It made me feel strong and powerful. Doing difficult things can hurt and feel good at the same time. A shirt was ripped during this challenge. You might want to wear an old shirt or go shirtless. I started taking my shirt off before doing these exercises.

30 days later, I felt lighter when pulling myself up. The first few reps were easy, but doing 10 in a row was still difficult. When doing two sets of 10 in a row together, I needed to rest for a minute between sets. So I added 50 calf raises to the workout. My back muscles became bigger and more noticeable. The workouts also increased the size of my biceps a little.

Based on my results, I recommend doing this challenge more than once. I increased my strength and changed my appearance, but 30 days was not enough time to get the results I wanted. After a few days off, I started doing this challenge again.

Before, after 30 days, and after 60 days of pull-ups.

Before, after 30 days, and after 60 days of pull-ups.

Bigger biceps from doing chin ups.

Bigger biceps from doing chin ups.

Other Challenges

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Michael H

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