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Chin-Up and Push-Up Exercise Routines

author image Fiona Bayly
Based in New York City, Fiona Bayly writes about running with a focus on health, nutrition and training strategies for athletes from beginner to professional. She is an avid triathlete, former New England Scholastic Cross Country champion and current member of TeamUSA's age-group championship team in the sport of Aquathlon.
Chin-Up and Push-Up Exercise Routines
A man is doing pull ups. Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Chin-ups and push-ups are effective yet uncomplicated. Popular among old-school fitness specialists who combine age-old power moves with new-age training techniques, chin-ups and push-ups are easy to learn and highly adaptable and can be used in routines tailored to all levels of athlete, from beginner to recreational to professional.

Chin-Ups for Beginners: Developing Upper-Body Strength

Chin-ups are compound exercises; they work several shoulder and arm muscles simultaneously. If you are a beginner, wake up those muscles by stretching your arms above your head, grasping an imaginary bar and pulling downward to mimic the chin-up action. Do three sets of 20 to 30 pulls, playing with speed and turning your grip inward and outward. Next, stand beneath the chin-up bar and hang from your arms while supporting yourself with slightly bent legs. Use a step if necessary. Slowly pull yourself up and slowly let yourself down, allowing your legs to bear some weight so your arms are under complete control; this trains your upper body to learn the movement. Practice daily, doing three sets of 10 to 15 chin-ups and using your legs less until you no longer need their support.

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Advanced Chin-Ups: Incorporating Variation and Resistance

Recreational athletes can maintain basic fitness with chin-ups every three or four days. Do three sets, 10 to 15 chin-ups per set, with two minutes rest in between. Change from inward-grip chin-ups to outward-grip pull-ups to challenge different muscles. If you are a professional athlete seeking superior upper-body power, consider increasing both frequency and resistance. Performing chin-ups every day will improve muscle endurance. Wearing a weighted belt for resistance will quickly increase muscle output. In either case, keep to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions to prevent excessive fatigue and injury.

Push-Up Routine for Beginners

Start with your hands on the floor and your legs stretched out behind you. Raise your hips into alignment with your shoulders and hold this position. This plank position alone will strengthen shoulder and torso muscles required for full push-ups. If you are unable to hold the plank position, rest upon your knees. Slowly lower your chest until it almost touches the ground, keeping your abdominal and gluteal muscles contracted for balance and control. Press up slowly. When you have worked your way to two fully controlled push-ups, then, over a course of two to three weeks, build to a set of 10. Once you master three sets of 10 push-ups, you can again increase frequency and resistance.

Advanced Routines

Recreational athletes can build up to alternating chin-ups and push-ups by performing three sets of 10 to 15 push-ups on days immediately following chin-up days. Increase power by raising your feet on a step behind you and maintaining a flat back and aligned hips; this forces more weight onto your arms. Professional-level routines can include strapping a weight to your upper back for even faster gains in shoulder and triceps strength. Other variations include depth push-ups, performed from 4-inch blocks, and hand-clap push-ups, involving pushing off the floor into mid-air to clap your hands.

Maximize Your Ability, Minimize Self-Defeat

Gradual progression is mandatory for any athletic success, as Lisa Balbach emphasizes in her review of body building's different levels. Beginners' routines should build the basic patterns of effective training and recovery, with gradual increases in resistance only when the technique has been correctly learned. Recreational athletes' routines require increases in frequency for muscle endurance and in resistance for muscle strength. Professional athletes' routines must address work-loads that are specific to their sport and be performed with definite goals in strength building and injury prevention.

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