For years I have dreamed of being able to do weighted chin-ups. Despite trying to improve, I stayed the same over years without being able to get past 1 solid chin-up…until now!
No one seemed to have an answer for how to improve, other than “Just keep at it, brother!”
I started to doubt whether I could ever achieve my goal of doing weighted chin-ups.
Then my friend passed on this article about super-athlete Hershel Walker.
I learned that he was in the habit of doing thousands of reps of bodyweight exercises each day.
Playing football in college, Walker had broken the bench press record at 375lbs despite not having lifted weights.
Walker played professional football in the NFL for 13 seasons and competed in professional mixed martial arts in his 50s.
He also reached elite levels in shot-put, sprinting, Tae Kwan Do, and relay racing.
He was onto something and my brain whirled with excitement
While reading about Mr. Walker, I recalled being beat in a push-up competition by my grandpa when he was 82 years old and I was 22.
Grampsy-boy (now 95 years old) recently told me that after every birthday, he would ‘up’ his daily consecutive push-up count to match his years on the planet.
At 82 years old, Grampsy stopped at 82 consecutive push-ups after his doctor told him he might get another aneurism.
Later that week, I was listening to the Art of Resilience. Ross Edgely explained that when you hit a plateau with strength training, the trick is to increase your ability to do more work.
How do you do that?
By doing more work.
Edgely mentioned the workout methods of Canadian strongman, Doug Hepburn.
As explained by Muscleandstrength.com, Doug Hepburn’s method consisted of completing 8 sets of 2 reps beginning at 80% of your one-rep max.
By the next workout, you are to add an additional rep on your eighth set and continue adding an additional rep to the latter sets.
The Hepburn Method of workouts might look something like:
Reps in Workout 1: 2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2
Reps in Workout 2: 2,2,2,2,2,2,2,3
Reps in Workout 3: 2,2,2,2,2,2,3,3
Reps in Workout 4: 2,2,2,2,2,3,3,3
Thinking about these unconventional workout methods, it dawned on me.
As a kid, I prided myself in being able to do up to 50 consecutive push-ups. Despite significantly upping my bench press, my push-up count had whittled down to about 20 consecutive push-ups
I realized that muscle strength does not equal muscle endurance.
However, Herschel Walker’s story told me that epic muscle endurance (as demonstrated in doing thousands of push-ups) leads to epic muscle strength (where Walker benched 375lbs).
By mixing all of the above workout styles together, I came up with a plan!
Finally – A way to multiply your chin-up count by 800% in 4 weeks!
I decided to commit to doing 8 sets of 1 chin-up every day. Yep – that’s right. Just one chin-up at a time.
To make this easy, I hung a doorway chin-bar bar at home, and at work.
After three days, I started mixing in a couple sets of 2 chin-ups.
My plan was not rigid. I simply would do at least 8 sets randomly through out my day.
I usually lost count of my sets,
This was the pattern I followed for the next few weeks. I would mix in sets of 1 more chin-up until all 8 of my daily sets had increased by one rep.
By day 8 of my new habit, I was able to do 8 sets of 2 chin-ups every day for my second week.
In my 3rd week of the habit, I was doing 8-10 sets of 3 consecutive chin-ups everyday.
By the end of my 4th week, I was crushing out sets of 5 chin-ups.
Every Saturday morning I tested myself to see how many chin-ups I could confidently finish.
On March 20th, 2021 I completed 8 consecutive chin-ups while still weighing in at 216lbs.
Now I added 25 lbs of weight by wearing a backpack with four, 2-litre soda bottles in it (plus a few other trinkets).
This week, I started at 8 sets of 2 reps and will work my way up before adding more weight (another 10% or 25 pounds)
What if I can’t do 1 chin-up…yet?
If you can’t yet do 1 chin-up, get a stool or chair to stand on and focus on simply lowering yourself from the bar in a controlled fashion. Do this many times a day.
From the National Academy of Sports Medicine:
Evidence suggests that an emphasis on the eccentric (lowering or decelerating) phase of an exercise in which a weight is slowly returned back to the starting position will increase local IGF secretion of the muscles being overloaded
(Heinemeier et al., 2007; Kraemer & Castracane, 2015; Philippou et al., 2007; Velloso, 2008; as sited in NASM Essentials for Personal Fitness Training; 7th Edition)
Are you up for the daily chin-up challenge?!
Let me know in the comments below after you have completed your first set today!