Chinup Variations

An anatomical drawing highlighting the muscles worked when performing chinups.

Other than rope climbing, chinups (palms facing you) and pullups (palms facing away) are by far the best vertical upper body pulling exercise you can do as a wrestler.

However, they do require some upper body and relative (bodyweight) strength to properly perform them. So, before I get into the variations, I’d first like to go over some quick ways to provide assistance during the chinup.

Means of Assistance

The most common way I’ve seen, especially in wrestling rooms, is holding the person’s feet.

Chinup Assistance with partner Holding Two Feet

However, this can be extremely dangerous. What happens if the person performing the chinup suddenly loses their grip? Without feet underneath them, serious injury can result.

So, if you are going to provide assistance using this method, hold one foot instead of two.

Chinup Assistance with partner Holding One Foot

My preferred way to build chinup strength is with bands.

Why?

Because you can more easily measure progress. You know you’re getting stronger as you use smaller/thinner bands.

Below is a video of me demonstrating a band assisted chinup.

Once you can perform bodyweight chinups comfortably, here are a variety of options for you to try.

Variations/Grip Chinups

If you have a Jiu-Jitsu Gi available (if not I highly suggest you get one), you can perform Gi Chinups.  This is one variation I will sometimes refer to as a “Grip Chinup” in a program.

Very similar to the Gi Chinup is a Rope Chinup.  This is the other most common type of “Grip Chinup” I would suggest.

If you have gymnastics rings available, you can perform Ring Chinups.

You can perform Neutral Grip Chinups on a specialized chinup attachment.

Or, if your gym doesn’t have such an attachment, you can make your own with chain and PVC pipe.

Adding Weight

With consistent training, you will eventually be able to crank out reps of the chinup variations above.

So what now?

Add weight!

Here are my two preferred ways to add weight to a chinup.

First, you can hold a dumbbell between your feet.

This is a great way to add weight if you notice you kick a lot to complete reps (see exaggerated video below). Holding a dumbbell between your feet instantly fixes this.

You can also add weight via a weight belt. Here’s an old video of NCAA Champion J.P. O’Connor performing one of the most impressive feats of pulling strength I have ever seen.

A picture of Kyle Dake and Dickie White.
Hi, I’m Dickie (the author of this blog). Here I am with my good buddy, Kyle Dake. While he doesn't have a nice coat like me, he is pretty good at wrestling. Here's what he said about my training system:

Before I began lifting using Dickie's system my wrestling skills were getting slightly better. I've now been lifting under his guidance for more than 5 months and I have begun to dominating ALL of my competition. At first I had little faith in Dickie and his program, but now I would run into a wall if he told me I would get stronger! I know it sounds insane, but I would. The bottom line is Dickie is an expert and knows what he is talking about. If you want to defeat those kids whom you've always lost to and reach a level you never thought possible, I suggest you start lifting using Dickie's system immediately.

-Kyle Dake, 4X NCAA Division 1 National Champion
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Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi Dickie, I was wondering what you thought of replacing the “Gi pullups” with pullups done with a fat grip implement in order to work grip strength. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hey Josh, this is a totally fine adjustment. If anything, it may be a bit more “functional” since the fat grip will better simulate the thickness of a wrist. I usually wave both variations, as well as a rope chinup, in programs.

      Reply

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