Last week, we talked pull-up alternatives, but that's not the only exercise that you probably ruin by flailing around like a strung-up fish whenever you start to get tired. To help save you from, well, yourself, we asked some friendly fitness professionals to share their favorite alternatives to the chin-up, that mainstay of middle school PE class, before you hit the weight room this week.
Idalis Velazquez: Towel chin-ups.
Your ratty gym towel is good for more than mopping up gross, sweaty torso imprints. Throw that thing up over the chin up bar, wadding up each end into your hands. Hang on tight and perform as many repetitions as you can. (On second thought, maybe don't use a ratty towel for this one.) This variation strengthens your grip and helps build forearm, upper body, and core strength.
Ben Booker: Supine straight bar cable curls.
Laying flat on the ground with your feet pointing towards the cable machine, curl a straight bar all the way to your chin. Keep your elbows tight to the rib cage throughout the range of motion.
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Jay Cardiello: Seated Smith machine chin-ups.
Using a Smith machine (this thing), sit directly under bar with arms fully extended. Grab the bar in a chin-up position. During the lift, focus on bringing your shoulder blades together and drawing your elbows tight to your sides. Keep your legs straight throughout the motion. (No swinging!) Once you've re-arrived at a seated position, repeat.
Gideon Akande: TRX supine grip row to biceps curl.
The traditional chin-up engages your back and biceps simultaneously, but those muscle groups also tend to fatigue quickly. Using the TRX suspension trainer gives you options to change the difficulty while adding variety to the pulling motion. Perform one TRX supine grip row—that's a row with your palms facing up—followed by one biceps curl with the TRX, as shown here. Then complete two reps and two reps, and three reps and three reps, and so on. This is less likely to exhaust you as quickly, but still delivers a solid burn.
Alexia Clark: TRX seated chin-ups.
Sit on the ground, holding a TRX suspension strap in each hand. Your palms should be facing you, as if you were in a chin-up position. Pull yourself up so your butt comes off the ground, and, squeezing with your back, hold yourself for a beat at the top of the motion before slowly lowering your body back down. (Check out a video here.) While it's easy to cheat at conventional chin-ups by swinging your lower body, this exercise completely isolates your back.
Jennifer Forrester: Chin-up grip lat pulldowns.
This is compound move targets the lats, rhomboids, traps, rear delts, and biceps. Start by using your chin-up grip with your palms facing towards you. Secure your legs, lean back slightly, and pull the bar down, focusing on using your lats and biceps. Pull the bar all the way to your upper chest and pause briefly before slowly releasing it back to the start position.