Negative chin-ups involve only performing the downward phase of a chin-up. This may sound easy, but prepare to be humbled. While easier than regular chin-ups, negatives are still surprisingly tough. Beginners are often advised to start with negatives before tackling full chin-ups, but negative chin-ups can be beneficial for anyone, regardless of your level and experience.
To perform a negative chin-up, stand on a box or bench so that your chin is above the bar. Hold the bar with your hands around shoulder-width apart and palms facing you. Take your feet off the box and lower yourself as slowly as you can until your arms are fully extended, then place your feet back on the box.
Regular chin-ups is an extremely tough exercise, particularly if you're new to training or are overweight. Women also often struggle with chin-ups, as they tend to have lower relative upper-body strength than men. To get around this, trainer Charles Poliquin recommends performing negative chin-ups. Aim for five reps, taking eight seconds each, and gradually increase the time of each rep, advises Poliquin. Once you can do a 30-second negative, you should be strong enough to perform a full chin-up.
Negative chin-ups can also be used to build strength and overcome plateaus, even if you're already proficient at regular chin-ups. You are much stronger during the eccentric or negative portion of a lift than you are on the concentric or upward phase, according to strength coach Tony Gentilcore. Add weighted negative chin-ups into your routine, for which you wear a weight belt or a weighted vest. Performing negative chin-ups in the same manner can lead to strength gains and muscle growth, particularly if you're not used to performing eccentric exercises.
You will naturally become fatigued toward the end of a back workout or upper-body session and the more your muscles tire, the harder it is to perform full chin-ups. By adding negative chin-ups to your existing chin-up workout, you'll increase its volume, time under tension and intensity. Perform three to five sets of five to10 full chin-ups, either body weight or weighted, then three sets of three to five slow negatives to fully work your back and biceps.
While they may be a useful exercise for building strength and improving regular chin-up performance, eccentric exercises can cause excessive delayed onset muscle soreness, according to strength coach Josh Bryant of Elite Fitness Systems. They are also inferior to band-assisted chin-ups when it comes to helping you perform a chin-up, as they don't involve any concentric lifting phase, according to Bryant. For inverted rows, for which you position a barbell at waist height in a squat rack or Smith machine, sit underneath the bar and pull yourself up for an effective alternative to negative chin-ups for improving performance, according to Ben Bruno, a coach at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning.
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