Illustration of a man doing chin-ups (back view)

Chin-ups are a great lift for your upper back, abs, and grip strength. They’re even a great lift great for improving your cardiovascular fitness. What they’re most famous for, though, is building absolutely killer biceps.

In fact, the only other lift that’s as good for bulking up our biceps is the biceps curl. But given that curls are a smaller single-joint movement, they’re better thought of as an assistance lift to the chin-up anyway.

The chin-up is one of our Big 5 bulking lifts, and in this article we’re going to go over the best strategies for integrating it into your bulking routine, getting the most muscle mass and strength out of it as possible.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • How to bulk up your arms, back and abs with the chin-up.
  • Whether you should use a neutral grip, overhand grip, or underhand grip as your main chin-up variation.
  • How to assess your weaknesses and then fix them.
  • The best assistance lifts for improving your chin-up strength.
  • How to use accessory lifts, such as biceps curls and rows.
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Illustration of a skinny and a muscular man doing dumbbell biceps curls

A powerlifter’s strength is calculated by adding up how much they can squat, bench, and deadlift—their total. If their total goes up, they’re improving. If it doesn’t, they aren’t. As a result, all of their training is centred around improving their total, either directly or indirectly.

This gives every exercise a specific purpose. Powerlifters have their main lifts, which is how their strength is measured. This is where they invest most of their energy, and rightly so. But they also have assistance lifts and accessory lifts that help them emphasize their strengths and/or bring up weak links.

It’s a good system. Or, at least, it’s a good system if you’re a powerlifter. But let’s imagine that instead of trying to become a powerlifter, we’re trying to become bigger, stronger, healthier, and better looking. How would those lifts change to help us accomplish those goals? How would we measure our progress?

If we can figure that out, then we can bring that same specificity and clarity to our training that powerlifters have.

This article is bulking: It will grow and change over time. Occasionally we’ll trim off some fat.

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Barbell Illustration

We’ve got a full guide on building a barbell home gym, but I got way too deep into researching barbells, so I decided to make a whole separate post about it. This is that separate post.

The reason I fell so far into barbell research is that barbells are totally rad. They’re our connection to all of the weight we’ll be lifting. And if we didn’t have so many calluses and deadened nerves, we might even be able to enjoy how they feel in your hands.

Each barbell is designed for a particular purpose. One barbell might be flexible so that it bends when you pull a deadlift. Another barbell might be springy so that you can launch it into the air and then catch it on your shoulders without all of the force crashing into your joints. Yet another barbell might be designed to be sturdy so that you can bench press without the weight bouncing around.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand every feature of every barbell, you’ll be able to lift more weight more comfortably, and you’ll know how to buy a barbell that’s perfect for you.

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