Chin Up Progressions for Mountain Biking

Chin Ups and Pull Ups are some of the best exercises you can do to improve your upper back and core strength. As a mountain biker you need strength in those areas to help you better handle rough, technical trails and stay strong on the trail.

In this video I go over some basic tips for chin ups, including how to best get started if you can’t do one yet and some great variations to challenge yourself with once you can.

-James Wilson-

No Gym, No Problem. — Bodyweight Program

No Gym, No Problem. — Bodyweight ProgramWho says you need equipment to get a great workout in? With this workout program you have no more excuses to not train- the world is your gym. Designed around the principle of Exercise Progressions this workout program allows you to create the perfect workout for your current fitness level. Perfect for starting your strength training journey or adding a new challenge to your current workout, this workout belongs in every rider’s toolbox.
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  1. Jakub says:

    How many pull-ups can you do? 🙂

    Reply • March 9 at 10:50 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I’ve never just tested pull ups but I can crank out 12 or so. I can do a weighted pull up with 70+ pounds strapped to me – I have better strength than endurance in that exercise.

      Reply • March 12 at 1:38 pm
  2. Phil says:

    James, thanks for the tips. I have been doing chin ups and pull ups for several months now. Hadn’t done any in years and when I started I could only do about 3 reps. I do them 2 to 3 times a week and usually 4 sets of 4 to 5 reps. I feel like I’ve reached my limit at 5 reps. Keep doing what I’m doing or should I be going about it differently? I’d like to be able to at least get that 10 mark.

    Reply • March 9 at 11:13 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Do some weighted chin ups. Strapping 20 pounds and doing 1 or 2 reps will make your bodyweight feel much lighter.

      Reply • March 12 at 1:36 pm
  3. Josh Payne says:

    Ive been going this same route with pull up assistance lately although I can pull ten reps consecutivly pavel taught me about volume on dds site articles so I want to ask you about if 5 sets of 5 makes sense to built strength?

    Reply • March 9 at 8:21 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Sure, it is a bit better at strength endurance than pure strength but it is a good program for chin ups/ pull ups. Of course, you’ll need to find something else to use after 4-8 weeks but 5X5 is a great program.

      Reply • March 12 at 1:35 pm
  4. Josh Payne says:

    Awesome thank you for all your help.

    Reply • March 13 at 12:33 pm
  5. Chris Q says:

    James, how do you like the Grease The Groove approach? i.e. Every time you go out to the shed etc, do 3 pull ups…

    Looks like your one arm chin up isn’t too far away. You’re a monster!

    Reply • March 13 at 2:54 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Love that approach for chin ups and pull ups. We’ll see how the single arms go, definitely a long way from where I am at to there but it gives me something to work towards – got to have goals in life!

      Reply • March 13 at 3:00 pm
  6. HundredDollar says:

    Hey James, I am wondering what you think of the high volume approach to chin-ups like those found in Convict Conditioning, or Pavel’s “ladders”. I can do a single rep, single arm chin up, but according to Wade, I am still at level two out of ten (!) because I can’t do the insane number of sets/reps he recommends (I don’t necessarily look at this book as a great authority on strength training but it’s one perspective). Anyways, for me it seems like for pushups and pull ups and other bodyweight exercises you can do a lot more difficult movements and even unilateral movements if you are willing to make it a more intense, low volume workout, but you are risking injury if you don’t have the movement totally correct before moving up through the progression.

    Reply • March 14 at 4:34 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Two things – I think that you may be mis-reading the levels in the Convict Conditioning Book. Being able to do 1 single arm chin up on each arm is the beginners standard for Step/ Level 10 of the progressions. Step/ Level 2 out of 10 is Horizontal Pulls. He only recommends being able to do 2 sets of 6 reps for the Elite Standard, which is hard (which is why it is Elite) but I don’t think that it is too insane. Just want to make sure you aren’t holding yourself to a higher standard than needed.

      Second, I think that in the absence of being able to add load to exercises the way to “stress proof” it before moving to the next level is to do a high number of reps. I don’t necessarily wait until someone can do the highest number of reps suggested in the book before progressing them but there is some benefit from being able to do a pretty high number of reps with the more basic bodyweight exercise progressions.

      Lastly, if you want to get really good at an exercise do a lot of it. I have been doing a pretty high volume of kettlebell military presses – using a lot of ladders – since I started working with Brett Jones and my pressing has gotten much better. We are now backing off the volume a bit bit having a high volume phase to hammer an exercise into submission has a place.

      Everything works…for about 6 weeks and then you have to switch to another approach.

      Reply • March 14 at 6:09 pm

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