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How to Progress from Bodyweight Chinups to Weighted Chinups

Weighted Chin-ups and Pull-ups are in my opinion the best exercises you can do for your back.

But most people avoid them, which is a shame. The only time I have to wait in line to use the chin-up bar at my gym is when guys do cable cross-overs underneath it…

In this video and article we’re going to talk about how to progress from barely doing bodyweight chin-ups to weighted chin-ups.

Can’t do even one chin-up?

Before we talk about how to go from bodyweight chin-ups to weighted chin-ups, we need to address what you need to do if you can’t do even one bodyweight chin-up.

There are two reasons why people can’t lift their bodyweight:

  1. They have too much body fat so it’s impossible for them to lift so much weight. This is very common.
  2. They have very little muscle mass. So little that even though their bodyweight is low, they can’t lift themselves up. This is pretty rare. It only happens if you are truly sedentary and never played sports in your life.

The solution for both cases is very simple: They need to do lat pulldows first until they can lift more than their bodyweight.

The guys that have a high body fat percentage need to lose weight first to be able to lift more than they weigh. The skinny guys need to build muscle and probably gain weight too.

Actually when I started lifting I couldn’t do a chin-up either. But in my first 6 months I progressed a lot on lat pulldowns until I was lifting about 10-15% more than my bodyweight. And when I tried doing bodyweight chin-ups I could do about 10.

So when you are able to lift more than your BW on lat pull-downs you’ll be able to do chin-ups too.

How to progress from BW chins to Weighted chins

Now, what if you can currently do only 2 or 3 bodyweight chin-ups? I know most guys are in this category.

What I had my clients do was advance to 3 sets of 8, then they could start adding weight. The way you progress to 3 sets of 8 is by doing chin-ups very frequently – pure neuromuscular conditioning. If you expose an underdeveloped muscle to the same stress over and over again it will adapt very quickly.

Here is the protocol:

  • If you can only do between 1 and 4 reps, then you could do 3 sets of chinups every day. You’ll probably be able to do only 3-10 reps in total anyway so you won’t have any trouble with recovery. If you don’t have easy access to a pullup bar, then doing 3 sets 3-4 times a week is fine as well.
  • If you go to the gym 3-4 times a week, do chinups in every workout until you build up to 3 sets of 8.
  • When you reach 3 sets of 8, start adding weight. I recommend starting with a 5kg plate or 15 pounds. This will probably drop your reps down to 5 or 6.

Congratulations, you can now to weighted chin-ups.

At this point I would recommend reducing the frequency to only 1-3 chinup workouts per week. Here are a few examples of how I would structure a routine.

For progression you can use many different schemes depending on your program. You could do straight sets, you could work with a rep range, or you could use reverse pyramid training. All of them will work because you’ll find it very easy to add reps. If you want to learn about the progression systems I use, check out this article.


Do you have any questions? Feedback? Let me know in the comments! 

The Program that built my physique

The program that got my weighted chin-up to a respectable level was the Greek God Program. With it I trained this exercise once every 4-5 days and I gained strength pretty quickly. Reverse Pyramid Training helped a lot too.

You can see my one year transformation with it here.

If you want to read more success stories, click here.


  1. Moonlight15 on November 17, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Toortizi poate fi considerat ” un mic rasfat” Eu obisnuiesc sa imi iau 10-15 % din calorii din placerile mele, gen ciocolata , inghetata. Toortizi am vazut ca ai consumat intr-un videoclip… caloriile lor le pun la socoteala in cele 10-15 % ?

    • Radu Antoniu on November 28, 2015 at 4:42 pm

      Consider ca toortitzi sunt un aliment ok, i-as putea include in “mancarea normala”

  2. Abdirisak Musse on December 15, 2015 at 1:49 am

    Hello Radu,thank you for the articles,it held me a lot. How should the form on Lat pulldowns be? I really want to know so I can maximize the muscular and strength growth in the lats.

    • Radu Antoniu on December 15, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      I would do them with a grip similar to weighted pullups. I think you can gain muscle and strength with any type of form. I would use a grip that is a bit wider than shoulder width

  3. Igor on May 11, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Hey Radu, how are you?

    I’ve been noticing that I lift my legs up a bit when I pull my body up on weighted chin-ups. It’s not on purpose and also my legs are not flexed and they’re not doing a kipping movement. Do you consider what I’m doing a form of cheating? Watching the video I noticed that you do it too.

    Thanks in advance.

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