The Chin Up Challenge

Recently my sister completed a chin up challenge and reached her goal of 20 strict chin ups in a row! To me this is impressive since I can barely do six in a row. The premise of the challenge is to reach your predetermined goal by performing as many chin ups within an hour.  I tried this out myself but I barely got to the 5th round; I started to look like a squirming fish caught in a net.  This challenge definitely wasn't for me.

I interviewed my sister, Elisa, to give me an idea of why someone would be possessed to do this challenge and what it was like to go through this for almost a month.

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What made you want to do the chin up challenge?

I just wanted to see what would happen and see if I could actually reach my goal of 20 chin ups.  It was a personal interest.  I was using my body as a lab experiment.

How did you do the chin up challenge?

I did 10 sets to fatigue within the hour.  In between sets I would go through my normal workout, working mostly on pushing type of exercises.  That way I wasn't just doing chin ups all month long and losing strength elsewhere.

I would allow myself 4-5 minute rest breaks between sets.  The most days in a row I would do the challenge was 3 days and the most days in a row I would rest is 5 days.  The 5 days is because I went on vacation.

What was your plan of attack?

I went as hard and as fast as I can without thinking about the reps.  Sometimes when you take your time completing the reps, your mind starts to take over and gets the best of you.  I started to realize that doing the challenge in the morning produced the best results.  By the end of the workday, I was more mentally and physically tired.

How long did the challenge last?

It lasted almost 1 month from Febuary 26 to March 23.

What was the hardest part of the challenge?

I was so sore after the first day of the challenge that I was barely able to grip on the second day.  My elbows and forearms felt the worst.  The constant gripping led to really tight forearms and perhaps a bit of tendon strain. By the end of the first week of the challenge, it was much better and my body got used to it. Besides the physical challenge in the first week, it was much more so a mental barrier nearing the middle of the challenge.

What's your next goal?

25 chin ups in a row.


Things to consider if you want to try to chin up challenge

Straight bar vs Rings

  • Having your palms facing you (supinated grip) or away from you places  (pronated grip) on a straight bar can put quite a bit of strain onto your wrists and elbows. High reps in this position can lead to injury.



Image: Creative Common Flikr Ian B-M

  • Using rings to do the challenge will allow your wrists to adjust to the movement, rather than forcing them in one position. It will also demand more control from your shoulders and core for a better workout.



Chin Ups vs Pull Ups

  • Chin ups typically require the hands to be more in a supinated position where the palms are either facing each other (neutral grip) or towards you.  This will bias your biceps, which is the main supinator and allow you to perform more reps.


  • Pull ups on the other hand will require more strength from your lats and less from your biceps.


  • I wouldn't necessarily say that one is better than the other, it all depends on what you want to train and what you want to get out of it.

Pain and Injury

  • If you're going through this challenge and start to experience pain in your wrists, elbows and shoulders, perhaps reconsider the challenge. 


  • High reps and sets of the same movement isn't for everyone, especially if you have a predisposed injury or lacking range of motion.


  • You may also consider changing your grip (ie. neutral grip, palms facing you, palms facing away from you, mixed grip) or changing the equipment (ie. rings, TRX) to offload your joints and muscles.


  • I've been reading a few comments on other sites and people need to seek professional help when things still hurt after resting or when you're unable to function in daily life! It's not the end of the world if you don't complete it!


  • Remember to supplement your chin ups/pull ups with a variety movements, otherwise you're going to develop internally rotated shoulders and cause more problems.


Special thanks to Elisa Wong for the interview!



Jessie Wong, Physiotherapist from the Physio Room


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