If a football player can’t chin-up their own bodyweight, they’re either too weak or too fat. There’s no need right now to make it more complicated than that. The argument for excessive size may be made for certain positions, however, even the 300 lb lineman should be able to get 3-5 good chin-ups by the time they’re a sophomore. What football players need though, is a way of getting to that goal.
Chin-ups may be the best way of measuring upper body strength relative to body mass. Even though there’s pier-reviewed literature making a strong case for chin-ups, the anecdotal evidence is enough. Some of the most explosive and athletic players I’ve ever coached were great at chinning their bodyweight. Fat isn’t a contractile tissue, so too much may negatively impact the players ability to perform.
Here are some things to think about when designing and implementing chin-ups into a football strength training program:
1. Do them correctly
Perform them in a way that will safely develop strength. Start with the arms straight, completely extended at the elbow. Pull all the way up, pause for a brief moment and then lower the body in a controlled manner. A 2 sec. count on the way down is a good rule.
If it’s important, test it. Testing is a good accountability mechanism. Testing every 6 weeks is enough time between for the players to demonstrate improvement if they’re training consistently.
3. Perform Them Consistently
The training frequency should be consistent and it’s an exercise that can be performed year round. It doesn’t matter if the training is a 3 day-total-body split, a 4 day-upper/lower split or anything else, chin-ups can be included. 1-2 times per week is sufficient.
4. Use A Progression
There needs to be a system in place that’ll promote strength development. Just like any other exercise, football players need to know how many sets and reps to perform. What they’re doing for the workout now should be directly related to their success and failures from the previous. A good systematic design will control for increases in volume and/or intensity.
Progression designs are countless. Here’s an example:
The rep-range is 3 X 10. Once the player can complete 3 sets of 10 reps, they must add 5 lbs around their waist by using a chin/dip weight belt. Once they can get 3 X 10 with that weight, increase by another 5 lbs.
This type of progression could start at 3 X 10 for a couple weeks, then 3 X 8 and then 4 X 5.
The most common issue with chin-ups is what to do when a football player can’t get one good repetition. The biggest mistake would be to not do them.
Including assisted chin-ups into the program is a necessity for these players and here’s a couple ways to do them:
One football player helps by pushing up on the low back of the lifter with both hands or pulls up on the lifters ankles while the knees are bent. One of the more important coaching points during this will be to tell the lifter to slowly lower their body. The spotter will help on the way up, but could completely take their hands off of the lifter on the way down.
The band is attached around the chin-up bar. The lifter puts their knee into the band and pulls it close to the ankle. They’ll need to keep their knee down and heel up near their glutes, so the band doesn’t slip off.
There’s a need for football players to understand that just being big isn’t enough. Helping players understand the value of strength relative to body mass is extremely important and chin-ups are an easy way of doing it. Implement them now if they aren’t a significant part of the football strength training program yet.