Kneeling Chin-ups

Posted on by Ben Bruno

Today I want to share a chin-up variation that I’ve been using a lot the past three months with my clients: kneeling chin-ups.

As the name suggests, it’s just chin-ups done starting from the knees. Here’s a video of my client Ryan doing a set.

I first experimented with these because I was training a very tall basketball in a gym where the chin-up bar was too short for him to be able to do chin-ups with a full range of motion. I had him start from the floor on his knees and set the bar in a power rack to a level that allowed him to get a full range of motion. It allowed him to do chin-ups, but even more than that, I started to like the way the chin-ups looked even better than when he did them normally. So I started doing it with both myself and some more of my clients, and I really like it as a variation for guys that can already do 6-8 regular chin-ups.

The most obvious benefit of this exercise is that it allows taller guys to do chin-ups with a full range of motion. However, it also addresses some of the problems that I often see with chin-ups.

Any trainer or strength coach will tell you that getting clients to go all the way down on chin-ups is an ongoing battle. If you’re lucky your clients will give you a few good reps, but they’ll almost inevitably start cutting them short as the set goes on. When you start on your knees, the floor serves as a depth gauge, similar to the idea of squatting to a box. If you set the bar up initially so that you start in a position where your arms are straight, then you know that if you touch your knees to the floor, you went all the down. If your knees don’t touch, you didn’t. Simple.

Some people get shoulder pain in the dead hang position of chin-ups though, so this variation allows you to achieve full extension without stressing the shoulders in the bottom position.

Beyond ensuring a full range of motion, I’ve noticed that this variation really eliminates, or at least drastically minimizes, swinging and kipping, which are pet peeves of mine. I guess you could call these “Anti Kipping Pullups” 🙂

For stronger people I like to have start each rep from a dead stop position like Ryan is doing in the video above. This makes the exercise much harder though, so I reserve it for people that can already do 10-12 regular chin-ups. As a frame of reference, guys that can do 10-12 regular chins will do about 6-7 good reps from the kneeling position from a dead stop. Otherwise, if paused chin-ups are too hard, you can still do them from the kneeling position but just lightly tap the floor each rep without pausing.

You can also do kneeling chin-ups from the rings, which I also like. Just set the rings at a position that allows full arm extension and have at it. Like this:

Give these are try, and remember that you can subscribe to my You Tube page for more video demos.

  • chris

    Hi Ben – what brand of weight vest is that you are using, and does it hold standard weight plates? I’m looking to purchase but have found it difficult to find something that will hold standard 5-10lb weight plates. thanks for any help you could provide!