SMART TRAINING

Chin Up or Pull Down?

Charles Poliquin

Page 1

Q: What one upper-body exercise not commonly performed would you like to see added to a bodybuilder’s program?

A: I’m a firm believer in chinups and pullups for upper-body mass. If you believe that the squat is the king of leg exercises, then you probably wouldn’t waste your time doing endless sets of abductor-machine work, leg extensions or (gasp!) the near-useless Smith machine, right? Well, the chinup and its variations are the squat’s equivalent in mass-building qualities and the ability to quickly improve functional strength. In fact, most bodybuilders would be jealous of the back development of top-level gymnasts and kayakers. Their conditioning programs center on—you guessed it—chinups.

Many elite organizations like Special Forces units and SWAT teams require candidates to be able to perform a certain number of chins before they can get into their programs. That’s because, unlike the geeky machine pull­downs, chins are a true test of real-world strength. Why are pulldowns a dork exercise? To put it simply, for pulldowns you move a free-moving object (the bar), so it’s easier to use your lower back and momentum to move the weight. Easier is never the best way to build strength and muscle. With chins you have to move your body around a fixed object, the chinup bar, ensuring an overload on your back and upper arms. That movement has a much better transference to sports performance. As a bonus, all forms of pullups and chinups, aside from helping you broaden and thicken your back, help put some serious size on your elbow flexors.

Q: I just got an Internet-based job. I have all the time in the world to train now, as my hours are very flexible. I have access to great weight rooms and a supplement-buyers’ club. What do you think about training twice a day? Should I do it, or will I overtrain?

A: I do think a trainee can grow more if he or she can afford the luxury of training twice a day; however, most of us have career and family commitments that prevent us from pursuing such an extensive training schedule.

Working out twice a day can be very effective, providing that you respect the following principles: 

1) Keep the workouts short. Excluding warmup time, your work­outs should initially be no more than 40 minutes. Training longer than that is counterproductive. Eventually you can increase that to 60 minutes, but no more.

2) Sequence the training properly. In my opinion, you should train a body­part twice on the same day. There are a variety of options: 

Option A:

Morning, heavy; evening, light

From experience I’ve found that training heavy in the morning and with higher reps at night works quite well—for example, sets of four to six reps in the morning and 12 to 15 at night. If you’re more interested in strength development, your morning workouts could be more in the one-to-three-rep range, with your evening workouts in the eight-rep range.

 Option B

Morning, low reps, fast tempo; evening, low reps, slow tempo

Here you can use the same reps during both workouts but at different tempos. For example, stick with four to six reps, but use a 2/0/X/0 tempo in the morning and a 4/2/1/0 tempo at night. The explosive work in the morning tends to facilitate the evening workout. That means you can use greater loads than normal in the evening. The nature of the exercise can take care of that. For example, do power cleans in the morning and deadlifts with chains at night.

 Option C

Morning, heavy; evening, eccentric-only training

Another one I like is training heavy in the morning and doing negative-only work at night. For example, heavy front squats, 6x2-3 with a 5/0/1/0 tempo in the morning; eccentric back squats of 7x1 with a 1/0/0/1 tempo at night. I recommend using the eccentric hooks known as Power Recruit. For more info on that contact Bob Kowalski at (814) 378-7108.

Regarding exercise selection for both workouts, you may want to do the same ones if strength is your main concern or change them completely if hypertrophy is your main concern. For example, weightlifters will do back squats twice a day, while a bodybuilder may do bench presses in the morning and incline dumbbell presses in the after­noon. Or you could do just a slight variation. For example, back squats with your heels flat in the morning, back squats with heels elevated at night.


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Q: I discovered your mass-training concepts in IRON MAN and saw that drug-free bodybuilder Mike Semanoff had gotten great gains using X Reps. I worked them into my program, but I wasn’t sure if I did them right. I tried them at the end of my fourth set of presses and a few other exercises. When I got to failure, I did intervals of about 10-inch reps, as many as I could—usually three to five. Is that correct? Do you recommend doing X Reps at the end of all sets? I did feel unique muscle stimulation with them, like more fibers firing. Is that the reason X Reps work?

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David Young

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Former college athlete Sean Harley knows how to take on challenges. As a fitness model, Sean has been featured in many workout magazines and has graced the covers of international publications. He’s also counseled many people on supplementation and nutrition for weight loss and muscle growth, as well as overall health.

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Q: Can you please guide me in striking a balance between cardio and weight training? A few months back I wanted to add more muscle size. In order to do that, I ate too many calories, and, as a result, I’ve gained some fat. Now I want to lose those few extra pounds without losing my hard-earned muscles. How much cardio leads to muscle loss? I’ve been jogging about three kilometers daily right after my workout—my workouts last no more than 45 minutes. I’ve lost five pounds in 15 days, but I wonder whether I lost muscle or fat. Am I doing it right? Is 15 minutes of high-intensity cardio better than 30 minutes of slow jogging?

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Q: What’s your opinion of Romanian deadlifts?

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Life is not perfect.

Ever get a slump in your pump or suffer depressing bench pressing? Are you slipping in your dipping? Is your chinning less than winning, and do you hurl when you curl? When you squat, would you rather not; that is to say, your squattin’ is rotten? Is your deadlift adrift? Your bent-over row, has it lost its flow?