Chin-Up (Negatives)

How To Do A Negative Chin-up
By Alli McKeeFebruary 19, 2016

Negative Chin-Up Exercise

Negative chin-ups are a great exercise for improving upper body strength, most notably, the muscles of the mid to upper back and scapula stabilizers. This exercise also strengthens the shoulders, arms, and the anterior core. While chin-ups are thought of as an upper body exercise, in order for them to be performed properly, the entire body needs to be working in unison. This chin up variation is a perfect option for people who are looking to develop the necessary levels of strength, and stability, to perform unassisted chin-ups.

Equipment needed:

You need a chin up bar to perform chin-up negatives. You can also perform this exercise on rings, or if you are in a playground, monkey bars.

Ability level:


The negative chin-up might be too advanced for beginners. If this is the case, you can start out by performing basic hangs from your knees where you engage the muscles in your mid to upper back and scapular stabilizers, and simply hold. Beginners who are able to perform the negative chin-up might do 1 to 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps, and with a lowering phase of 3 to 5 seconds.


The negative chin-up is a great option for lifters with an intermediate level of experience, who have mastered some of the negative chin-up variations for beginners that are listed above. Intermediate lifters can perform band assisted chin-ups where they perform the concentric portion of the lift with band assistance, and then perform the negative component of the exercise. They can also increase the number of sets and/or reps of the negative chin-up. Women can also target slightly different muscle groups by performing pull-up negatives.

If an upper body workout is being performed, and the lifters main goal is to improve their ability to perform chin-ups, this exercise should be done towards the beginning their workout when the body is fresh. If a full-body workout is being performed, the negative chin-up can be paired with a lower body compound movement (but avoid pairing it with any deadlift variation as both require that your body is in a hinging position), or an upper body pressing movement. You can also make it part of a conditioning circuit. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps.


Women of an advanced fitness level can perform negative chin-ups the same way as intermediate lifters. You can also make the exercise more advanced by performing full unassisted chin-ups where you perform both the concentric and eccentric components of the exercise. You can also increase the length of the eccentric phase, and/or more sets and/or reps. When lifters are able to do this proficiently, they can use additional resistance in the form of a weighted vest or a weight belt.

Benefits of Negative Chin-Ups:

How a woman chooses to use a negative chin-up is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much assistance is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general, negative chin-ups can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing upper body strength, primarily in the lats, traps and rhomboids
  • increasing upper body strength in the shoulders, and to a lesser degree, the musculature of the upper arms and forearms
  • increasing core strength in the erectors, scapula stabilizers, and the anterior core
  • building muscle
  • fat loss (if your diet and exercise routines are conducive to fat loss)
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)
  • convenient as it requires very little equipment

How to perform a Negative Chin-Up:

  • Grab onto a chin-up bar and set your hands so they are approximately shoulder width apart, and so your palms are facing you.
  • Stand on a bench/box so your body is already in the top position of the chin-up. Then you can jump and pull your body up to the top position, and perform the negative/lowering movement. You can also start from the ground and jump and pull yourself up, and then perform the negative movement.
  • Before each rep, take a deep breath in (360° of air around the spine), brace your core, gently tuck your ribs towards the hips so your body is in a slight hollow body position, and squeeze your glutes. This will provide the much needed stability around your spine and pelvis.
  • Now slowly lower yourself down in a controlled manner by using the muscles in your mid and upper back, and scapula stabilizers. These muscles need to remain engaged at all times so the shoulders remain packed.
  • Lower yourself down until your arms are fully extended.
  • Do not allow your elbows to flare away from your body.
  • Maintain proper alignment the entire time. Your spine should remain in neutral alignment, your ribs should remain down, and your pelvis and torso should not rotate. your pelvis or torso to rotate.
  • You can either bend your knees, or keep your legs straight, but is important that you squeeze your glutes and muscles in your legs as a rigid body will be easier to control.
  • Reset and repeat before each rep.
  • If you are performing pull-up negatives, your hands will be positioned so your palms are facing away from you.

Video Transcription: 

A negative chin-up is exactly what it sounds like: you're only going to be performing the negative portion of the chin-up.  I generally set up a box or bench close to the chin-up height.  I am going to turn my palms facing me because that's the chin-up position. I am going to jump up to the top and when I get to the top I am going to hold it there for a second, chest out, shoulder blades back and down, glutes and core tight and I am going to slowly lower myself down.  It looks like this.  It’s really important that you make sure you lower yourself down under control.


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About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

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