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Smith Machine Chin-Ups

By RealJock Staff

This exercise provided courtesy of Billy Polson, founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body, which was voted best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006.

We'd all like to be able to bust out a set of chin-ups, but the reality is that many of us have to work up to it. This exercise introduces the chin-up and makes it manageable until you can move on to the unassisted version.

Muscles Worked

Starting Position
Set the bar on the Smith machine rack at head height (you can also use a squat rack if you don't have access to a Smith machine). Stand facing the Smith machine and grasp the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart and your palms facing toward you (see Photo 1).


  1. From the starting position, squat down until your legs are bent and your arms are nearly extended as if you were hanging directly beneath the bar, as you would for an unassisted pull-up (see Photo 2).
  2. Keeping your toes on the floor, slowly pull yourself directly upward in a chin-up. Use your feet to "spot" yourself, but try to put as little weight on them as possible. In a perfect-form chin-up, your neck will stay in line with your spine as you lift your chest toward the bar, retracting your shoulder blades down and back. This form also helps ensure you are using your back muscles for the movement instead of your shoulders and biceps. At the top of your lift, your chin should be just above the bar (see Photo 3).
  3. Lower yourself back to the squat position, feet light on the floor, and repeat for a full set of 12 chin-ups.
Foot Variations
Once you have mastered the basic version of these chin-ups, you may add difficulty by keeping only one foot on the floor throughout the movement (see Photo 4). In the most difficult version, use one foot on the floor only as you pull up, and lower yourself back down without using your feet at all (see Photo 5).

About Billy Polson: Billy Polson is the founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body, which was voted the best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006. A competitive swimmer and triathlete in his own right, Polson has over 15 years of experience working as a coach and trainer, and was recently named by Men's Journal (December 2005) as one of the Top 100 Trainers in America.