Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The congruent chin

A great video from Bill DeSimone (I interviewed him here if you want more ideas on his approach) Superb stuff, you will not find anywhere else!


Sean said...

Great video. I've got a rotater cuff injury (from running ironically), and I've probably been aggravating it with my chins, specifically a close grip.

This makes it pretty clear that a kipped chin is pretty stupid if one cares about long term shoulder health.

Chris said...

I totally agree about the kipped chin - a very dangerous move.

toddhargrove said...

Great vid, but I wonder how his ideas fit with the following observations. The structure of our arms evolved for brachiation when we were in the trees. Monkeys don’t do pull-ups, they swing from arms fully extended in the hanging position. Kids as young as three and four years old do lots of hanging from the monkey bars, then swinging back and forth and then swinging hand to hand. They never try to pull up by flexing the elbow or extending the shoulder, they just swing and hang. This is clearly a very natural and instinctive use of the shoulder. I wonder whether DeSimone would have problems with it.

Chris said...

Todd - Hi.

Bill would have to respond for himself, but I suppose my response woudl be that we are not monkeys. We would have to get into comparative anatomy but I would suspect that our shoulders are different. Just as we do not have the gut of an ape that lives on leaves, we do not have the shoulder of a quadruped that swings through the trees.

Bill is explaining how to do a certain exercise as safely as possible given our anatomy. on the basis of his explanation I cannot see brachiation as being healthy for our human shoulders in the long term.

Anonymous said...

I think Bill has this correctly figured out. I would point out that there is a lot of effort here in trying to make safe a movement out of a movement that is fundamentally not safe. If you look at this from an upper arm range of motion perspective you see that the recommended leaning or arching back at the beginning of the movement is an attempt to shorten range. At the other end of the range, with elbows at sides, the lats are minimally engaged. Compare this with a row - slightly less range at the beginning of the movement but more lat engagement at the end due to the direction of the force. The mechanics are superior and the force production is greater with regards to shoulder safety.

I would offer up this challenge. Establish a baseline of how many chin ups you can do. Then stop doing them entirely and do nothing but rows for two months instead. Then see how many chin ups you can do. I am confident in predicting that you will see no loss of strength in the chin up and your shoulders will be much better off for it.

toddhargrove said...


I agree that we are not monkeys who move by brachiation and that Bill’s approach is a good one. However, I do think that a full hang with a little swing is a completely natural motion which any kid does spontaneously when they see a bar. Therefore I think the arm is designed to do this. I’m sure it is potentially more stressful than what Bill is advising here - but in the same way that a leg press is safer than jumping – which is also a natural motion but a potential way to cause wear and tear.

Chris said...

thanks Todd. I think you are right - Bill's approach is very much about safety.

Bill D said...

Thanks for all your interest, people.
Interesting discussion, but I think we have to be careful of context-switching, the whole "natural movement" idea. Maybe monkeys do end up with rotator cuff problems, how would we know? ;)
i remember in Army ROTC, 30 plus years ago, hand walking across a horizontal ladder was one of the fitness tests. The guys who hung and swung did consistently slower times than the ones who kept bent elbows and tight shoulders.
Chris is right, but he doesn't go far enough, safety is the first step. I don't think anyone will have a catastrophic injury with the hang, but I do think it would contribute to some unnecessary wear. Avoiding unintended consequences is more the point.

Chris said...

Thanks for that Bill