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QA: Chinup Spotting, Gastron and Seated Row

Q: I’ve heard of a spotting technique for chinups in which you have a training partner lift one leg to reduce the load, but I train alone in my home gym. Any other ideas?

A: Place a chair underneath and slightly behind your chinup bar. Bend one knee and place your foot on the chair. This will significantly reduce the amount of weight you must lift to complete the exercise. Also, note that a pullup is performed with your palms facing away from you, in a pronated grip, as opposed to a chinup, in which the palms are facing you, in a supinated grip.

When you can perform a significant number of repetitions, such as five sets of five reps, start manipulating the eccentric part of the training tempo. For example, when you reach the top, slowly lower yourself to at least a count of 15 seconds, and perform five sets of three reps. After you can do that, lower to a count of 30 for five sets of two reps. As a general guideline, if you can lower yourself from a chinup in 30 seconds, you can complete one concentric chinup.

When you use this type of systematic progression, you will be surprised at how quickly you will be able to perform a dozen chinups in good form—not the convulsive chinups that are popular today in many boot camp programs. In fact, when I worked with the women on the Canadian National Ski Team, their average number of chinups went from zero to 12 in 11 weeks.

Q: What is your opinion of the Graston Technique?

A: It’s rather harsh—I saw one individual who’d had the treatment, and it caused considerable bruising of the area treated. Of course, the practitioner may not have had enough experience with the method.

For those unfamiliar with it, the Graston Technique uses steel instruments that (in theory) allow the user to slide over and remove adhesions and scar tissue. The problem is that such treatment is often accompanied by inflammation that causes the release of growth factors, resulting in new scar tissue. That was a problem when Active Release was first developed, as some practitioners would be too aggressive in their treatment. The patient would often feel better for a few days but then would need another treatment as new scar adhesions and scar tissue formed. It’s a great business model but a bad approach to treatment.

Instead of Graston, I like the Fascial Abrasion Tool, or FAT, developed by Dr. Mark Scappaticci. It’s a less aggressive method of treating fascia and is extremely easy to learn. It’s great for any condition in which there is either restricted mobility or fascial tension. By the way, Dr. Scappaticci is best known in the bodybuilding community as the person who invented Scap Jacks, which is a method of increasing muscle fiber recruitment by training the agonist and antagonist muscles at the same time—such as performing biceps curls with the right hand and triceps pressdowns with the left hand.


Q: For the seated row do you like the idea of fully contracting the shoulder blades before pulling with the arms? I’ve heard that many physical therapists recommend this method.

A: Such a technique may have its place in the initial stages of rehabilitation to encourage the development of the rhomboids, but it’s not a natural movement. I would stick with the conventional method of performing the exercise.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit  IM


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