Chin up bar core workout

Chin up bars aren’t just for chin-ups.

Pull up core workout exercises

They’re a versatile piece of equipment that can be used to perform dozens – if not hundreds – of exercises with your bodyweight.

One of the most important ways of improving your bodyweight training is to improve your core. This is crucial for keeping your spine healthy and getting better at key exercises like chin-ups and pull-ups.

If you can’t control your core, you need to put in the work to get better. Fortunately, we’re going to teach you how to do just that today – how lucky is that?

Core Workouts on a Chin-Up Bar

Sagittal exercises are the ones that keep your whole body facing in the same direction – you’re either moving up and down or forwards and backwards. These are the classics like the crunch or leg raise.

Lateral exercises involve some sideways movement. They’re not just about your abs – they’ll focus on building strength and stability in the obliques. These are key for core stability and they look great.

Sagittal/Conventional Movements

  1. Hanging Crunch

To start with, this is a great way of building some muscle and strength in the core. It also helps you control the hips/core, which is important for getting better and training the advanced core movements further down this list.

  1. Knee-ups

This is a single-leg knee raise – you lift each leg in turn. It’s a lighter, simpler version of the knee raise. It has a lot of similarities to the mountain climber and is a great way to build a foundation of strength in the middle.

  1. Knee raise

This is a simple exercise – you lift your knees up using the muscles of the abs and core. It’s a great way of training your core on the chin-up bar and getting familiar with hanging core training.

  1. Full tuck

Similar to the knee raise, but you go all the way up to the elbows. This is a great way of training towards advanced gymnastic core work like the L-sit and leg raise.

  1. Knee raise to L

Half-tuck, half L-sit. This is a great way of building up the strength for the L-sit – but it also trains the muscles of the core and hip flexors. It also mixes static and dynamic exercises, which is great for building a strong, stable core.

  1. L-Sit

The L-sit is a key part of gymnastic strength training: it trains your core at the worst possible leverage – when your legs are straight out in front of you.

This makes it challenging but effective – it’s a great way of working your core isometrically (without movement) when the plank becomes too easy.

  1. Hanging leg raise

This is a great exercise for improving your core strength through a long range of motion. It’s also a brutal conditioning tool if you perform long sets.

The leg raise is basically the same as a tuck, but you’re not bending the knee at all – this puts you in the disadvantaged, challenging position we talked about with the L-sit.

  1. Toes to bar

Feel like the hanging leg raise is getting too easy and you need to really challenge you core strength? The strict toes-to-bar is a tough exercise that takes a leg raise and pushes it to the extreme.

Performed like a leg raise, unsurprisingly you have to go further and touch your toes to the bar. This is a tough exercise, but it’s a great advanced core-training technique.

  1. Single-leg raises

This is like a toes-to-bar but with one leg at a time, making it a totally different challenge.

This is only for the very best – if you get to this point, well done but your next move is going to be adding weight. This is an exercise for those with a core of steel!

Lateral/Rotation Movements

  1. Oblique Knee Raises

The oblique knee raise is a great way of training the core in multiple directions at once. It’s a great way to start training aspects of your core that a normal program could miss out on: the obliques and deep stabilisers.

Perform a knee raise while crunching one side at a time, and focus on holding the top position for a second or two.

  1. Knee Circles

Expanding on the knee raise, knee circles are a great way of building rotation into your core workout and building obliques.

They’re like the oblique knee raise, but they go back and forth from side to side, working the whole range of movement. You can burn these out an they translate well to building the windscreen wiper and other advance exercises.

  1. Full tuck + twist

Once you’ve mastered the full tuck in the sagittal plane, you can use this exercise to make huge lateral stability gains.

Sound exciting? Well it should – this is an amazing exercise for rotation in the core and is another big step towards the windscreen wiper.

  1. Windscreen wiper

The ultimate impressive hanging core exercise by many counts. This is one of the most difficult exercise you can perform on a bar. It involves a full toes-to-bar, straight into rotations in an L-sit position.

It basically combines all the tough stuff that we’ve been talking about so far. This is a great way of testing and building strength. Plus it looks awesome, which is always good.

Making Core Work…Work

There are 3 general schemes that you should experiment with for core training.

  1. Sets Across

This is what we’re all familiar with: a few sets with the same number of reps. The goal here is to basically near-fail the last rep of the last set.

4 sets of 12-15 is a great example of this and one of the most common schemes in conventional core exercises like crunches.

You can use these for hanging core exercises – but with more sets. 5-6 sets of 8 might be more realistic for these challenging exercises.

  1. EMOMs

I love EMOMs for core exercise. EMOM stands for ‘every minute on the minute’ so you can imagine what that involves: you perform a set when the clock hits the minute and rest until it hits the next minute. Repeat that until you’ve done all the minutes in the program. Easy, right?

They’re a great way of giving yourself a timeframe, while also keeping the pressure on yourself to keep moving. Short rest periods are great for core exercise.

They’re also super-easy to progress. For example:

  •  Session 1: 5 minute EMOM – 8 reps of knee tucks
  •  Session 2: 6 minute EMOM – 8 reps of knee tucks
  •  Session 3: 5 minute EMOM – 12 reps of knee tucks
  •  Session 4: 7 minute EMOM – 10 reps of knee tucks

This makes core training less boring and it simulates the type of core challenges you might run into on a day to day basis in sport and exercise. If you’re not adding weight, these short-rest sets are key to muscle and strength.

  1. For the haters: exercise to failure

If, like me, you really hate training core then there’s a bit of a hack for making it tolerable and not being weak in the most important muscles in the body.

Easy peasy: pick a bunch of exercises that you don’t hate and perform one maximum-rep set of each. This is an easy way of putting together a good core circuit at the end of a full workout that you’ll stick to.

For example:

  L-Sit: 1 set for maximum time

  Knee raise to L: 1 set for maximum reps

  Oblique knee raise: 1 set for maximum reps

  Knee-ups: 1 set for maximum reps

Try a combination of these exercises and make sure to start with the most difficult exercises. That way you’ll be able to get enough reps to justify their use. Otherwise it can be very easy to fail far too early on the tougher, later exercises.