Ranger School Chin-Ups (Not Pull-Ups)

Looking good -- bar at collarbone level.  But watch those feet!
The Ranger Physical Fitness Test (RPFT) has four events:  the push-up, the sit-up, the 5-mile run, and the chin-up.  Although only one or two people fail to achieve the 6 chin-up minimum each cycle, that shouldn't matter to you. This is what is important:

  • Practicing the chin-up will make certain you have no stress about that event
  • If you work on chin-ups, you'll be stronger at rope climbs
  • The chin-up will help you with rappelling in Mountains
  • You'll be doing chin-ups before each meal in garrison
  • The chin-up will help you when you get to The Wall on the first field day of Mountains
  • The chin-up strengthens the back, balances your chest muscles, and will reduce injuries overall
So, pretty important, right?  Let's break down this exercise and how to do it right.

First thing first:  you will fail the chin-up event of the RPFT if you don't do them strict.  Strict means that the Ranger Instructor (RI) will stand about six inches in front of you and will direct your movements.  The only part of your body that should move is your arms.  So here is the breakdown:
  • When the RI says "mount the bar" (or "get the f**k up on the f'in bar"), mount the bar by jumping up and grabbing it with your palms towards you (palms away would be a pull-up).
  • Hang completely slack so you are fully extended.
  • When the RI says "up," pull-up using just your arms -- no movement of your feet, knees, or abs.  A good trick here is to tense your lower body slightly and point your toes downward. At the end of your pull, the bar should be right at the level of your collarbone -- not just below your chin.  Get comfortable -- you'll be there for a second.
  • When the RI says "down," lower down in a controlled way to a full dead hang.  Again, slightly tensed body with toes pointed downward will keep you from swinging.  Get comfortable again -- you're on the RI's schedule.
  • At this point, the RI will either keep directing you or will just tell you to continue.  Do not rush this -- straight up with just arms, brief pause with the bar at collarbone level, controlled downward to full dead hang, brief pause at bottom, then back again.
  • After your sixth chin-up, go to a dead hang and wait.  The RI will tell you "dismount" or "get the f**k of my g*ddamn bar, Ranger." 
  • Congratulations!  You just passed the RPFT and you're officially in the class for RAP Week.
The takeaway?  Forget the guys in the gym doing 1,000 chin-ups.  Forget the awesome kipping and butterfly pull-ups you're learning at the CrossFit box.  And forget going fast to build your numbers.  Get on the chin-up bar and work like you're doing the RPFT.

What do you need?  Nothing but a bar:
  • Here is the basic bar I used -- hangs from any standard door and doesn't need any bolts or screws.
  • Here is a super-fancy bar -- same price, but I've never used it.
Chin-up Time!
But guess what?  You probably have a playground near you -- and that means there is probably  playscape with a horizontal ladder ("monkey bars") or even a set of pull-up bars ready to go.  Just don't be creepy -- go in the morning when kids aren't there.

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