Johnny Pain, author of the GreySkull LP program, does not recommend doing assisted chin-ups to build up to unassisted ones, claiming all they'll make you good at is assisted chin-ups. For instance, on his forums (login required), he has mentioned in the past:

Yes, ditch the band assisted chins lest you become extremely good at doing band assisted chins and little else.

Band assisted chins are good for one thing, making you real good at doing band assisted chins.

If you're in a gym that has an assisted pullup machine, they probably have a pulldown setup. I like V handle pulldowns heavy and with good technique.

So he recommends v-grip pulldowns and chin-up negatives spread through-out the day, instead of assisted chin-ups. Is there any reasoning behind this?

  • Could you quote a line where he says that, doesn't he provide at least some reasoning himself?
    – Baarn
    Jan 5, 2013 at 12:01
  • He mentions it every now and again in his forum. I won't link as I'm pretty sure it requires login, but "Yes, ditch the band assisted chins lest you become extremely good at doing band assisted chins and little else.", "Band assisted chins are good for one thing, making you real good at doing band assisted chins.", and "If you're in a gym that has an assisted pullup machine, they probably have a pulldown setup. I like V handle pulldowns heavy and with good technique". I've never seen any reasoning beyond this. Of course I respect his experience, just interested in why it might be the case.
    – jontyc
    Jan 5, 2013 at 12:16
  • My experience is negligible in this matter, but the extreme help that band-assisted chins give at the bottom makes me suspect that people who use them to progress are relying on the all-over strength increases from the novice effect, and not the specific utility of the bands. I prefer negatives, holds, lat pull-downs, and partner-assisted chins. Jan 5, 2013 at 15:56
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    It seems that his claims are only against band-assistance, not all types of assistance... would you consider changing your question to match the claim?
    – user4644
    Jan 5, 2013 at 22:20
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    I used the bands for a couple of months until I progressed to unassisted chin ups and pull ups. The bands are great to build up strength, especially if you work on going slow on the way up sometimes and going slow on the way down sometimes.
    – Kristina
    Jul 30, 2019 at 18:52

6 Answers 6


I suppose he mentioned it because in general when one is using bands to help himself with the chin-ups he gets used to them and forgets that they must be there just temporary.

However his statement is not true. I did not use bands when learning the chin-up but I did use bands when learning the One Arm Chin Up(Disclosure: this is my personal website). It was one of my primary methods to develop strength and I successfully moved on doing one arm chin-ups without the assistance of using any rubber bands.

The key is to remember that you need to get rid of the bands. You need to challenge your body with the chin-ups. This way it is going to keep building strength. You can do this by primarily focusing on using your body and depending as little as you can on the bands. This is hard to measure because unlike weight lifting you can't measure the amount of assistance that you get from the bands. So what else you can do is either decrease the amount of assistance by the bands by attaching a different(weaker band) once you reach a good number of repetitions using a band(6-8 reps). Or by attaching a weighted plate to a rope which you use to assist yourself(instead of a band). The second method helps you measure your progress for you can attach different plates to the rope, in other words decreasing the assisted weight over time.

  • Always be wary, if you promote your site without disclosure, people might see this as spam. As your answers are helpful I am OK with the way you do it, nonetheless you might want to read the faq.
    – Baarn
    Jan 6, 2013 at 12:47
  • I understand very well, thank you. I have already gone through the FAQ.
    – Arthlete
    Jan 6, 2013 at 12:54

As Kate mentions a few times in the comments: Resistance bands are not the only way to do assisted chin-ups. For someone who is either too heavy, or doesn't have very strong delts/lats/biceps, the assisted pull-up might be the only alternative.

My girlfriend cannot do a chin-up, but using the assisted chin-up machine at our local gym with only 20 pounds of assistance, she can. Last month, she could only do it with 40 pounds of assistance. That, to me, is progress, and I couldn't be happier for her. My aim is that in 2 weeks she will be able to do a few un-assisted chin-ups.

I don't care what your so-called expert says. In my experience, the assistance has built up her strength, but more importantly her confidence, to achieve something she never thought she could do.

Exercising is different for every single one of us, so don't lend too much credence to what another person says until you try it for yourself.


The point is just that the band assisted chin should not be thought of as an "easier chin-up." It is a different exercise, it is a different skill that you are learning. (The non-linear nature of the band helping you out most at the bottom, where the shoulder mobility that most people lack is most important, making it easier to start with bad shoulder position!)

That trainer believes the pull-down is a more appropriate accessory exercise than the band-assisted chin to develop the strength needed to proceed to learning the chin-up skill. One can agree with him somewhat on the basis that bad-form is likely more obvious on the pull down. One can certainly do "too-much-too-soon" on the assisted pull-up machine and learn the skill incorrectly with poor shoulder mechanics hiding missing strength.

To someone who is is not a baseball enthusiast, what is the difference between the throw a second baseman uses to home plate and a pitch? Is it not just a harder version of the pitch with less accuracy? Of course if you've played baseball you know it's a totally different skill and you don't use one to improve the other. You use accessory exercises appropriate to that skill.

(I am not saying I 100% agree with him, just trying to restate his point as I understand it!)


Take this answer with a grain of salt as I've never done anything besides (underhand) inverted rows or pull ups, chin ups or neutral grip pull ups when training for pull ups.

From what I've read the band assisted pull ups mostly help you in the lower part of the pull up.

Resistance bands only help you in the bottom position. You'll have to do most of the work in the top of the movement.

I consider the lower part to be the harder part of the movement as this targets the lats mostly. The upper part seems to train the arms more. For me it is the whole movement is what I am trying to get better at, so assisted pull ups are not really an option.
I think Johnny Pain is right here, at least to some point. Assisted pull ups are probably better to train for pull ups than doing nothing, but as long as your lats are your weak point in the pull up movement, you should look for another exercise that makes it easier to train them.

  • Resistance bands are not the only way to do assisted pull-ups. Perhaps resistance-band-assisted pull-ups are bad, but that doesn't mean assisted-pull-ups are bad.
    – user4644
    Jan 5, 2013 at 16:01
  • @Kate the quote in the question is about resistance-bands. Using a machine probably introduces other detrimental effects - I'm only guessing here, I've never seen such a machine, but for most machine-workout stabilization is missing.
    – Baarn
    Jan 5, 2013 at 16:13
  • But the question was about assisted pull-ups in general. The assisted pull-up machines that I know of simply apply an upward force at your feet, effectively making you lighter.
    – user4644
    Jan 5, 2013 at 22:19

Well to get right to the point, he is wrong.

Resistance band assisted pull-ups and chin-ups are a great way to train for unassited pull-ups or chin-ups. If you want to be able to do for example chin-ups, you should be doing assisted ones AND do stuff like lat pull down machines after you can't do any assisted chin-ups anymore to train for extra power.

There are many different resistance bands, that give different support. One might support up to 40kgs, others might only support up to 5kg. This way you can lower the assitance you get once you start to feel it getting easy, till the point where you're using the 5kg band. Once you do about 5-8 chin-ups with this band, you can probably do about 2 or 3 without assistance. And there you have it, you succeeded in working towards unassisted chin-ups!

You shouldn't think that you have to do one or the other (assisted chin-ups or lat pull down), you can do both and have best of both worlds!


The issue with band-assisted pullups/chinups is that the band does not provide constant supporting force throughout the range of motion. However, if the "most difficult" part for you is at the bottom, while the top is easy, then sure, band-assisted pullups/chinups are just fine.

Otherwise, they'll prevent you from building strength in the weaker areas, and will likely encourage you to go through a pullup/chinup using momentum from the bottom instead of strength. However, you can get around that too, by using the machine-assisted pullups/chinups instead. It's designed to provide more support in parts of the movement where you cannot apply as much force (i.e., the weaker parts of the movement).

However, if you have no trouble doing a few reps of unassisted pullups/chinups, and are simply looking to just increase your number of reps, you might find the machine relatively useless for that. Laws of physics constrain the support pad from accelerating up faster than the weight stack falling down (i.e., the support pad cannot accelerate upwards faster than gravity, or even much less if the machine is poorly-oiled!) The only way to get around that (besides gaining body weight) is simply strap some extra weight (e.g., barbell plates or a weighted vest) to your body, to limit how fast you can accelerate yourself upwards (unassisted/anywhere) on that machine.

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