How to Do Pull Ups and Chin Ups

Pull ups and chin ups are very popular exercises – they’re also very challenging, and often used to test your level of strength and fitness. It’s great exercises for developing the back and biceps, and most routines will include one of these, or another variation.

In this post, I’ll explain some of the biggest differences between pull ups and chin ups (no, they’re not the same), and how to do them properly.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Some people use the words pull ups and chin ups interchangeably. They are, however, two different exercises; they do target the same muscles, but to different degrees. To figure out if someone is doing pull ups or chin ups, what you want to do is look at how they grip the bar.

  • SUPINATED GRIP: Chin ups use an underhand grip, meaning your palm faces upwards and inwards. (Supine = your hand is shaped like a bowl for soup).
  • PRONATED GRIP: Pull ups use an overhand grip, where your palms face downwards and away from you. (I don’t have a cool rule to remember this one)
  • NEUTRAL GRIP: Also called parallel grip or hammer grip, where your palms face each other. Some people will call them neutral grip pull ups, others neutral grip chin ups.

For each exercise, you can vary the width of the grip. For chin ups, you want to have your hands at shoulder width or less. For pull ups, you should use a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip – if it’s too wide, your range of motion will be compromised.

Learn the difference between pull ups and chin ups, and how to do them correctly!

HOW TO DO PULL UPS

  • Grasp the bar with your palms facing outwards, grip wider than shoulder width
  • Lift yourself up by engaging your back muscles until your chin is above the bar
  • Slowly lower yourself until arms and shoulders are fully extended

Learn the difference between pull ups and chin ups, and how to do them correctly!

HOW TO DO CHIN UPS

  • Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip, palms facing inwards
  • Pull up your body by engaging your back and biceps until your elbows are down by your side
  • Slowly lower yourself until arms and shoulders are fully extended

For both exercises: Remember to keep your shoulders down and away from your ears and your neck in a neutral position. Try to avoid swinging your legs by scissoring them, and don’t use momentum to get up.

THE BENEFITS

Both exercises target the back muscles, mainly the lats, the posterior deltoid (back of the shoulder) and the arm muscles. Chin ups utilize the biceps to a greater degree – for most people, this means they will be stronger at chin ups, and for beginners this will be the easiest option. For the more experienced, pull ups will be the best option for lat activation, since the biceps are in a weaker position and can’t take over for the back.

As always, remember to stay safe – if you feel like something is wrong, stop immediately. Don’t try to do this if you’re injured, or if your body isn’t ready for some other reason.

If you struggle with doing pull ups and chin ups, I’m post a guide for beginners next week!

Can you do pull ups? Let me know in the comments!



(PS the pictures in this post are not recent, I’m not that fit right now because of my injury 🙁 )

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Learn the difference between pull ups and chin ups, and how to do them correctly! Click through to read more, or repin to save for later!
Learn the difference between pull ups and chin ups, and how to do them correctly! Click through to read more, or repin to save for later!

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20 Comments

  • I have been going to the gym on and off (mainly off) for a few years but this year I am really getting into it. I do some cardio (treadmill and rowing at the gym, a bike ride at the weekends) and weights. However I use the assisted weight machines (not sure of their name - partly down to a lack of confidence and the intimidation of the serious lifters using the free weight (?) section. So I have never really done chin or pulls up. I might give them a go if I get to the gym on a quiet day!
  • I've been going to the gym for a few years on and off (mainly off to be honest!) but i have started getting into it this year and these posts are helpful. When I go I normally do cardio (treadmill and rowing machine - i also go a bike ride at the weekend) and use the assisted weights (if that is their right name). At the back of my gym is the free wieghts (again, is that the right term?) but i've never ventured down their due to a lack of confidence and intimiadation of the heavy lifters! So I have never tried chin/pull ups. I might give them a go if i get to the gym on a quiet day!
    • We all gotta start somewhere, and it takes time to get a hang of technique and such :) I know how you feel about the free weights, I used to be the same (I actually wrote a post about it) - what helps me is to learn correct form at home (looking at videos from bodybuilding.com and exrx.net) so I feel more confident when I'm there, and then listen to music with headphones so it's easier to just focus on me. You can do this! x
  • Nice clear and short summary. I wish I had done more chins and pull ups. I focused mainly on machines which have a tendency to limit your movement while you focus on weight. These are more practical than using machines and translate more into real life challenges like climbing things to follow my little one :-) Colin - fit2thrive.co.uk
  • I've been going to the gym for a while now but I've never done much to improve my strength even though I've always wanted to and this post has been really helpful and motivtional, thank you ! lots of love, Marianne xxx http://myhappybubblexx.blogspot.co.uk/
  • I've never even tried to do one! That's going to change though... I'm going to make myself get into fitness one day! Aleeha xXx
  • I wish I could do either a pull-up or a chin-up. I am working towards it by stregthening my arms and shoulders. I can currently pull-down half of my bodyweight (I hear you have to be able to pull-down your whole bodyweight before you can do a pull-up / chin-up). I never knew there was a difference before... good to know there are different techniques in each. Thanks for sharing.