What are Chin-Ups?

Chin-ups are bodyweight pulls where you are hanging from a bar with your feet off the ground using a supinated grip. You would simply pull yourself up towards the bar until your chin is over it and then gradually lower yourself back down. Chin-ups are great for building bigger and stronger back and bicep muscles as well as your grip strength.

What Muscles Are Worked by Chin-Ups?

The primary muscles are the biceps and latissimus dorsi. The secondary muscles worked are the pectoralis major, rear deltoids, traps, teres major, abdominals, obliques, and forearms.

What Level is Chin-Ups?

Chin-Ups is an intermediate to advanced level exercise as you are forced to lift your entire body weight using nothing but your upper body muscles. If you weigh 150lbs, you are lifting 150lbs, and likewise for 200lbs. Beginners should not be discouraged as training will be worth every effort you put in.

How Do You Do Chin-Ups?

  1. Hang On The Bar

Grab the bar at approximately shoulder-width apart, with palms facing towards you in a supinated/underhand grip. Your thumbs should wrap under and around the bar. Your arms are fully extended, and your feet are together. This is your starting position.

2.Engage Your Core

Squeeze your core by drawing your belly button towards your spine. This will help you to activate your core and give you more control over your body.

3.Pull Up

Exhale as you pull yourself up, by bending your elbow joints, pulling your arms down, and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Pull up until your chin is above the bar, keep your core tight the entire time. You will mainly feel the engagement in your biceps and lats.

 

You can also play around with different grip variations such as close grip, and wide grip. It will isolate different muscle groups. A narrow grip will target your biceps. A shoulder-width grip will target your middle back, and a wide grip with target your lats.

4.Lower Down

Inhale through your nose as you slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. Lock both of your arms out fully before repeating the next rep to ensure a full range of motion.

5.Repeat

Repeat for a desired number of repetitions (see the recommended reps and set range below).

Chin-Ups Workout

Beginners should aim for:

  • 3-5 reps
  • 4 sets
  • 3 times a week

An intermediate level should aim for:

  • 6-15 reps
  • 4 sets
  • 3 times a week

An advanced level should aim for:

  • 16+ reps
  • 5 sets
  • 3 times a week

How to Get Better at Chin-Ups?

Isometric Chin-Ups

Practicing Isometric Chin-Ups is one of the best ways to learn to recruit the muscles used in your chin-ups. Focus on retracting your scapulars by bringing your shoulder blades together as if you are going to crush an apple between them. To perform this, you will grip the bar tightly using a supinated grip, followed by jumping so that your chin is above the bar.  Hold this position for 5-20 seconds for 4 sets.



Negative Chin-Ups

This exercise is for beginners to build up strength for the multiple muscles group that is used in chin-ups. By slowing down the chin up in the negative phase, or also known as the eccentric phase, you will hold your body weight for longer, putting more time under tension on your primary muscles such as biceps and lats. To do this you will use an elevated surface to support you in getting your chin above the bar. You can also jump to get in that position. Then gradually lower yourself down, counting 3 seconds as you do so, and fully extend your arms before performing the next rep. Aim to do this for 3-5 reps for 4 sets.

What are the Benefits of Chin-Ups?

Crushing Grip Strength

The ability to pull one's own weight will increase the strength of the upper body, especially your forearms. This will build serious grip strength which can be handy when it comes to opening tight jars or lifting up heavy boxes. Moreover, you will see improved performance in other fitness areas, such as deadlifts, climbing, and rackets sports such as tennis.

Upper Body Hypertrophy

The number of muscles recruited during this movement will assist you in developing biceps, lats, and your overall upper body muscles. When muscles are hit with enough stress, they will grow bigger and stronger, giving you mighty strength and an excellent physique.

Many Variations

Chin-ups have beginner-friendly options as well as intermediate to advanced level options that you can go for. For example, beginners can progress towards getting their first chin-up using negative chin-ups or isometric chin-ups. Intermediate to advance level can try different variations to suit their fitness goals. Therefore, this exercise is a great choice to pursue, regardless of what your current fitness level is at!

Chin-Ups Variations

Weighted Chin-Ups

Weighted Chin-Ups is a definitely fantastic way to build upper-body strength and develop muscle in your lats, back, and biceps. You must be comfortable with doing at least 8 bodyweight chin-ups before moving on to this variation. The movement is exactly the same as bodyweight chin-ups. You will require a weight belt, or you can place a dumbbell in between your feet. To perform this exercise, start with a lighter weight and gradually build your way up. Aim to perform this for 4-8 reps for 4 sets.

Commando Chin Ups

Similar to chin-ups, commando pull-up recruits more biceps and chest than pull-ups. The key difference is that the commando pull-up requires you to engage your core to keep your body in the right position, as you would have to deviate your body from one side of the bar to the other. To perform this, you will position yourself sideways to the pul-lup bar and grab it with one hand just in front of the other. Then, you will pull yourself up so your chin clears the bar to one side, lower back down, and then ensure your chin clears the opposite side of the bar. Aim to perform this for 5-12 reps for 4 sets.

Wide Grip Chin Ups

The wider your grip is, the more isolation on the lats muscles would be. This variation will help you build a bigger back. A wider grip makes it harder to involve your pectorals muscles and changes the leverage, which makes it harder for you to bring your shoulder blades together and down. To perform this, you would grip the bar around 5 inches wider than shoulder-width or above and perform the same steps as demonstrated with bodyweight chin-ups. Aim to perform this for 5-12 reps for 4 sets.

Chin-Ups vs Pull-Ups

Chin-ups are easier to perform because of the supinated/underhand grip that puts a more active role on the biceps. For this reason, chin-ups are better for building arm definition and to really make the biceps pop. Therefore, they’re best for biceps and lats development. 

Pull-ups are harder to perform because of the pronated grip which limits the biceps activity and isolates the lats. They’re best for achieving the reformed V-shaped, and a strong upper back. Thus, pull-ups are great for lats and traps development.

Beginners are recommended to get started with chin-ups until they are comfortable with doing 5 reps. After, they should move onto pull-ups, as it has more carryover benefits on targeting lats to a greater extent which can be used for advanced level skills such as muscle-ups and front lever.

About the Author

My name is Pat Chadwick, I am a calisthenics coach with over 4 years of experience in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their calisthenics goals. My goal is to become the number one calisthenics coach in the world as it is my passion to help people change their lives through inspiring bodyweight movements. I believe everyone deserves the right to feel good about their health, body, and be delighted inside and out.