Chin Ups vs. Pull Ups


Authored by Andy Chasse’ in Exercise
Published on 09-06-2009

In order to develop total body strength, it is necessary to target all of the crucial areas of the body, right? Unfortunately, many people neglect to do this and often end up with a load of dangerous imbalances and injuries. These people usually look awkward and perform awkwardly. While uneven proportions are entirely fine from an aesthetic standpoint, they aren’t so great when you flip into a performance view. One of the biggest and most avoided areas of the body is the upper back.

Why would people leave out exercises for one of the most important parts of the body? They just don’t know any better. Most people look to the front of the body first and foremost. The chest, biceps, abdominals, and quadriceps receive the most attention. On the back side, the thoracic region of the back, the lumbar region of the back, the triceps, the glutes, and the hamstrings are considered the leftovers. Although a number of gym goers do include exercises for these areas, their primary focus is on the front side of the body. That mentality may work for a while, but not in the long run.

Wait, so why are we talking about the upper back? We’re going to take a look at one of the big debates in the fitness industry – chin ups vs. pull ups. The upper back comes into the picture because it encompasses a few of the muscle groups targeted in both chin ups and pull ups. These muscle groups include the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids. In addition to these areas of the upper back, chin ups and pull ups also recruit the biceps and forearm muscles.

As far as the chin ups vs. pull ups debate is concerned, they are both winners. As with most of the other debates flying around in the exercise world, both options should be included in your workout program. There are a few slight differences between chin ups and pull ups, however. Although very basic, the minor variations between these exercises can definitely make an impact on your training.

  • Chin Ups. Chin ups are performed with an supinated grip. This is also known as an underhand grip. The placement of your hands during chin ups puts a little more stress on the biceps and a little less stress on the upper back. Because chin ups are the most commonly known of the two, they are often easier to perform.
  • Pull Ups. Pull ups required a pronated grip. You may be more familiar with the term overhand grip. This overhand grip calls for more recruitment of the upper back and less from the biceps. The grip used during pull ups is less often utilized than the underhand chin up grip. Because of this, pull ups are generally considered the tougher movement.

As seen above, chin ups and pull ups are the complete opposites of each other. However, they should both be included in a sound workout program. You may either switch the exercises between individual workouts or rotate them every three to four weeks.


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