When it comes to bodyweight exercises, chin ups are one of the most challenging and easily disliked workouts. However, if you want to build a monstrous back and a massive set of arms, you cannot miss out on the strength and muscle hypertrophy stimulus this exhausting exercise brings. So, to make sure that you’re doing it in good form, check out this ultimate guide!

When done in a balanced push and pull training routine or by itself, the chin-ups can give your back and upper body size, strength, and functionality. So, whether you’re a newbie fitness enthusiast, an experienced bodybuilder, or an athlete, this compound exercise is a must in your strength training program.

This Ultimate Guide Will Cover:

  • How to Do A Chin-Ups
  • Chin-Ups Benefits
  • Common Chin-Ups Mistakes to Avoid
  • Chin-Ups Muscles Worked
  • Chin-Ups vs Pull-Ups
  • Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs
  • Chin-Up Variations
  • Chin-Up Alternatives
  • FAQs About Chin-Ups

How to Do A Chin Ups Correctly

What You’ll Need:

When executing chin-ups, all you need is a stationary horizontal Pull-Up Bar or a chin-up bar. However, other variations of this exercise may require you the following equipment:

  • Dumbbells
  • Specialized bar
  • Gymnastic Rings

Step 1: Secure Your Grip

At the starting position, Begin by assuming a supinated (underhand) grip on the bar and position your hands about shoulder-width apart. The grip itself is one of the defining factors of chin-ups. Ensure that you’re hanging freely at the bottom, and you should be able to place your head between your biceps as your elbows full extend. 

Step 2: Prepare Your Core

Tuck your pelvis so it’s in a slightly posterior position. Tighten your core as if you’re doing a plank. Then, take a deep breath, inflating your abdomen. By doing this, you’ll be able to provide a more stable structure for your shoulder and back muscles to contract against.

Step 3: Execute the Pull

Once your body is set and stable, pull yourself upwards from the bar you’re hanging from by contracting your biceps and back. Imagine pulling the bar towards your chest so your elbows will dive into your back pockets. 

Step 4: Stabilize and Go Down

After pulling yourself up enough that your chin is almost the same height as the bar, pause momentarily if you can and slowly lower yourself down under control. Make sure that you’re keeping your back and biceps engaged throughout the movement. Also, always secure your core before proceeding to the next rep.

4 Chin-Ups Benefits

1. Build Upper-Body Strength

The ability to pull yourself up to the bar can increase your arm and back size, enhance grip strength, and improve your overall performance. These can be key to building your endurance or hiking up pulling abilities for more strenuous workouts like deadlifts, strongman exercises, and CrossFit workouts.

2. Produce Enormous Biceps and Forearms

Unlike pull-ups, chin-up puts a higher amount of load on your biceps because of the supinated grip on the bar. Therefore, your biceps must work excessively to help lift yourself towards the bar.

3. Improve Control Over Body Weight

Chin-ups can help you have better control over your body in a wide array of movement patterns. Because of this, you can become more agile, athletic, and balanced. With this auxiliary strength development, you’ll be able to comfortably perform presses, carries, snatches, and deadlifts.

4. Enhance Grip Strength

This exercise can activate your brachioradialis muscles in your forearms, which boosts grip strength. When you improve your grip strength, you can use chin-ups as a warm-up exercise for different compound workouts like parallel bar push-ups, barbell curls, or lat pulldowns.

Common Chin-Up Mistakes to Avoid

Not doing a full range of motion

To make sure that you can make the most out of this exercise and activate all the necessary muscles, you need to extend your arms completely when you go down before pulling yourself up again. It’s better to do a few full chin-ups than many half reps.

Not activating your shoulders from the beginning

It’s essential to engage your shoulder blades right from the start of the movement. If you activate them late, you will be pulling yourself up using your other body parts (tendons, joints, etc.) that are not equipped for that type of loading. Using your shoulders and scapular throughout the exercise can give you the best results.

Pushing yourself in doing harder variations

Don’t do difficult variations right on the bat. Do it step by step and begin with the easier ones before progressing to the more challenging modifications. Some of the light versions include using an assisted pull-up machine, underhand grip or bands.

Chin is not passing the bar

This mistake correlates to not finishing the full range of motion. Start with your arms fully extended and ensure that you’re pulling yourself up until your chin passes the bar. If you find yourself struggling to get your chin up the bar without stretching your neck out, use a band to improve your technique.

Using too much momentum and moving too fast

If you are moving too quickly, you’re depending on momentum instead of using your muscles. To be able to get your muscles completely activated, ensure that you’re slowing the movement and keeping it in control. Focus on doing the strict pull-up before trying to vary the tempo.

Chin-ups Muscles Worked

Chin-ups are an upper body exercise that targets different muscles groups which include:

  • Biceps brachii
  • Brachialis 
  • Brachioradialis 
  • Latissimus Dorsi 
  • Teres Major 
  • Posterior Deltoid 
  • Transverse Abdominis
  • Lumbar Multifidus
  • Thoracolumbar Fascia

If you want to work your upper body muscles, chin-ups are one of the most effective exercises that can produce results. The primary muscles groups that it targets are your biceps, lats, and forearms. However, that’s not all the muscle fibers this workout engages. Although they are not as actively targeted, chin-ups also cover your deep spinal stabilizers and pectorals.

Chin-ups vs Pull-Ups

The movement pattern of chin-ups and Pull-Ups are almost the same. However, if you look at each closely, you’ll see that the main difference between the two is the hand position. Chin-ups are done with your hands in a supinated grip (palms facing the face) to recruit more lats and biceps compared to pull-ups that use a pronated grip (palms facing away).

Our Trainer’s Suggested Reps, Sets, and Programs

To Increase Muscle Mass

You can use chin-ups to build upper-body mass in your arms, forearms, and back muscles. However, if you’re having problems executing this movement with proper form for many repetitions, use a band for assisted leverage or do a more manageable alternative that can still allow you to stimulate muscle growth in the areas you want.

We recommend doing four to six sets of six to twelve repetitions, with sixty to ninety seconds of rest in between.

To Enhance Upper-Body Strength

If you want to improve the general strength of your body, the best practice is to do lower repetition ranges for more total sets. You can program plan these similarly to other strength-building progressions, but ensure that you have a good foundation of technique. We recommend doing four to six sets of two to five reps with two to three minutes of rest in between.

To Build Endurance

To step up your endurance, executing higher repetition ranges and shorter resting periods is what you need to do. Here, we suggest performing two to three sets of twelve or more repetitions, resting when necessary, and aiming to increase the total reps over time.

Chin-Up Variations

Although chin-ups are a great exercise, they can get dull when you’re doing it every day. Also, it can stall your progress since your muscles are getting used to the engagement. So, to keep your workout routine interesting, progressive, and fresh, you can try these chin-up variations! 

Eccentric Chin-Ups

This exercise is ideal if you’re someone who lacks the overall muscle mass and strength to execute a full chin-up. By simply doing the lower phase of eccentric chin-ups with a slower tempo, either with added resistance or just body weight can help you get accustomed to the action. After doing several strict negatives, you might actually execute your first full chin-up!

Weighted Chin-Ups

With this variation, you’re simply performing a regular chin-up while having a Weight Belt on, wearing a weighted vest, or just squeezing a dumbbell between your legs. As you can surmise, the weighted chin-up is more complex than a traditional chin-up. However, this exercise’s size and strength benefit is just as potent.

Gymnastic-Ring Chin-Ups

Since your using gymnastic rings, you can freely rotate your grip, making it easier on your elbows as you do chin-ups. Aside from that, this variation is also excellent for muscle activation and an option that you should not leave out.

Angled-Grip Chin-Ups

When you execute chin-up in an angled grip, you settle in the middle ground between an underhand and neutral grip. You’ll feel stronger doing this variation, and it’s good for bulking up your biceps. Aside from that, it’s relatively easy on your shoulders, so you won’t feel any discomfort. 

Chin-Up “21’s”

Like the bicep curl, the chin-up curls 21’s are an advanced repetition program that you can do to build muscle hypertrophy and strength. Just do seven partial chin-ups at the bottom to halfway, seven partial chin-ups at halfway to the top, and seven full-range chin-ups. After doing this, you’ll feel a serious amount of fatigue in your arms and back!

Chin-Up Alternatives

Underhand Row

Similar to chin-ups, Underhand Barbell Row can increase hypertrophy and bicep strength. With that being said, many find that they can use more load with this exercise, increasing growth potential in the biceps and increasing muscle stimulation. If you want to avoid calisthenics, this alternative can fill in the gap provided by chin-ups.


Pull-Ups are common bodyweight hypertrophy and strength exercise executed in many power, strength, and functional workout programs. Although it’s pretty similar to chin-ups, this alternative targets more of your back muscles mainly and puts less emphasis on your biceps. This workout will give you better results if you want to focus on your back.

Underhand Pulldown

You can mirror the movement pattern of chin-ups by doing a standard pulldown with an underhand grip on a cable station. As a matter of fact, the upper body mechanics of chin-ups and cable pulldowns are identical. This alternative is a great substitute if you’re not particular about building your core stability and endurance but want to bulk up your biceps, lats, and traps.

T-Bar Row

This alternative is an old-school favorite and a staple back training of many lifters, including bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger. To perform T-bar rows, you’ll need a t-bar row machine, or you can wedge one of the barbell’s ends into a corner and stand astride it. This workout targets your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes.

Renegade Row

Most people, including fitness trainers, would think that chin-ups and pull-ups are the most functional workouts that you can do. Although they are, you cannot dismiss how useful renegade rows are ass well! This exercise is a tricky full-body workout that activates your core, lats, legs, and shoulder. Make sure to go light first since it’s very challenging.

Frequently Asked Questions

The main muscle groups that chin-ups target are your biceps, lats, and forearms. However, although they are not as actively engaged, this exercise also activates your deep spinal stabilizers and pectorals. With this, you enhance your upper arm’s strength and definition. 

You can do chin-ups every day because bodyweight and calisthenic exercises are one of the best types of training you can perform on a daily basis. However, you still need to be careful of the total volume to prevent overtraining or possibly having an injury. Do it in moderation, and you can achieve your fitness goals without compromising your health!

It’s hard to say which is better than which since pull-up and chin-up engage different muscle groups and benefits. Chin-ups target the muscles on your front body, giving you a pumped chest and biceps. On the other hand, pull-ups activate your back and shoulder muscles. Because of this, you really cannot say if one is better than the other.

Many lifters and you as well may find chin-ups easier than pull-ups. The reason behind this is chin-ups place your biceps in a more active role, whereas pull-ups remove much of your biceps engagement. Since you isolate your lats, pulling yourself up becomes more difficult.

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