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Pull-Ups vs Chin-Ups

What's The Difference & Which One Is Better?

Posted by begadsaeed - June 10th, 2015

If you asked any intelligent trainer or strength coach to list the top 5 exercises the majority of the population should be doing, pull-ups and/or chin-ups (or lat pull-downs) will usually be on every list (because not everyone can do a body weight pull movement).


The problem, however, is that many people don’t seem to realize that pull-ups and chin-ups are not the same thing.


Differences In Grip

The first and most obvious difference between a pull-up and a chin-up is the type of grip being used.

  • Pull-Ups = An overhand grip where your palms point outwards so that they are facing away from you. The most common grip width is just slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Chin-Ups = An underhand grip where your palms point inwards so that they are facing you. The most common grip width is shoulder width.

Differences In Movement

Pull-ups typically use shoulder adduction, where the elbows come down and back from the sides.

Chin-ups on the other hand use shoulder extension, where the elbows come down and back from the front (neutral grip fits in this category as well).


Differences In Strength

Chin-ups put the biceps in a stronger line of pull, so most people will usually be stronger at chin ups than they are at pull-ups. Similarly, most beginners to either exercise (or just beginners in general) will usually find that they’re able to do a chin-up before they can do a pull-up.


Differences In Which Muscles Are Trained

Both exercises will primarily train your back / lats and biceps no matter what. There are some slight differences in the degree in which those muscles get trained.


Since chin-ups put your biceps in a stronger line of pull, they’ll typically hit your biceps a bit harder than pull-ups will. Pull-ups may hit your lats a bit harder, mostly as a result of your biceps being in a slightly weaker position.


Grip width also plays a role here too. The narrower your grip is, the more it will train your biceps. The wider the grip, the less it will train your biceps.


For beginners, and also for those who have been training for a long time, you would notice that your arms fail before your back does, that usually draws attention to the fact that you are not using the full extension of the movement, as below picture describes:


Image title


At the starting position you are on a static hang movement. At the end position your chin must get over the bar and your entire back should be flexed with a tight grip.


Which Do I Use, Which Do I Recommend & Which Is Best For You?

Personally, I like performing pull-ups with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip more than any other type of chin-up or lat pull-down variation.

However, this is nothing more than a personal preference. I don’t think this grip will work any better or faster than anything else…I just personally feel strongest and most comfortable with it. Will you? I have no idea.


My Personal PR

My current personal record with this grip with body weight (91 KGS/200LB) was 28 unbroken reps.


Conclusion

Well, putting the true best answer of “do what’s best for you” to the side for a second, I’ve found that the best (and safest) results come from using a mix of different grips.


Of course, if you find that a certain grip feels more or less ideal for you, you should make the obvious decision, and the smart decision of using that grip more often.


Be smart enough not to only work on your strengths though, and hit your weakness too. Make sure you are fluent and strong in all movements, so that you can truly call yourself “FIT”.


Go get things done!


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MEMBER COMMENTS
TimeIsMuscle
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Great article 💪🏻😃 the muscle groups being worked when using certain hand grips is often misconstrued 

begadsaeed  Edit  Delete  Close

thanks bro, we need to remind people with these small details

AnabolicAliens
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Great article, many people do not know this info! Great stuff.

JoeHurricane
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I love both - nowadays I prefer to work mostly on pull ups to make them back gains!!

NilsFearons
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Chin ups are easier but I think thats co I have strong biceps, when I do pull ups I feel it more in my lats!

begadsaeed  Edit  Delete  Close

Truth man, Chin ups mianly  you are using your biceps but when you do a satic hang every rep you activate more of the lats. Pull ups are the same but with higher intensity on lats.

energon19
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28.... And here I was feeling on top of a plateau (not a mountain) after hitting 10 today. Most people in my gym max out at 8.

Great article @begadsaeed

energon19  Edit  Delete  Close

Thanks for the motivation bro! 
I'm not resting until I hit that 25 now :D

begadsaeed  Edit  Delete  Close

ACHYUT, thank man  but actually 28 came after practicing it for almost 2 months preparing for a competition, today i tried i got only 20 :/

I need to get them back again. yet bro, 8 Full ROM is so good man! you can use this video to increase your reps

HMTraining
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Its weird,  I found great benefit from standar pullups, then switched to reverse/supine grip and saw more gains from doing that!

begadsaeed  Edit  Delete  Close

You always need to change the angels bro!

jcgadfly
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Can't do those without assistance to save my life (well, not YET anyeay)

jmboiardi
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I do both styles as training Back is all about variety :-)

AnabolicAliens
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Awesome article! Wide grip pull ups are my favorite in getting those lats nice and wide! 28 is crazy, now I can't rest until I get 29 :p

begadsaeed  Edit  Delete  Close

i wont rest till i get 30 then :P :D

ohawkey
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Dammn, 28 pull ups!

kevinkoprol  Edit  Delete  Close

@scott_herman, yeah I saw that "world record". What a pathetic guy.

ColossusFitness  Edit  Delete  Close

One thing we know is it aint easy to do them after a back workout!