Pull ups and chin ups are two of the most effective ways of building upper body strength. These strength training exercises use bodyweight and, therefore, can be accomplished wherever you have a bar or similar object to use.
They also incorporate numerous upper body muscles so your major muscle groups receive benefits as well as the surrounding stabilizer muscles. Chin ups benefit the biceps more while pull ups target mainly the back and are more difficult to perform.
Benefits of Pull Ups and Chin Ups
There are various important benefits associated with pull ups and chin ups which make them good bodyweight exercises to include in your overall workout routine. First of all, these exercises build muscles in the back, arms and shoulders due to the stress of lifting the weight of your own body.
Pull ups and chin ups are excellent workouts to balance out other exercises, such as bench presses, barbell rows, etc, and ensure good shoulder health. Strengthening the upper body through these methods also carries over to opposite muscle development like the bench press and overhead press, allowing you to become stronger in these areas.
Another valuable benefit to doing regular chin up and pull up routines is that you will acquire much stronger grip strength. A strong grip is often a determining factor in such activities as powerlifting, grappling and certain other sports like rock climbing.
What You Need to Get Started
Pull ups and chin ups are quite versatile and can be accomplished as long as you have a sturdy, graspable object that is higher than your head and horizontal to the ground. Of course, the object should be able to safely hold your bodyweight.
The most common gym items are either a power rack or pull up bar. However, it is strongly advisable NOT to use Assisted Machines. Doing so will develop weaker stabilizer muscles due to their lack of use from self-balancing, and these machines will keep you from working to your full potential because mentally you will know you are being assisted.
If you’re doing workouts at home then you can install a pull up bar or use a portable doorway pull up bar which conveniently works in most any standard door (which is also good if you’re traveling).
Even if you’re away from home on vacation or a business trip and don’t have access to a gym, you can still stay on track with your chin up and pull up routine. Many parks, beaches and other public areas have workout stations or play grounds for children. These will usually contain pull up stations or monkey bars which these bodyweight exercises can be performed from. If it happens that you can’t locate these items, a sturdy tree limb can also be utilized.
Proper Chin Up and Pull Up Technique
Proper pull up and chin up technique is vital in order to get the most from your bodyweight workouts. The only difference between the two variations is that with chin ups you will grip the bar with your palms facing you and with arms less than shoulder width apart (elbows pointed to the sides), and pull ups are performed with palms facing away and with a grip that is shoulder width or more apart (elbows pointing directly ahead).
Grip the bar for performing either the pull up or chin up as described above and hang with arms straight.
Hold your shoulders down and back throughout both the chin up and pull up exercises.
Bend your legs slightly and cross your feet. This will help to ensure that you use only your upper body to lift your weight. Also, squeezing your glutes as you lift with work out these muscles as well.
Inhale at the bottom and exhale at the top.
Reaching the Bar
Once you reach eye-level to the bar, release and repeat. If you can pull your chin over the bar, that’s fine. However, eye-level is sufficient to gain maximum benefit from each exercise.
Pull Up and Chin Up Tips for Beginners
If you’re just getting started with a bodyweight program then you may find pull ups and chin ups extremely difficult, especially pull ups. Therefore, you may need to implement some special assisted techniques until you build adequate strength to pull yourself up on your own.
However, you should always attempt to do both pull ups and chin ups without assistance as much as possible. If you require some assistance at the beginning, be sure to stop using it as soon as you develop enough strength to perform the exercises alone.
If you’re having trouble completing any full chin ups or pull ups on your own, try one of these assisted methods:
Start with chin ups as they are easier to perform than pull ups. This is due to the fact that you are using mostly biceps for chin ups whereas pull ups utilize more back strength. Usually, your biceps are more developed than your back muscles.
Ask a workout buddy or trainer for assistance to get you through your sets. They can help lift you up and stabilize your movements so your muscles don’t have to work out as much.
Use Kipping Pull Ups
In order to complete some pull ups, you may need to use the Kipping method which utilizes a swinging motion to give you some momentum as you pull yourself up. However, do not get into a habit of using this method as swinging will not allow for a full and correct workout of your muscles.
Tie each end of a resistance band around the bar and place one knee in the loop. The fitness tube will provide a bounce-back effect to help you get up and over the bar.
Advanced Chin Up and Pull Up Tips
For those who are already pumped from weightlifting and bodybuilding and need more resistance than mere bodyweight, here are some tips for you.
You can hold dumbbells between your legs to increase the amount of weight you are pulling. This is a good method in one sense because you know exactly how much extra weight you are pulling. However, it can be difficult getting used to holding the dumbbells between your legs for an extended period of time and while concentrating on the pull up/chin up.
This is a good method for adding more weight to your pull up and chin up exercises because large chains can be wrapped around your body leaving you to concentrate fully on the pull up/chin up. However, you won’t know how much extra weight you are pulling unless you pre-weigh the chains.
You can modify a weight belt by looping it with chains which weight plates can be attached to. This is a good method for keeping track of the additional weight, but can be annoying to have the weights slapping you as you exercise.