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Chin Ups vs Pull Ups: Clash of the Titans

Chin ups and pull ups are two exercises that are the most commonly executed exercises in the world of fitness and these two exercises clash the most as well. There is one big question surrounding them both at all times “which one builds more muscles and what is the difference?

While it is important to know the basic difference between them, it is also important to understand the muscles they work and why you should do them, if you want to add them to your workout routine. So let's dive into the clash of the titans: chin up vs pull up

What Is a Chin Up?

The chin-up is an exercise in strength training done by individuals who intend to strengthen muscles like the biceps and lats that flex the elbow and extend the shoulder. In a chin up, the palms are always facing the person doing the exercise.

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Chin Ups Muscles Worked

Chin-ups target arm and upper back muscles, particularly the lats (latissimus dorsi), biceps, shoulders, and forearms. They are similar to pull ups in the sense that they keep the abdominal muscles engaged throughout the exercise.

However, there is a significant difference in chin ups and pull ups. The chin-up's underhand grip stance triggers the anterior chain muscles. These muscles are present at the front of the body, for instance, the biceps and the pectorals. The pull ups, on the other hand, focus on the muscles of the posterior chain in the back.

diagram explanation of male athelet's muscles worked during chin ups

Chin Up Benefits

Upper Body Functional Strength

The ability to pull your chin up to the bar can increase your back and arm size. Moreover, it also improves performance and develops good grip strength. Other than these perks, chin ups can act as a key movement to enhance endurance, and pulling abilities which come in handy in CrossFit movements, deadlifting, and strongman exercises.

Similar to exercises such as hammer curls, rows, deadlifts and pull ups, chin ups also need to have a spot on the list of the best power, strength, and fitness regimes. The reason being their ability to add muscle and strength to the body that help in an array of skills and movements.

Master Your Bodyweight

The ability to handle your own body weight is vital for most sports. While some athletes may not have to pull themselves up onto a bar, the mass and strength required to do chin ups can effectively translate into stronger forearms, back, and biceps which are crucial when doing presses, heavy cleans, squats, snatches, carries, and deadlifts.

Also Read: 11 Weighted Squats Variations You Need to Add to Your Workout Routine

Compound Movement- Engages Multiple Muscle Groups

You should do chin ups whether your goal is to enhance functional strength or build muscle. The reason is that chin ups are a compound exercise that works for multiple muscle groups, at the same time, to contribute to the movement.

Compound movements like chin ups are better than isolation exercises because they promote muscle growth, stimulate different muscle groups to work together, develop proprioception, balance, and coordination, and proper chin up form increases shoulder joints and core capacity for stability.

Bigger, Stronger Biceps and Forearms

The chin up, exerts a high amount of load on the forearms and biceps owing to the supinated grip positioning. This way, the bicep flexes the elbow joint to create a vertical movement of your chin towards the bar. Because of the high amount of load on the forearms and biceps, either owing to the added weight or the weight of the lifter, the force and muscle requirements often create muscle hypertrophy. This also causes strength gains in the back muscles, biceps, and forearms.

Why You Should Do Chin Ups?

Chin ups are best for you if you are into sculpting big arms, the biceps in particular, and strengthening your lats.

Also Read: How to do bicep curls properly?

What Is a Pull Up?

A pull-up is also a strength exercise that focuses on the upper-body. It is a closed-chain movement in which you suspend your body with your hands and then pull up. During this action, your shoulders adduct and extend, as the elbows flex, to bring the elbows to the torso. In a pull up, the palms face away from the person doing the exercise.

What Muscles Do Pull Ups Work?

Pull-ups primarily work the back muscles, particularly the lats as well as shoulder and chest muscles. In contrast to chin ups, pull ups engage the lower trapezius muscles better. They are located in the back and between the shoulder blades.

Overhand pull ups grips enhance the activation of the posterior chain. The posterior chain muscles are located on the backside of the body. These muscles are significant for everyday movements.

People who can benefit more from pull ups include overhead athletes, for instance, volleyball players and pitches because of the overuse of pectorals and biceps during the sport. So, if you train your posterior chain over the anterior chain, it can help you prevent risks of injury and improve your overall shoulder health in the long run.

diagram shows What Muscles Do Pull Ups Work?

Benefits of Pull Ups

Improve Physical Health

Resistance or strength training with exercises, such as pull ups can also boost your overall physical health. Studies (1) have shown that taking part in strength training on a regular basis can help decrease visceral fat and assist you in managing type 2 diabetes.

In addition, pull ups can also aid in the reduction of resting blood pressure and discomfort and back pain linked to diseases such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. But keep in mind that it is better for you to consult your physician before you start doing strength training exercises because they may not be safe for you and their results can also vary person to person.

Challenge Your Muscles

Pull ups are one of the most challenging strength training exercises. When you challenge your body muscles with difficult exercises you improve your overall fitness level as well. If you have not tried doing pull ups before you should try introducing them to your workout routine as they can improve how strong you look and feel. You can also try underhand pull up and supinated grip pull ups.

Plus, if you keep doing the same set of exercises over and over again, your body will plateau after some time. But if you add in challenging exercises, such as the pull ups, you will observe a significant improvement in your strength.

They Work Out So Much at Once

Another perk of doing pull ups regularly, is that they target multiple muscle groups simultaneously, also known as a compound exercise. They come in handy when you are on a time crunch because every pull up works your core, lats, wrists, shoulders, grip strength, biceps, forearms, and triceps.

Other than that, every time you attempt a pull-up you lift your own body weight. This makes it one of the best bodyweight exercises because of its capability to give you a shredded upper body. So, if you want to target maximum muscles, at the same time, then pull up is definitely the way to go for you.

Improve Mental Health

Strength resistance movements such as pull ups also have positive impacts on mental health. According to a study review (2), there is a positive correlation between strength training and:

  • reducing fatigue
  • decreasing anxiety symptoms
  • reducing depression
  • improving cognitive function
  • and improving self-esteem

So, you can try pull ups to calm your mind as well.

Why You Should Do Pull Ups?

Pull ups are perfect for everyone who wants to achieve the coveted V-shape and build a strong upper back.

Also Read: The 7 Best Back Exercises to Strengthen Back Muscles

So, What Is the Difference?

In a nutshell, pull ups involve your palms being pronated (overhand grip) and they face away from your body. In chin ups, on the contrary, the palms are supinated (underhand grip), and they face towards your body. Besides, pull-ups are usually performed at shoulder width or wide grip whereas chin-ups are performed at narrow grip or shoulder width.

Other than that, there is a third type of grip as well, known as the neutral grip, which involves the palms facing each other, for example during hammer curls. This grip usually demands the use of a special bar with parallel handles.

Chin Up vs Pull Up: Which One Uses More Muscles?

Well, neither because both utilise different muscle groups. Chin ups focus more on the biceps while pull ups focus more on the lats. So, it depends on your expectation from your workout routine.

A certain trainer may suggest you one over the other, and vice versa, but that doesn’t mean the suggested exercise is better. Your trainer will decide which one suits you the best after looking into your workout needs. Mostly, chin ups are recommended before pull ups.

If your workout focuses on lower back or biceps, then pull ups are better for you. However, if your workout is focused on upper back, then chin ups are your best bet.

Final Takeaway

Now, that we have a clear understanding of what chin ups and pull ups are, what do pull ups work, the muscles chin ups work and what is the difference, we can safely say that both are powerful exercises. Both chin up and pull up use the entire body weight. The differences narrow down to the contrasts in the preference and position. So, at the end of the day, both exercises are amazing, at engaging the upper body and core.

References

(1) Westcott, W.L., 2012. Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Current sports medicine reports, 11(4), pp.209-216.

(2) O'Connor, P.J., Herring, M.P. and Caravalho, A., 2010. Mental health benefits of strength training in adults. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), pp.377-396.

Image source: Shutterstock/Makatolga