pull ups vs chin ups

Pound for pound, pull ups and chin ups are the best when it comes to back exercises. However pulling your own bodyweight requires a lot of strength, so what can be done in order to obtain this ability? And furthermore, which technique works best?

For those that are not yet strong enough to do pull, or chin ups, it is best to start with pull downs, using a lat pull down machine. It works just like a pull/chin up, except you are pulling the weight towards you instead of pulling your bodyweight up. Be sure to increase the resistance in increments over time as you get stronger.

Furthermore let’s talk about the differences between each movement and their benefits.

Difference in Grip

In order to do pull ups you will need to take a wide grip, outside of shoulder width, with your hands in a pronated (palms forward) position. Chin ups should be shoulder width, or closer, with hand supinated (palms up).

Difference in Movement

Pulls require adduction of the arm, as it comes from a raised position down to your sides, whereas chins require flexion of the arm, bringing it down and back under the shoulder.

Different Muscles

Both exercises work lats, biceps and rear deltoids, but differ in the level of involvement for each. Because of the wider grip and pronated grip your biceps will be less involved with pull ups. Pulling with a wider grip will mostly engage upper lats since your hands are outside of shoulder width. On the other hand, you can use chip ups to involve biceps and lower lats more.


You will find that you are able to perform chin ups before you are strong enough to do pull ups and this is due to the added involvement of the biceps and rear deltoids. Typically, pulls will add more width to your latissimus muscles while chins will increase the density. If you are looking to build a solid back all-around then a variation of both exercises is the way to go!

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