by Jen Neely
Pull-ups & chin-ups challenge you to lift your own body-weight. Could there be a better exercise: I think not! They are by far my favorite exercises to build upper-body strength & muscle mass. If they were easy, everyone would do them so make no mistake, pull-ups & chin-ups are hard. Wicked hard. Still, they are possible for everyone.
If you’re a beginner, chances are you can’t do a pull-up or chin-up. Read up people: this article is going to teach you how to do both with proper technique. I will also include how you can get stronger and more efficient.
What are Pull-ups & Chin-ups? Hang on a pull-up bar with straight arms & pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. The difference between pull-ups & chin-ups is in the grip:
- Pull-ups. Palms facing away. Less biceps, more back. Tougher.
- Chin-ups. Palms facing you. More bicep emphasis. Simpler.
Benefits of Pull-ups & Chin-ups. Simply put to build muscle. Pull-ups & chin-ups force you to deal with and raise your own bodyweight. This creates a good stress on your body while in turn building the muscles of your arms & back and arguably, your whole body.
- Carryover. Get stronger at pull-ups & chin-ups and you’ll get stronger on the opposite movements like push ups and the overhead press.
- Shoulder Health. Balancing press exercises like the bench press with pull exercises like barbell rows & pull-ups helps to prevent muscle imbalances.
- Grappling Strength. Pull-ups & chin-ups help any sport which involves gripping, grappling & pulling like martial arts or rock climbingg
And if you can’t do one rep? Try these tips:
- Ask For Help. Ask someone to grab your side with her hands. Let her help you on the way up by squatting down & pressing up.
- Use Momentum. Jump up & use momentum. Control yourself on the way down.
- Resistance Band. Attach a resistance band to your pull-up bar and loop it around your knee.
Here’s why the alternatives don’t work:
- Not enough core involvement. You don’t have to totally recruit your core muscles on machines. They are a poor substitute.
- Mental Factor. You’re using less strength on the Assisted Pull-up Machine because you know the machine is helping you on the way up.
- Assisted Pull-up Machines & Lat Pull downs. Stay away from both. If you want to get stronger at Pull-ups & Chin-ups, do Pull-ups & Chin-ups. The strength you build on machines doesn’t carry over to what you’re trying to accomplish.
Pull-up & Chin-up Technique. Start each rep from a dead hang with straight elbows. Clear the bar with your chin on every rep.
- Breathe at The Bottom. It’s easier to breathe at the bottom. Take a big breath before pulling yourself up.
- Chest Up. Don’t let your shoulders go forward: it’s unhealthy for your shoulders. Lead with your chest up & keep your shoulders back.
- Look Up. Never look down during Pull-ups & Chin-ups. Look at the bar. Look where you’re pulling yourself up to.
- Elbows to The Floor. Drive with your elbows to the floor. This involves more of your major back musculature.
Jen Neely is a NASM & ACSM certified Personal Trainer, and a nationally certified LMT. She has been working in the fitness industry for 15 years and owns her own Personal Training and Massage Therapy business. She is also an accomplished triathlete and a former collegiate soccer player.