Chin-ups Vs Pull-ups: A Definitive Guide
The terms chin-ups and pull-ups are often confused, although they are different movements that test different muscle groups. It’s an easy mistake to make, but as we head into the new year, we’ve produced this article to help you understand the differences.
What is a Pull-up?
A pull-up is a movement that requires you to pull yourself up from a hanging position, towards the bar. It’s quite a difficult exercise to master & to start with you may be better off using an assisted pull-up machine. We’ve been using this Exercise Database recently, to help us find alternative ways to perform workouts.
The aim of a pull-up is to get your chin just above the bar you’re hanging on. It sounds quite easy, but in reality is a difficult exercise to master. You should use an overhand grip, with palms facing away from you.
Once you’ve mastered the pull-up, you’ll be on a fast-track to building strong back muscles. The Major Muscles worked on in a pull-up are:
- Latissimus Dorsi – The largest upper back muscle, running from the middle of your back, under your armpits, and around your shoulder blade
- Trapezius – Also referred to as ‘traps’, they extend from your neck to your shoulders.
Common Mistakes While Performing Pull-ups
It’s quite difficult to perform the perfect pull up. It requires great balance, grip strength & muscle endurance. Sometimes, we see people performing half pull-ups, either not pulling their body up high enough, or not dropping down low enough. Remember, it’s difficult, but you need to work hard for those gains! Further, you don’t want to waste time in the gym, so make sure you give it your all, or get home and rest until you’re ready for your next workout.
Another common issue is that people sometimes bring their ego to the pull-up bar. Instead of using an assisted machine or Plyo Box, they struggle on without assistance, doing a few pull-ups with poor form. Long term, this won’t deliver any progression, and it never hurts to start with an assisted machine to help you get going.
What is a Chin-up?
A Chin Up is almost the same as a pull-up, but there are a few differences. Your palms should be facing towards you, in an underhand grip. This brings about a narrower stance, which also activates your Biceps a little more intensely than a pull-up does.
The muscles worked in a chin-up are:
- Biceps Brachii – The main muscle in the bicep
- Latissimus Dorsi – Often referred to as ‘Lats’. Work this muscle if you want to achieve the ultimate V-taper look.
Benefits of Chin-ups
Without a doubt, the primary benefit of performing a chin-up is that you will gain strength pretty quickly. You will also notice that your Biceps start to become well defined, as they’re heavily used. If you’re able to perform unassisted chin-ups, you will also notice that your grip strength will increase fast.
Common Mistakes While Performing Chin-ups
There are quite a few common mistakes that can be seen during the workout. For example, if you only go halfway down after your chin up, that’s not a full rep. Also, when starting, people tend to jump up towards the bar, which reduces resistance and makes it so much easier. Although the easier option may be beneficial when you’re tired, it’s guaranteed to stop you from progressing. In addition to not making the gains you deserve, you’re also risking injury by jumping to the bar, as you’re relying on catching the bar. What happens if you miss the bar?
If you need a ‘tip’ to make this a little bit easier, we advise that you should cross your feet together and squeeze, which helps you to remain in the correct posture, without giving you an urge to swing your legs for momentum. Yes, this will make it harder, but one correct rep is more beneficial than 4 poorly executed ones.
Start Your Pull-Up Journey Below
Pull-ups are a great exercise and you don’t even need to be in a gym to show off your skills. If you can’t do a pull-up just yet, we’ve created a little mini-guide to help you get started with performing a pull-up.
For a whole week, practice your ‘dead hangs’. This might not seem effective at first, but you’ll find out after around 30 seconds that it hits you like a ton of bricks!
Aim for 30 seconds on your first dead hang, increasing it by 5 seconds every day. You might hit failure, but the aim here is to be able to dead hang for around 45 seconds.
When you’re training ‘back day’, ensure you pay particular attention to your Lats. We need Lat Pulldowns until you reach physical failure. After this, blast out what’s left of your energy on the Seated Row.
You should also be practicing your pull-ups by using an assisted machine. With these, you can make it harder or easier, using the pin selectors. Start with the resistance low enough so that you can easily perform 12-15 reps. Next, slowly increase the resistance over the next few weeks, until you’re close to your bodyweight.
At this point, your strength will be considerable & you’ll be able to give one unassisted pull-up a shot. Although you haven’t done one yet, you have worked hard up to this point, and your motivation should give you one last push to get it completed.
So, did you manage the pull-up? If the answer is no, get back to work on the above! If you did manage the pull-up, the hard work continues. You could even return to the assisted pull up machine, increasing the resistance to replicate a bodyweight pull up.
You won’t be able to perform 15 reps instantly, but you will be able to add 1 or 2 extra reps per week. It’s a long game, but the results will pay dividends.