young man doing a chin up on a mirafit power cage

 

When it comes to kitting out your home gym, one of the simplest and most effective pieces of equipment you can get is the pull up bar.

They take up zero floor space, they're solid and great for layering up some real muscle mass on your upper body.

The terms chin up and pull up often get used interchangeably but they’re actually quite different. A chin up is a type of pull up – one of many in fact.

And as you train more, you'll find yourself starting to really think about what muscles you're engaging, so you can develop more and avoid injury.

This means approaching a pull up bar – or any piece of gym equipment – is about much more than just moving from A to B.

Grip, posture and trajectory all play a part. And as you become more invested in your progression, you'll want to pay attention to these nuances.

What are chin ups good for?

We've spoken before about getting in the ultimate pull up bar workout, which talks about just a few of the pull up variations you can do. So already you can see how each one allows you to subtly imbalance your weight so you can target different muscle groups.

Pull ups are predominantly about engaging your back – a notoriously difficult area to really build muscle. But as you do more and more on the pull up bar, you'll see you can engage a lot more. And the more muscles you engage at once, the more chance you have of stimulating the production of muscle building hormones through compound exercises.

A traditional pull up is what you want to aim for when it comes to providing a strong base for your upper body workouts. However, many people start off with chin ups – why?

young man using good posture while doing a chin up on a mirafit power cage

 

  • Muscle groups - Chin ups work your biceps more which is typically, a stronger area for most men when they start working out. Even though the back has a larger surface area, it's made up of lots of smaller muscles which all fulfil different functions. So when your aim is to lift yourself up to the bar, it's often easier to simply employ your biceps to get you there.
  • Height – chin ups are exactly that – taking your chin up to the bar. Pull ups involve going higher. And depending on the type you're doing, you can go from taking your collar bone to your chest to your waist to the bar. So, much more power and strength are involved.
  • Posture – chin ups allow you to keep a straight body while you lift. Other pull ups might be more demanding on your core and lower back. By isolating your key muscles, chin ups allow you to break down the movement into its core functionality.
  • Control – chin ups don't require as much explosivity as some of the other pull up variants. And by being more controlled, you can use your energy to lift rather than expend it all on speed.
  • Grip – chin ups can be done with a variety of grips but will often be done with an underhand, closed grip. This gives you a more secure hold and is more comfortable on your wrists. Like the neutral grip pull up, chin ups can be done with a narrower grip with your shoulders positioned closer to your body. This allows anyone with rotator cuff issues in their shoulders to lift more comfortably. A wide grip is much more likely to aggravate any underlying issues.

young man doing a chin up with bent arms on a mirafit power cage

 

How to do a chin up

Chin ups may be different from pull ups, but there are a few key points that will always remain the same:

  • Start in a dead hang with a narrow, underhand closed grip.
  • Make sure you're not jumping straight up into a dead hang, as this will hurt your shoulders. When starting out, carefully lower your weight onto the bar using a weight bench or a stepper.
  • Once in a dead hang position, lower your shoulders so that you're in active hang.
  • Do a full body check and ensure your spine is straight and that you're not straining your neck.
  • Lift your body weight in a controlled manner until your chin meets the same level as the bar.
  • Be careful to control your movement back down into active hang and then finally dead hang. The negative chin up is just as important as lifting your weight, because you're training your body to resist gravity. Again use slow, controlled movements here so as not to strain your joints.
  • Maintain a good form and get a personal trainer or experienced friend to spot you as you work out, to ensure you get your technique right.
  • As soon as your form starts to break, stop. There's too much at risk if you try and train to failure. A good number of chin ups or pull ups is 10. Aiming for anything higher takes a lot of strength, stamina and training so don't strain yourself early on.

young man hanging in achin up position on a mirafit power cage

Getting started

If doing a full chin up is too much of a strain, don't worry. There are lots of ways you can build up to the pull up bar. Taking your full body weight on straight is a big step. Work your way up and don't be afraid to target your weak points to ensure a smooth, fluid movement to and from the bar.

So forget about being able to complete full chin or pull ups in the beginning. Work each section and ensure a good technique to give yourself a firm grounding on which to progress.

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