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Keep your CHIN UP

Steve July 21, 2015

If you asked any trainer or strength coach to list the top 5 exercises that the majority of the population should be doing, pull ups and/or chin ups (or lat pull-downs) will predictably be on most every list.

It’s just universally considered one of the best exercise variations for building muscle and increasing strength in the back and biceps. It’s also a common “test” exercise used to show you’re at a certain level of strength and physical condition.  I of course agree with this completely, which is why every Fitastic workout routine I create will always contain some type of pull up, chin up, or lat pull-down movement; not to mention it’s a required Strength Test movement to Set Up your online program.

Interestingly however, many people don’t seem to realize that pull ups and chin ups are NOT the same thing. They’re similar exercises for sure, but using their names interchangeably is just flat out improper intent.

In fact, there are actually quite a few differences and pros/cons between them, and you’d need to know them to establish which one is best for you.


The first and most obvious difference between a pull up and a chin up is the type of grip being used.

Pull Ups-  A pronated (overhand) grip where your palms point outwards so that they are facing away from you. The most common grip width is just slightly wider than shoulder width.
Chin Ups- A supinated (underhand) grip where your palms point inwards so that they are facing you. The most common grip width is shoulder width.

Bodyweight Pull Up

Bodyweight Pull Up

There are a few other less common variations of these exercises that involve other types of grips, but I think the only other one truly worth mentioning now is the neutral grip.

Neutral Grip = A “semi-supinated” grip where your palms are facing each other.


While both exercises take place in the vertical pulling movement plane, and they both primarily target the back (specifically the lats) and biceps, the way they do it is slightly different.

Pull ups typically use shoulder adduction, where the elbows come down and back from the sides.

Chin ups on the other hand use shoulder extension, where the elbows come down and back from the front (neutral grip fits in this category as well).

The difference isn’t huge and it doesn’t make one exercise better or worse than the other.

It just means that both exercises train the lats in a slightly different way, and if your goal is to build muscle/get stronger (and avoid overuse injuries), it would probably be a good idea to avoid always neglecting one type of movement in favor of the other.


Like ANY weight training exercise, both chin ups and pull ups are perfectly safe… unless you do something incorrectly. There are just so many silly things I’ve seen people do during these exercises (social media covers compilations of “fails”) to cover them all here, so I’ll just simply say to use proper form always.  I offer you strict and proper form technique all through the Fitastic exercise library just for this reason.

Negative Resistance Pull Up

Negative Resistance Pull Up

There are some other general recommendations to keep in mind with these exercises.

For starters, any type of pull up, chin up or lat pull-down done behind the neck is potentially one of the worst things you can do for shoulder health. Some people can do it this way for years without any problem ever, but many people will usually develop problems over time. I don’t recommend it.

People with a pre-existing history of shoulder problems may find that a chin up grip is a little less stressful on their shoulders than a pull up grip. On the other hand, some people may find that a pull up grip is a lot more comfortable for their wrists and forearms than a chin up grip.

And in terms of being the most overall potentially safe and comfortable grip for people with one or both of the above issues… it’s probably the less-often-available neutral grip. But again, that’s just a generality.

A lot of people will never have a problem with any type of grip. And the ones that do will just need to experiment and figure out which one feels best for them.


Whatever movement you choose (even both), it should always be a major part of your overall workout routine, just like it is in all of the personally designed and proven Fitastic workouts.

Every BODY deserves to feel Fitastic!

Coach Steve

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