The chin up is a classic bodyweight exercise for the back and biceps. While similar to the pull up, the different grip (palms in vs. palms out) places a greater emphasis on your biceps and makes it a worthy addition to your workout routine.

Chin Up

Notice the supinated (palms in) grip of the chin up

How to do chin ups

  1. Hang from the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing in towards you (a supinated grip).
  2. Pull up until your chin clears the top of the bar. If you can, try to touch your chest to the bar. Keep your body straight and avoid swinging or kicking your legs as you lift yourself.
  3. Lower yourself down until your arms are fully extended, pausing at the bottom for an instant before starting the next repetition.

Chin up video

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Muscles used in the chin up

While your back muscles (traps and lats) will lift the bulk of your weight, the supinated grip of the chin up engages your bicep muscles more so than with a traditional pull up. By keeping your body straight, you also use your core muscles to aid in stabilizing your lower body.

Substitutions for chin ups

If you have trouble with full bodyweight chin ups, there are several other exercises you can do to help you improve. These methods are the same as the pull up substitutions except these use the supinated (palms in) grip.

Negatives: Get into the “up” position by jumping or using a chair. Hold yourself up with your chin above the bar for as long as you can before slowly lowering yourself down.

Chair Assisted: Push off of a chair to help get above the bar. The further out in front you place the chair, the more difficult the exercise becomes.

Partner Assisted: Have a buddy give you a slight boost up as you pull. Your partner can either push lightly on your lower back, or offer a foothold that you can use to boost yourself.

Body Rows: Hang down from a bar that is waist-high with your feet on the ground, extended out. Pull up and try to touch your chest to the bar.

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