The Chin-ups Vs. Pull-ups Showdown!

Chin-ups and pull-ups are great arm exercises – but do you know the difference?

Chin-ups are performed with your palms facing toward you; the grip is reversed for pull-ups. Chin-ups, which primarily work the bicep, are much easier to perform. Pull-ups are a great forearm exercise, and are generally more difficult. Both exercises build muscles aggressively and aid in grip strength – which is advantageous in any sport that involves grappling and pulling (think rock climbing.)

With either exercise, you’ll need to first grip the bar while hanging. Then, pull your chin up above the bar, hold, and then release back to the starting position. Sound easy? It’s not! If you’re just starting out – you may only be able to perform one or two. If chin-ups or pull-ups are too challenging, try using an assisted pull-up machine which can be found in most commercial gyms.

Here are my best tips for effective chin-ups and pull-ups:

  1. Extend fully. When performing either chin-ups or pull-ups, it’s important that you fully extend your arms in between reps. Otherwise, you’re cutting yourself short.
  2. Ensure that your chin is above the bar. Most people have a tendency to release the movement before the chin is lifted fully above the bar. Complete the movement in its entirety to get the best benefit!
  3. Lead with your chest. Keep your shoulders back to avoid injury.
  4. Bend your legs. In order to extend fully, you’ll probably need to bend your legs – otherwise, you’ll likely touch the ground in between sets.

Do you incorporate chin-ups and pull-ups into your workout? If so – let me know in the comments!

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.


  1. Yeah, they are freaking hard!
    I have been gymming (that’s right, I turned it into a verb) for about 12 months now, and while I have noticed a significant change in my body and an increase in strength with essentially all other exercises, I persistently find pull ups very difficult.
    I have considered that my technique needs perfecting, but I have researched this to death, and I’m certain that I am doing it right.


  2. Eiriksson says:

    I do both but I do the chin-ups with a shoulder wide grip and incorporate an ab-crunch so that my back is almost horizontal when I’m at the top of the movement. It really hits the upper abdominals like nothing else I’ve tried.
    But I see too many people performing both exercises way too fast, using the swing momentum to keep moving. In the long run that almost guarantees them a shoulder injury and/or torn ligament.

  3. I can do chin ups forever but for some reason I can’t even do one pull up. What can I do to change this? I’ve tried standing on a bench and lowering myself down but when I’m using the shoulder width palms facing front grip it feels like my back is trying to rip apart. Do I just have a weak back?

  4. I do chin-ups and pull-ups and I think that you use more forearms while doing chins than when doing pull-ups… Is this only my imagination or chin-ups are better than pull-ups when talking about forearms.


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