What's The Difference Between A Chin-Up And A Pull-Up? | Men's Health Magazine Australia

What’s The Difference Between A Chin-Up And A Pull-Up?

There are several staples every man should have in their arsenal when it comes to bodyweight movements. There’s the pushup, the dip, the sit-up, the list goes on. But if there are two moves you definitely need under your belt, it’s the chin-up and pull-up. 

These two arm-busting moves are not only great for a chiseled upper body and a bulging back but they will also help you incorporate tougher exercises into your workout. After washboard abs? Yup, you’ll get better at hanging leg-raises too. 

But before you jump into a workout on the monkey bars, it’s best you make sure you’re doing these moves correctly. 

What’s the difference between a chin-up and a pull-up?

It all starts with the grip.

“Pull-ups use a pronated grip (overhand grip) around the bar,” explains Men’s Health Fitness Director Todd Liubinskas. 

“Your palms should be facing outward.”

After organising your hand position, focus on the space between your levers.

“Typically, your arms should be slightly outside shoulder-width apart. A nice way to think about that would be to have an imaginary thumb distance off your shoulder prior to gripping the bar,” continues Liubinskas

The motion is simple: start with your arms fulling extended, your body hanging. “Your elbows and shoulders should adduct (move towards the midline of the body or towards another part), finishing the movement with your chin over the bar.”

Meanwhile, the chin-up differs in hand position and set-up.

“Chin-ups utilise a supinated grip (underhand grip) around the bar – your palms facing inward towards your face,” notes Liubinskas. 

“Your arm width should commonly sit in line with your shoulders.”

There are certainly similarities in the movement between pull-ups and chin-ups. However, this time, there’s a greater emphasis on the extension and contraction of your elbows due to the narrower distance between your hand grips.

Once again, finish up with your chin above the bar once your arms have fully contracted. 

What are some common mistakes when doing a pull-up or chin-up?

Bodyweight movements might mimic real-life activities but that doesn’t mean you can’t do them wrong. 

There are several common errors that can come up when doing a pull-up or chin-up, Liubinskas says.

“(The first mistake is) dropping your hips at bottom of movement,” he tell us. “By doing this you lose control via your abdominals. To maintain a strong movement, we must keep our abs active and maintain a strong position with our hips.”

Another is cutting the rep short. “Make sure you extend arms and shoulders at the start of each rep, and finish the rep as best you can in a safe position.”

Finally,”Maintain a neutral spine – aim not to lead with your chin. However lead the movement with your chin tucked slightly to your chest, and pull your way into the finish position.”

Liubinskas suggests giving the kipping pull-up a miss until you can produce 10 strict pull-ups.

How can you get better at pull-ups or chin-ups?

Sure, chin-ups and pull-ups can be difficult when you’re first starting out but there are some great exercises you can add to your gym routine that will have flying in no time. 

Here are Liubinskas’ tips to improve your chin-ups and pull-ups if you’re struggling to get through that first set:

  • Hanging from the bar for 4 x 30 seconds efforts. This allows you to get comfortable with hanging on a bar and improves grip strength. We want to make sure our abs and hips are active in this movement, priming us up for the progressions.
  • Assisted Chin-Up Machine or Banded pull-ups, allowing the resistance to decrease as your get stronger
  • Lat Pull Downs are the best exercise to work on those pull-ups
  • Seated Row is a great exercise to produce strength in your back

Here’s Liubinskas’ workout plan that will help you finally conquer a pull-up, once and for all.

Progression into a pull-up, from start to finish:

  • Complete 4 x 8-10, with a tempo, 3 second eccentric phase and 1 second concentric phase giving yourself 1 minute rest between sets
  • Eccentric tempo eccentric phase back to the start position. Allows ideal muscle growth for pull up
  • Complete 4 x 8-10, with a tempo, 3 second eccentric phase and 1 second concentric phase giving yourself 1 minute rest between sets
  • Aim for 4 max effort sets , complete as many reps as you can in each set, giving yourself 1 minute rest between sets
    • Stage One, Ring Row
    • Stage Two, Jump pull up, position under the bar and make sure your hands can grip the bar while standing, perform a pull-up with the aid of your legs pushing you into the finish position
    • Stage four, Strict pull-up, no kipping with your legs

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