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TheraGear Staff
Health and Fitness News Article - TheraGear Article Resource

Why You Should Include Chin Ups and Pull Ups In Your Workout Routine

Article #78

Benefits associated with Pull-ups & Chin-up :

Develop Muscle. Pull-ups & Chin-ups make someone to raise there own body weight. It challenges one's body, developing the actual muscles of one's arms & back.

Grappling Strength. Pull-ups & Chin-ups assist any kind of sport that involves gripping, grappling & pulling, for example Martial-art or Rock Climbing.

Carryover. Become stronger with Pull-ups & Chin-ups will make someone become stronger on the other exercises: the Overhead Press & Bench Press.

Shoulder Health. Managing press workouts such as the Bench Press along with pull workouts such as Barbell Rows & Pull-ups helps prevent muscle imbalances.

(performing wide grip pull ups outside]

What is the Difference Between a "Chin Up" and a "Pull Up"?

Pull-ups. Hands facing away. Not as much biceps, much more back. Tougher.
Chin-ups. Hands facing you. Performs better for your biceps. Much easier.
That being said, both chin ups and pull ups work very well. They are both wonderful exercises.

Don't Chin Ups and Lat Pull Downs Work the Same Muscles?

You would think so, since they visually look like your muscles are moving though the same range of motion. The biggest difference is that chin-ups are a "closed chain" exercise (your body is moving toward resistance) and lat pull downs are an "open chain" exercise (resistance is moving towards your body). The muscle recruitment patterns are extremely different for these two types of exercises. It has been show that closed chain exercises like chin ups will work the muscles harder than open chained exercises.

The Proper Way to Perform the Basic Chin Up

I really believe the best version is the basic underhand shoulder width or slightly narrower (I prefer a bit narrower) than shoulder width grip. Lean back a touch and inhale. Pull until your chin clears the bar and then go back down. Exhale as you descend back down. Go all the way to the bottom where your arms are fully extended and straightened.

Avoid Poor Form

When you perform a chin up, you don't want to kick your legs or engage the hip flexors (unless you are doing L-Chin Ups). The legs should stay in line with the torso. You can bend your legs at the knees, just make sure your body and thighs form a straight line. Throw away your wrist straps! Seriouslythere is no place for them in a good workout. One of the great benefits of lifting is getting defined forearms and functional strength. I don't think you should train with any weights that you can't grip.

What If You Are Too Weak to Perform Chin Ups?

I'm all for low reps, so I typically don't do any more than 5 reps. I get a great workout with 3-4 sets of 5 reps. I perform these in an extremely slow and controlled manner and squeeze the hell out of my arms, lats, and entire torso. If you have a tough time performing 5 reps, then a spotter can help you up by cupping his or her hands. You place your foot in one of their hands and get help on the way up by pushing off with your foot. An alternative is the special weight assisted machines that help with chinsyou put your foot on a platform or bar that "lifts" you a bit to make the reps easier.

What If You Can Easily Do 5 Reps?

If you can do 5 reps of chin ups without even straining, then you have a few options. A friend of mine does them last in his back workout after he has completed 5-8 sets of rowing exercises. Normally 5 reps is easy for him, but his muscles are fatigued a bit by doing theses last, making chin ups tough. An alternative is to perform chins with a weighted belt (a lot of gyms have these). You basically put a belt around your waist that has a chain to add weights.

Tons of Ways to Add Variety to Chin Ups and Pull Ups

You can use an over hand grip, a parallel grip, one arm chin ups, wide grip chin ups, weighted chin ups, etc. I would recommend sticking with one version and getting the most of that version before moving on to a variation. Arthur Jones (inventor of Nautilus) believed the best grip was a medium parallel grip (palms facing each other). Supposedly, this gives your body the most leverage and puts your arms and back in the strongest position. Most gyms have this sort of chin up bar, so give this one a try.

Experiment With Reps, Tempo, Etc

For me, 5 super slow reps really does the trickthat doesn't mean that 5 reps is the best for everyone. You don't necessarily have to go slow either. I just hopped on to Youtube and saw a bunch of great variations. Here is a guy who is doing the "L chin up" and is releasing the bar in between reps. The L chin up is a great one for the abs, since they have to remain flexed to a certain degree to hold the weight of your legs forward. Releasing the bar in between reps has to be amazing for building forearm density!

Spend Some Time Building "Functional Strength"!

Chin ups and pull ups are all about building functional strength. You can get really strong at "lat pull downs", but it doesn't translate into being strong at pulling your body weight. The reason the military puts so much emphasis on pull ups and chin ups is these exercises build functional "pulling muscles". Anything that involves gripping, pulling or climbing is greatly made easier by being strong at chin ups and pull ups. They greatly improve the appearance of your back, abs, and arms as well. Rusty Moore