Pull Ups vs Chin Ups: What’s Best? Let’s Compare Both With Pros & Cons of Each.

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Beginners in Calisthenics often wonder whether they should be doing pull-ups or chin-ups. In other words, the pronated or supinated grip when grabbing the bar? Both exercises are VERY similar, with a few differences that may want you practice one over the other. Let’s delve into each exercise in more details so you can understand the pros and cons of each…


Muscles Targeted:

  • Primary Focus on Lats: Pull-ups primarily target the latissimus dorsi muscles, which run along the sides of your back. This exercise can contribute to achieving a wider and more defined back appearance.
  • Secondary Muscle Engagement: Pull-ups also engage other muscles, including the upper back, rear deltoids, biceps, and forearms. Core muscles play a stabilizing role during the movement.

Grip and Technique:

  • Pull-ups are performed with an overhand grip, where your palms are facing away from you. This grip places more emphasis on the engagement of the back muscles.


  • Back Emphasis: The wide grip and positioning of the hands in a pronated (overhand) manner help emphasize the activation of the lats. This can contribute to achieving a V-shaped back.
  • Functional Strength: Pull-ups build functional upper-body strength that can be useful for various activities, from sports to everyday tasks.
  • Variety of Grips: You can experiment with grip width, from wide to close grip, as well as mixed grip variations to target different parts of the back and arms.
  • Versatility: Once you master pull-ups, you can progress to more advanced variations like weighted pull-ups for continued challenge and growth.


  • Higher Difficulty: Pull-ups are generally considered more challenging for beginners due to the wide grip and the requirement of significant upper-body strength.
  • Less Bicep Emphasis: While biceps are engaged during pull-ups, their activation is secondary compared to back muscles.


Muscles Targeted:

  • Bicep Emphasis: Chin-ups primarily target the biceps due to the underhand grip.
  • Secondary Muscle Engagement: Similar to pull-ups, chin-ups engage the lats, upper back, and rear deltoids. Core muscles provide stability during the movement.

Grip and Technique:

  • Chin-ups are performed with an underhand grip, where your palms are facing you. This grip places more emphasis on the engagement of the biceps.


  • Bicep Activation: The underhand grip in chin-ups directly targets the biceps, making this exercise effective for those looking to build arm strength and size.
  • Suitable for Beginners: Chin-ups are often more accessible for beginners or individuals with lower levels of upper-body strength. The grip and muscle engagement can feel more familiar and less challenging.
  • Balanced Workout: While chin-ups prioritize bicep activation, they also engage the back muscles, providing a balanced upper-body workout.


  • Less Lat Activation: Chin-ups generally involve a narrower grip, which might lead to slightly less lat activation compared to pull-ups.
  • Limited Grip Variations: While you can still vary your grip width and incorporate mixed grip variations, the range of grip options might be narrower compared to pull-ups.

Choosing Based on Goals and Fitness Level:

  • Lat Development: If your goal is to primarily develop your lats and achieve a wider back appearance, pull-ups might be more suitable due to their wider grip and greater lat activation.
  • Bicep Focus: If you want to prioritize bicep development, chin-ups are a better choice because of their direct bicep engagement through the underhand grip.
  • Beginners: Chin-ups are often recommended for beginners or individuals with lower upper-body strength levels. The bicep engagement can make the movement feel more manageable.
  • Variety and Balanced Development: Incorporating both pull-ups and chin-ups into your routine allows you to target a broader range of muscles and achieve balanced upper-body development.

Progression and Variations:

  • As you become more proficient in both exercises, you can progress to more advanced variations, such as weighted pull-ups and weighted chin-ups, to continue challenging your muscles.
  • Exploring different grip widths, mixed grips, and using gymnastic rings can further enhance your upper-body strength and muscle engagement.

Form and Safety:

  • Regardless of the exercise you choose, maintaining proper form is crucial to prevent injury. Focus on controlled and controlled movements, avoid swinging, and engage your core for stability.


1. What’s the Main Difference Between Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups?

  • Pull-ups involve an overhand grip (palms facing away) and primarily target the lats and upper back.
  • Chin-ups use an underhand grip (palms facing you) and focus more on the biceps while also engaging the back muscles.

2. Which Muscles Do Pull-Ups Work?

  • Pull-ups primarily work the latissimus dorsi (lats), upper back, rear deltoids, biceps, and forearms. Core muscles provide stability. The focus is on the lats.

3. Which Muscles Do Chin-Ups Target?

  • Chin-ups primarily target the biceps, lats, upper back, and rear deltoids. Core muscles are also engaged for stability. The focus is on the biceps.

4. Which Exercise is Easier for Beginners?

  • Chin-ups are generally considered easier for beginners due to the underhand grip and increased bicep involvement.

5. Which Exercise Emphasizes Back Muscles More?

  • Pull-ups emphasize back muscles more due to the wider overhand grip, making them effective for achieving a V-shaped back.

6. Are Pull-Ups or Chin-Ups Better for Bicep Development?

  • Chin-ups are better for bicep development due to the underhand grip, which directly targets the biceps. Tip: slow down your negative/eccentric motion to maximize bicep development.

7. Can I Include Both Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups in My Workout Routine?

  • Yes, incorporating both exercises can provide a well-rounded upper-body workout and prevent muscle imbalances. Alternating between grips is a smart idea for any exercise.

8. Can I Progress to Weighted Variations of Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups?

  • As you build strength, you can progress to weighted variations to continue challenging your muscles.

9. How Do I Choose Between Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups?

  • Consider your goals: Pull-ups for back development, chin-ups for bicep emphasis.
  • Assess your strength level: Chin-ups may be more accessible for beginners.
  • Seek variety: Including both exercises in your routine offers a balanced approach.

10. Can Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups Help Improve Functional Strength?

  • Both exercises build functional upper-body strength that can benefit everyday activities and sports.

11. How Do I Avoid Injury While Doing Pull-Ups or Chin-Ups?

  • Warm up and stretch before starting your pull-ups or chin-ups.
  • Focus on proper form: Avoid swinging and use controlled movements.
  • Engage core muscles for stability and support.
  • Gradually progress and avoid overexertion.

12. Can I Do Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups Even If I’m Not Very Strong?

  • Yes, you can start with assisted variations or use resistance bands to gradually build strength. Inverted rows (or Australian pulls) are also a good option for beginners that will help you progress into a full pull up or chin up.

13. Should I Consult a Fitness Professional Before Adding Pull-Ups or Chin-Ups to My Routine?

  • It’s a good idea, especially if you’re new to these exercises or have specific fitness goals. A professional can guide you safely.

14. Can I Alternate Between Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups in the Same Workout?

  • Yes, alternating between the two exercises can provide variety and engage different muscle groups.

15. How Many Repetitions Should I Aim for During Pull-Ups or Chin-Ups?

  • The number of repetitions depends on your fitness level and goals. Start with a manageable number and gradually increase. Most people cannot even achieve 1 proper pull up.

Consult a Fitness Professional

If you’re unsure which exercise is best suited for your goals and fitness level, consider consulting a fitness professional or personal trainer. They can assess your current strength and guide you toward the most appropriate exercise progression.

At Gymless, we have helped countless amount of students improve their strength and endurance through customized programs. Book your free consultation below.


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