Chin-Ups: Correct Technique

For an upper body exercise, chin-ups are just right. Easier than pull-ups, chins still get your arms and shoulders to bein' sore and strong - great for any sports that rely heavily on upper body strength.

Weight training is one of the best methods of strength training! If you want to start weight training safely and effectively, with the best info, diet, and routines, check out the 5 Day Beginner Weight Training Course!

Right here you can learn how to do them, what the correct technique is, and different kinds of chins that'll help you specialize your workout. You ready?


Let's go.

The Correct Body Mechanics of Chins

Chins put the most strain on the latissimus dorsi, also called the lats. Other muscles that assist are the biceps, pectoralis major & minor, teres major, the trapezius, the levator scapulue, and the rhomboids.

That's a lot of old Latin names. Suffice it to say that chin-ups work the back, shoulders, and arms well.

Chin-ups are done with the palms of the hands facing towards yourself (a supinated grip). The reverse, hands facing away from the body, are actually pull ups, not what we're doing.

The How To...

Grab a bar with both your hands placed at shoulder width (or slightly wider) away from each other, palms facing towards yourself. Looking upward, pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar, with your elbows tucked at the sides of your body, pointing downward. Then, lower yourself in a controlled fashion until your arms are straight.

That's one repetition.

When you pull yourself up, be sure to lead with your chest and focus on contracting your lats. Don't become overly focused on using your biceps, like so many people do.

Don't Have the Strength for Chins Yet?

If you don't have the strength to do even a single chin yet, don't worry. There are plenty of ways to work up to that level.

- Machines -

If you can't get the chin quite yet, try the lat pulldown machine. Sit down, grab the bar with both hands facing toward you, and add weight till you get the necessary strength.

Even better, your local gym probably has a chin-up machinetoo. This machine allows you to stand on a metal base and adjust how much weight you use to assist you. Work on reducing the assistance weight 'till you're doing regular chins.

And keep dropping the weight. Yes, it's fun to do 50 assisted chins, panting and heaving, but you're not getting any stronger then... ;-)

- Friend -

If you have a friend to work with, you're in luck. And if you don't have one, go out and make one right now. Anyway, have them as your spotter to give you a helping hand on the way up. They'll grab both ankles and give you the boost you need.

Remember to give the person doing the chins only just enough of a boost. Don't do their work for them. And work down to supporting only one ankle, and then just having them do chins all on their own.

- Neg Chins -

Negative chins, or negs, are excellent for two uses. They are useful if don't have the strength to do full chin-ups yet, and also to exhaust your arms that last little bit after a tiring set.

Grabbing the bar, jump up to the chin-just-over-bar-position (or get your friend to help you lift yourself); then let yourself down slowly. For example, do a slow count to 5 or 10 as you lower yourself. You're only working the down movement, not the 'up' part of the chin-up.

Variations For Fun And Brawn

- Narrow Grip -

Narrow grip chins focus more on the arms. For them, simply place your hands 4-6 inches apart on the bar and then do the exercise the same way you would otherwise.

- Parallel Grip -

The parallel grip puts less stress on your shoulders, wrists, and elbows, and is easier on your whole body. If you can't do regular chins because of shoulder or body problems, try these.

For these, you need 2 parallel bars or grips at about shoulder width. Simply grasp them from the outside, palms facing inward towards each other, and do your chin-ups.

- Sternal or Chest -

For these you exert more force to do an even larger movement. Instead of bringing your chin up to the bar, lift yourself higher so that you pull the top of your chest up to the bar.

- Forearm Chin-ups -

For this one, while grabbing the bar with one hand, take the other hand and grasp the forearm of the hand holding the bar. Then, pull yourself up.

This works grip strength very hard. Also, it's an excellent intermediate step when working up to one-arm chin-ups.

- Weighted Chins -

You can use a sturdy backpack, weightlifting belt, or a chin belt to add more weight to your chins. They're easy to use and make the exercise useful even when you've worked up the muscle to do 10 or 20 regular ones.

Put weight plates in the backpack, or hang them between your legs if you're using the belts. Then, do your chins.

Just be careful not to use too much weight - it's easy to get carried away and hurt yourself!

Try working these into your workout and give them a good try. Chins are a great exercise, so don't leave them neglected.

You've got your bar, your knowledge, and that fire's burning. Now get moving, and try some chin-ups - maybe as part of a beginner weight training program!

Oh, and be sure to sign up for the e-zine Starting Strong to get monthly strength training, exercise, and diet tips e-mailed to you - and access to the free e-book Train Smart, Eat Smart: Exercise Nutrition Hacks!

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