Muscles Targeted: Chin ups, also called “underhand pull-ups” are the perfect bodyweight exercise for your biceps and they target every major muscle group in the back including the latissimus dorsi (lats) and rear deltoids. They also work the spinal erectors and abdominals with some slight variations. Because chin ups are a pulling exercise, they require a high level of grip strength therefore adding functional strength and muscle to the forearms and hands. If you are a beginner and you are unable to do a regular pull-up, doing chin ups should allow you to gain the amount of strength needed to accomplish a pull-up. Chin ups are great because they allow you to get an intense bodyweight workout for your biceps when free weights or machines are unavailable. It’s one of the best exercises you can perform virtually anywhere to build strength and size in your upper body.
Exercise Instructions: Find a secure bar to hang from that allows you to safely place all of your body weight onto it. Begin by either grabbing the bar or jumping up to grab it and securely grip the bar with both hands using an underhand grip. Place your hands at a width that you feel comfortable with and let your body naturally hang down with your arms extended. Bend your knees and pick your feet up off the ground if necessary to clear your feet from the ground. Slowly pull yourself up until your upper chest is close to your elbows with your chin level with the bar. Pause and slowly lower yourself down to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Why This Exercise is Important: Chin ups are important because they help you gain muscle and strength in the arms, while at the same time working the back muscles, rear deltoids and abdominals. Chin ups are a great functional bodyweight exercise to help you excel in sports and different activities. This is because they force you to become comfortable with handling your own body weight which is essential in almost every sport. They also help to strengthen the back and core muscles which could prevent injuries and weakness in the future.
Things To Avoid: When doing chin ups you want to make sure that you are performing them correctly to prevent injury and obtain the desired results. The name “chin ups” may lead you to believe that you have to get your chin above the bar in order to perform the exercise correctly and see results. This leads people into doing crazy and dangerous things like kicking, squirming, kipping or craning the neck trying to elongate it in order to get pass the bar. Just go as high as you can and with time and practice you will improve and get stronger. Also make sure to avoid the tendency to pull to one side. This can happen when one arm is much stronger than the other. Your overall tempo should be slow and controlled. It should take about 2-3 seconds going up and another 2-3 seconds coming back down. Don’t rush this exercise with fast and jerky movements. The reason this is so important is because it lets you train your upper body without risking injury. When you start doing chin ups super fast, you are likely to start swinging and using momentum which should be avoided. Let your biceps do all the work and if you can only perform 2-3 reps, don’t worry about it. It’s more important to do the exercise correctly and build up strength over time.
Reps and Sets: Shoot for as many reps on chin ups as you can do (with proper technique) and go for about 4-5 total sets for a great biceps and back workout. If you want to add a chest exercise into the mix then do pushups in between sets and rotate these 2 exercises for a killer upper body blasting workout!
Other Exercises To Use: You can combine chin ups with alternating hammer curls, EZ bar curls, and incline dumbbell curls in order to create a full workout to build strength and size in your biceps. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the biceps.