Bodyweight Exercise Muscle Mass Strength

Chin Ups & Pull Ups — Build A Beautiful Back

Written by Ryan Murdock

Pull ups and chin ups are undisputed rock stars when it comes to building a strong and beautiful back. And if you’re familiar with our Body Redesign concept, you know you can’t ignore your back if you want to look your best…

We’ve covered pull up technique before, so we won’t rehash that again here. Instead, we’ll take a look at some of the different ways you can shape your back with a chin up bar.

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

Let’s start with some definitions… When your palms are facing you—that’s called a “supinated” grip—you’re doing a chin up. When your palms are facing away—in a “pronated” grip—you’re doing a pull up.

There’s one more important grip that doesn’t get much attention. It’s the neutral grip, with palms facing each other. You need a specialized bar for that. But most home kits or commercial gym set-ups have a neutral grip option.

Step Up To The Bar…

When it comes to home gym equipment, a good chin up bar is one of the best investments you can make. There are all sorts of models that you can quickly mount and remove from a doorway. Or, if you have a bit more space, you can get a custom bar made. Here are the details of what I did in my own home gym last year—Adam’s custom DIY chin up bar.

Get A Grip…

So which of the three grip types is best? It depends on your goal.

Chin Ups (supinated grip): It’s a lot easier to pull yourself up with palms facing you. So this is the best way to introduce yourself to bodyweight pulling. It’s easier because you’re recruiting your biceps to help your back muscles. This is also a great full-body addition to your biceps routine.

Pull Ups (pronated grip): This is tougher than the chin up. Bodyweight pulling with palms facing away is a great progression to add difficulty to your routine. You can make it even tougher by taking a wider grip on the bar. The farther apart your hands are, the more difficult it’ll be. Pull ups also do a great job of recruiting your lats and rhomboids for fabulous back development.

Neutral Grip (hands facing): This is usually your strongest grip. I often use it when I want to do weighted pulling movements. Neutral grip also allows a much larger range of motion at the shoulder—especially at the end of the movement with your chest to the bar—than either chin ups or conventional pull ups.

Here’s a video of Mary-Pier putting all three grips through their paces:

Mix your grips according to your particular goal, and reap the awesome benefits of bodyweight pulling exercises:

  • Relative Strength: This is the measure of your strength vis-à-vis your bodyweight. The higher the ratio, the stronger you are.
  • Full Body Stimulation: Doing pulldowns on a pulley machine at the gym will develop your lats, but you won’t get the same full body workout. You need to stabilize your entire body during a bodyweight pull up or chin up. That means greater muscle activation, larger strength increases and a lot more fat burning.
  • Balanced Physique: Do too many push ups or spend too much time bench pressing and you’ll end up with an unattractive rounded posture. You’re also a shoulder injury waiting to happen. You’ve gotta balance that pushing strength with pulling. Spending some time under the chin-up bar will balance your physique and help prevent injuries.
  • Golden Ratio: For both guys and gals, the shape of the shoulders and upper back in relation to the waist is an important marker of physical beauty. We’re hard-wired to be attracted to that mystical “V-curve,” and it’s directly related to the Golden Ratio of beauty that’s found throughout nature. Including pulling movements in your routine is essential to forming that look.

Don’t delay… Add chin ups and pull ups to your training sessions today. And don’t worry if you’re a total beginner who can’t even do one rep. If you can’t do your first chin up yet, use these tips for assisted pull ups to get started.

Share your favorite pulling workout with us in the comments below.

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Ryan Murdock

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