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Not to be confused with Pull-up (exercise).
A chin-up with palms facing chest, using open grip.

The chin-up (also known as a chin or chinup) is a strength training exercise. People frequently do this exercise with the intention of strengthening muscles such as the latissimus dorsi and biceps, which extend the shoulder and flex the elbow, respectively.[1]

It is a form of pull-up in which the range of motion is established in relation to a person's chin.

In the 1970s[2] and 1980s, the term chin-up not only included an overhand/pronated ("palms away") grip,[3][4] but some authors used it as the default meaning of the term,[5] with an underhand/supinated ("palms toward") grip called a "reverse" grip.[6][7] Even in the 2010s "chin-up" still includes palms-away lifting.[8] The term "chin-up" is still regularly used refer to pulling using an overhand-grip.[9][10][11]

Both pull-ups and chin-ups are two of the best[citation needed] exercises for back and overall upper body conditioning. However, they target the muscles a bit differently. Both exercises will work the latissimus dorsi and biceps, but standard chin-ups—with an underhand grip—place more emphasis on the biceps.


A chin-up is named by bringing the chin up through space, specifically in relation to its position with the bar or other hand grips. This can be either touching the bar (more easily done by extending the neck, though that could be considered cheating) or by bringing the chin over the bar. This exercise is easier for males than females because of the male tendency to have stronger and larger biceps.

This is usually achieved most easily with vertical forearms that are close to the body. For most, bringing the chin this high is most easily achieved with a supinated (underhanded, palms-toward) grip. Due to this, the phrase "chin-up" has become associated with pulling with this type of grip. Some have delegated the term pull-up to refer to the pronated (overhanded, palms-away) grip. In spite of this, many refer to pull-ups with a pronated grip also as chin-ups, and the supine grip is still regularly called a pull-up.

Some organizations such as the American Council on Exercise have adopted this new terminology, issuing statements such as: "a chin-up differs from a pull-up in that the puller's hands are facing towards him or her in a chin-up, and away in a pull-up."[12] Organizations such as the United States Marine Corps, however, use the term pull-up interchangeably to refer to both the overhand and underhand grips.[13]


A chin-up has a variety of different forms.[14]

The movement begins with the arms extended above the head, gripping a hold. It may be fixed, such as a chin-up bar or moving, such as gymnastic rings or rotating handles.

The body is pulled up, with the bar approaches or touches the upper chest. A chin-up is considered complete based on a variety of criteria in relation to where the chin should be in respect to the bar, or in respect to the hand grips.

The body is then lowered until the arms are straight but not in a lockout, and the exercise is generally repeated.

Like any pull-up, chin-ups can be performed with a kip, where the legs and back flop around to aid the exercise, or from a dead hang, where the body is kept still. Performing the chin-up correctly can be tricky with a supinated grip, because of the natural tendency to do most of the work with the elbow flexors (largely biceps) rather than the shoulder extensors (largely lats).

Initiating the pulling action with scapular depression may help avoid this problem. The exercise is most effective in stretching the working muscles when the body is lowered down to a full extension.[15]

Grip and thumb position[edit]

A closed grip involves the thumb on the opposite side of the bar from the rest of the fingers.[citation needed]

Muscles targeted[edit]

Chin-ups, like most pull-ups, target the latissimus dorsi muscle of the back as a shoulder extensor, scapular downward rotator and scapular depressor, in bringing the spine to the humerus. This is assisted by elbow flexors (brachialis, brachioradialis, biceps brachii) which bring the humerus to the forearm. Chin-ups, unlike pull-ups, also highly target the biceps. That is one of the main differences between pull-ups and chin-ups.

The lat's functions are also assisted, both by shoulder extensors (teres major, posterior deltoid, infraspinatus, teres minor), scapular downward rotators (rhomboids, levator scapulae), and scapular depressors (lower trapezius and pectoralis muscles).

Pulling higher with a narrow grip puts the focus on extension rather than adduction of the shoulder.

If one leans back at the top of the movement, the focus is shifted somewhat towards scapular retraction and hyperextension.

The weight of the legs and pelvis are borne by spinal ligaments and various muscles that flex or extend the spine. If the pelvis is tilted anterior and the legs brought behind, the erector spinae (with aid from the lats) bears more weight. If the pelvis is tilted posterior and the legs brought in front, the rectus abdominis (with aid from the psoas) bears more.


  • Sternal chin-ups (also called sternum chins) — this variant employs a fuller range of motion at the top, raising beyond the chin and touching the sternum to the bar. The elbows are nearly directly below the shoulders this way. This requires adequate scapular depression. If leaning back (arching the spine) a sternum-up can be done that is not a chin-up, this shifts to requiring scapular retraction.
  • Weighted chin-ups — weight is added dangling from a dipping belt or via weighted belt or vest, ankle weights, chains, medicine ball between the knees, dumbbell between the feet or kettlebells on top of the feet.
  • One-arm chin-ups — one hand grips the bar and the other hand does not assist
  • One-hand chin-ups — One hand grips the bar while the other arm assists by grabbing the forearm of the arm hanging onto the bar. These require far less strength than a One arm chin-up.
  • Supine chin-ups — in the supine position, the arms are held perpendicular to the body as the grip the bar; instead of the chin, the chest is pulled towards the bar. This exercise is performed in the horizontal (transverse) plane, whereas other chin-up variations are performed in the vertical (coronal) plane. As a result, this variation recruits the trapezius and teres major muscles much more than a vertical chin-up would, and is more commonly known as the supine row. Advanced versions popular amongst gymnasts are performed completely off the ground in some type of front lever.
  • Harrison chin-ups — a term coined by powerlifter Dan Harrison, this technique is similar to a normal chin-up but with an arched spine to more effectively target the latissimus dorsi and take strain off the biceps. Though it has become a recent phenomenon on the West Coast of the United States (especially with beach-goers), it has not yet gained widespread popularity.

Training and performance[edit]

Specific training is needed in order to increase chin-ups performance.

The performance can be measured in various ways:

  • number of repetitions without touching the floor
  • number of repetitions in a specified time interval (1/3/30 minutes, 1/6/12/24 hours)
  • number of repetitions with a total weight (body weight plus additional weight)

Various organizations like Guinness World Records maintain lists of world records for chin-ups and pull-ups.[16] Both and Guinness World Records maintain that pull-ups use a pronated grip, while chin-ups use a supinated grip.

Chin-ups in Fitness Assessments[edit]

The chin-up exercise is used by uniformed services around the world to assess the physical fitness of its members. In order to be accepted into and remain in a particular service, a candidate may need to carry out a certain number of chin-ups to a prescribed technique. This number may vary with age and gender.

  • for US Rangers, the Ranger Physical Fitness Test requires candidates to complete at least six chin-ups in two minutes.[17]
  • for the United States Secret Service, candidates are required to execute chin-ups with their arms fully extended in the downwards phase. No time limit is required. To achieve a 'fair' rating, male candidates need to complete seven chin-ups (if aged from 20 to 29), six (30 to 39), four (40 to 49) or two (over 50). Female candidates, irrespective of age, need to complete two chin-ups <[18]>.
  • Australian navy clearance divers and special forces are required to complete six chin-ups (or 'heaves')<[19]>
  • Canadian parachutists are required to demonstrate at least seven chin-ups<[20]>.

Chin-up bars[edit]

Gerald Quinn ChinUp Bar Clip Art.png

Chin-up bars are playground equipment that were once ubiquitous on children's playgrounds. They are still important in the adult equivalent of a playground, the Par course. A chin-up bar is simply a smooth horizontal metal bar, often a pipe, held solidly above ground by a wooden or metal frame. Typical installations include 2 or 3 different heights of bars for people of different heights. Chin up bars are also a part of a home gym setup. Chin ups can be performed on pull up bars.

In its common usage, a person jumps up slightly to grab the bar in both hands so that the palms are facing away (pronation) and the feet hang freely in the air. The exerciser then pulls himself up to where his chin passes the top of the bar, slowly lowers himself to hanging by his arms, and repeats as many times as possible. This is referred to commonly as a pull-up.

A chin-up is easier for most beginners when an inverse grip is used, where the palms of the hands are facing the participant (supination). This type of grip usually places more emphasis on the intercostals and the biceps, whereas the traditional grip is more of an upper-back and latissimus dorsi exercise.

Further variations on chin-ups are possible by gripping with only a few fingers of one hand in order to increase resistance on the other arm. This type of exercise should be balanced evenly on both arms. One-armed chin-ups are also possible but are notoriously difficult to achieve. Training methods for one arm chinups involve exercises that emphasise concentric movements such as Frenchies (pausing during a chin up at the half way and 1/4 and 3/4 way points).

Chin-up bar counts are a part of the U.S. President's Council on Physical Fitness program for evaluating the physical health of schoolchildren.

Types of chin-up bars include doorway-mounted, wall-mounted, ceiling-mounted and free-standing.

Children found other creative ways to use them, however, such as hanging by the knees, pulling oneself up to the top and sitting on them (more common with monkey bars variation), and so on.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Muscles worked in a Pull-Up". Retrieved 10 July 2014. During a Pull-Up the muscles that are mainly worked are those of the upper body and the arms. 
  2. ^ "Back". Tensile Contraction - Master Build. Brampton, Ontario, Canada: The Bodybuilding Center. 1972. pp. 10, 15. 14. Chinning The Bar (illus 15) Hang .. with your hands over the bar 
    Popular Science Vol. 200, No. 1. Bonnier Corporation. January 1972. p. 162. 45 Bodybuilding, Self-defense Courses .. Tensile Contraction - by mail .. The Bodybuilding Center, P.O. Box 146-PS-6 Brampton, Ontario, Canada 
  3. ^ Darden, Ellington (14 November 1984). "19. Wide, Wide Lats". High-Intensity Bodybuilding. New York: The Putnam Publishing Group. pp. 151–153. ISBN 0-399-51103-2. Behind neck chin up: .. Use an overhand grip. 
  4. ^ Kennedy, Robert; Greenwood-Robinson, Maggie (1987). "Wide Grip Chins". Built! The New Bodybuilding for Everyone!. New York: The Putnam Publishing Group. pp. 75–76. ISBN 0-399-51380-9. Take a wide overhand grip on the chinning bar and slowly hoist your body up until your chin is just above the bar. 
  5. ^ Russ. "Wide Grip Chin Behind Neck". The Super Routine. Health Culture Publications. p. 9. 
  6. ^ Boff, Vic (1985). "The Ever-Popular Chinning Bar". Vic Boff's Body Builder's Bible For Men and Women. New York: Arco Publishing, Inc. pp. 100–103. ISBN 0-668-05630-4. Natural-Hands Grip: .. palms of your hands turned to the front .. Reverse-Hands Grip: .. palms of your hands facing your body .. The Neck Chin .. a wide natural-hands grip  (paper edition, ISBN changes to 0-668-05625-8 for cloth edition)
  7. ^ Kennedy, Robert; Ross, Don (August 1988). "Appendix: The Exercises". Muscleblasting! Brief and Brutal Shock Training. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. p. 132. ISBN 0-8069-6758-7. Chin Ups: Take a fairly wide grip on a chinning bar, palms away from you .. Close-Grip Chin-Ups: Hands are close together on the chinning bar, palms away from you .. Reverse Grip Chin-Ups: Use a curling grip (palms toward you)  2 photographs depicting an overhand (palms forward, pronated) grip and captions:
    page 99 "Here Clare Furr shows impressively wide lats in her chin-ups."
    page 132 "James DeMelo does an intense set of chin-ups"
  8. ^ Manocchia, Pat (2010). "Chin-Up". Anatomy of Exercise (third printing). Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books. p. 83. More Difficult: Use a wide-grip with .. your palms facing away from your body. 
  9. ^ "Chin-up". Archived from the original on 4 October 2009. grasp bar with overhand wide grip 
  10. ^ "Weighted Chin-up". Archived from the original on 16 August 2001. grasp bar with overhand wide grip 
  11. ^ "Assisted (Wide Grip) Chin-up". Archived from the original on 15 October 2001. grasp bar with wide overhand grip 
  12. ^ "Chin-up". American Council on Exercise. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  13. ^ "USMC fitness PDF Chapter 2" (PDF). 10 May 2002. a command will not mandate that Marines must use the overhand grip when executing pull-ups or flexed-arm hang 
  14. ^ defines Chin-Up.
  15. ^ Video demonstration of a chin-up
  16. ^ World Records for Chin-Ups and Pull-Ups
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