Main Difference Between Pull Up and Chin Up Is in the Placement of the Hands & Mostly Works on the Same Muscles of the Upper Body With Different Emphasis

Chin Up & Pull Up are two of the basic bodyweight exercises that almost everyone is aware of, especially those who have been involved in even a little gymnast or any sport. It’s a common bodyweight exercise that’s useful to strengthen the muscles of the upper body. However, when it comes to the difference between both pull-ups and chin-ups, there is some difference.

Chin up or pull up both involve grabbing a rod, hanging on a horizontal bar with your hands and pulling up your body as high as you can until your chest reaches the bar’s height. But in both chins-up and pull-up, techniques are a bit different.


Nonetheless, let’s get into the difference between both and then look at how we suppose to do each exercise, what benefits each offers, and how it helps when working out muscles of the upper body.

Chin Up vs Pull Up – Here’s How Both Differs From Each Other

Let’s see the tabular difference of chin ups and pull ups exercise side by side and understand how both differ from each other.

Chin Up vs Pull Up – Side-by-Side Comparison Between the Two

Chin UpPull Up
Primary Muscle WorkedUpper Back and Biceps.Latissimus Dorsi, Middle & Lower Trapezius, Rhomboids.
Secondary Muscle WorkedCore & Shoulders.Biceps Brachii, Infraspinatus, Pectoralis Major, Erector Spinae, External Oblique.
Muscles Emphasized Biceps & Pecs.Traps & Lats.
GripSupinated Grip – Palm facing towards you.Pronated position – Palms facing away from your side.
Hand PositioningNarrow.Wide.
LevelEasier to perform.More challenging to perform compared to chin ups.
Alternative ExerciseInverted Rows, Elevated Foot Chin–Ups, Squatting Rows, Barbell Rows, Dumbbell Rows, Lat Pulldowns, Band Pull – Apart, Chin Up Hold & Negatives, Box Chin–Ups.Inverted Rows, Inverted Rows using Suspension Trainer, Lat Pulldown with Wide Grip, Bent Over Rowing, Bent Over Rowing using Smith Machine, Lat Push Downs, 1 – Arm Lat Pulldown, Cable Crossover Lat Pulldown, V-Bar Lat Pulldown, Close Grip Chin – Ups, Assisted Pullups, Dumbbell Pullover, Seated Cable Rowing, Renegade Rows, Dumbbell Kroc Rows.
For Beginners Less Challenging.More Challenging.
Shoulder Friendly More.Less compared to chin up.
Longer Range of MotionLess compared to pull ups.More compared to chin ups.
Most Common MistakesNot performing the full range of motion.Gripping is too wide.

Chin Ups – Let’s Know in Detail

Chin up is the foundational bodyweight exercise recommended by many old-school bodybuilders and coaches before anyone jumps into other weighted and machinery exercises. It’s one of the pull exercises used to build back and arm muscles. It provides a better degree of bicep involvement during pulling movement. It’s one of the staple bodyweight exercises that should be included in your upper-body workouts, back workouts, pull workouts, and even full-body workouts.

Quite similar to pull-ups here, in chin-ups, you use a grip and hang from a horizontal and straight bar and pull your body towards the bar at maximum to chest level. It’s a supinated grip (palms facing you) exercise and narrower than a pull-up grip. In addition, it allows you to clear your chest all the way toward the bar compared to the pull-up grip.

Steps to Do Chin Ups

  • Ensure the bar is set at the right height, as the floor works as a depth gauge.
  • Hold the bar while keeping your palms facing towards you and slightly less than shoulder width.
  • Give attention and engage your leg and core muscles.
  • Bring shoulder blades together and lift your body up from the floor till your chin reaches above the bar.
  • Hold it for a second.
  • Lower back towards the starting position.
  • Repeat for 8 to 10 repetitions or till your set is complete.

Ensure you’re keeping your head the same distance from the bar and lift yourself parallelly. Avoid moving your chin towards the bar, so your body doesn’t go back and forth.


Muscles of Upper Body Used During Chin Ups

Chin ups usually activate:

  • Brachialis
  • Biceps Brachii
  • Brachioradialis
  • Teres Major
  • Posterior Deltoid
  • Latissimus Dorsi

Benefits of Chin Ups

  • Increases strength and definition of the upper arms.
  • Improves your grip strength.
  • Good for posture and reduces the development of upper back soreness.

Avoid These Common Mistakes Done During Chin Ups

  • Not using proper form.
  • Aren’t performing the full range of motion.
  • Not trying variations.
  • Not pulling your chin above the bar.
  • Moving too fast & using a lot of momentum.
  • Not engaging shoulders from the beginning.

Pull Ups – Let’s Know in Detail

Similar to chin up, a pull up exercise is an upper body strength exercise. It’s a closed chain movement exercise where you hang your body with your hands by gripping a bar while placing your hand slightly wider than shoulder width. However, in this pull-up exercise, you keep your palms facing outwards instead of inwards. In addition, it’s used as a staple exercise to check a person’s fitness level by certain organizations and as a conditioning exercise in some of sports.


Steps to Do Pull Ups

  • Stand under the pull-up bar and hold the bar with a double-overhand grip, with comfortable shoulder width apart.
  • Get in the dead hang position in a comfortable manner.
  • Keep the full body tension to brace the extension of your core.
  • Keep your legs dangling under your body and slightly behind you.
  • Start pulling your body towards the bar.
  • Try to reach eye level or, if possible higher than that, depending on your limb length.
  • Now, return to the starting position by keeping your body comfortable.
  • Repeat until the set is not over.


Muscles of Upper Body Used During Pull Ups

  • Biceps Brachii
  • Infraspinatus
  • Lats
  • Lower Trapezius
  • External Oblique
  • Erector Spinae
  • Pectoralis Major


Benefits of Pull Ups

  • Helps develop upper body back muscles & strength.
  • Good for shoulder stability and mobility.
  • Improves grip and core strength.


Common Mistakes to Avoid During Pull Ups

  • Not using the full range of motion.
  • Using momentum to raise your body above.
  • Not keeping your legs & back straight and engaged.
  • Keeping shoulders and elbows in the wrong position.

Chin Up vs Pull Up – Our Closing Thoughts

A pull-up is an exercise that targets the back muscles, specifically the latissimus dorsi (lats) and the trapezius (traps). The exercise is performed by hanging on a pullup bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from the body) and pulling the body up towards the bar until the chin is level with the bar.

Similarly, a chin-up is a variation of the pull-up that targets mostly the same muscle groups but with a different hand position. Instead of an overhand grip, the hands are positioned with an underhand grip (palms facing toward the body). Again, this grip targets the biceps more than the lats and traps.

Both pull-up and chin up exercises are very effective in building upper body strength and muscle mass. Nonetheless, the main difference is in the grip and the emphasis on different muscle groups. Pullups target the lats and trap more, while chin-ups target the biceps more. Therefore, you should include both exercises in your workout routine for a well-rounded upper body workout.

Chin Up vs Pull Up – FAQs

Which Exercise Is Better, Chin-Up or Pull-Up?

Both are equally great for building strength and muscles of the upper body. However, if you’re a beginner, chin-ups will be easier for you than pull-ups.

Which Exercise Is Harder, Chin-Up or Pull-Up?

Both will be harder for a beginner who has never done any physical exercise. However, as mentioned in an earlier answer to FAQ, pull-ups are harder than chin ups.

Why I’m Not Able to Do Pullups but Can Do Chin-Ups Easily?

Pull-ups have different hand placement, which is harder compared to chin-ups. In addition, regardless of your fitness level, if you compare both exercises, you’ll see that chin-ups are easier than pull-ups for everyone.

Satinder Chowdhry Avatar

Satinder Chowdhry