How to Do a Chin-Up

Chin-ups are considered by many to be a truly underrated foundational exercise for the fact that it is ideal for development of the upper body. The chin-up specifically targets the biceps, latissimus dorsi, pectorals and forearms.  Those looking to build muscle mass in the back and arms should consider including chin-ups in their routine.

Chin-ups help with shoulder and upper back mobility, which helps to combat extensive hours spent sitting hunched over a computer. This exercise also improves grip strength and aides in everyday activities such as pulling heavy loads.

They are somewhat less intense than a pull-up.

How To:

  • Start in a relaxed full hang. Hands should be gripping the bar about shoulder width apart with palms facing the body.
  • Set your shoulder blades by pulling them together and down the back. This stabilizes the shoulders and allows the back and bicep muscles to do the work and takes the strain off the shoulders. Also remember to keep your abs engaged throughout the exercise.
  • Pull your chest and chin toward the bar as you exhale. It can help to imagine pulling the bar down into your chest while driving your elbows downward. Remember to keep those shoulder blades engaged at the top of the movement. Think about squeezing a pencil if you find this difficult.
  • Inhale as you slowly lower yourself back toward a full hang. Remember, the descent is just as important as the ascent to the bar.


The number of repetitions will depend on your fitness level. When starting out, you may only be able to complete one full chin-up. No further repetitions should be undertaken once your form starts to fail.


Negatives: If performing a chin-up unassisted is not possible, then consider doing negatives to build strength. This is done by using a bar that is set a little lower so that you can jump up to the bar. Lower yourself in a slow and controlled manner until you are in a full hang.

Assisted chin-ups: Some machines at the gym are equipped with a platform that you place your knees on when doing your chin-ups. You can set the machine to assist with some of your body weight. As you get stronger, you can slowly decrease the amount of weight that machine is helping with, until you are able to perform an unassisted chin-up.

Weighted: If you find that chin-ups feel “too easy,” try adding weight. You can do this by adding a weight belt or by holding a weight between the feet.

Cautionary Notes

Always make sure to set your shoulder blades before attempting a chin-up. Not doing so can put unnecessary strain on the shoulders and lead to injury.

Kipping uses a swinging motion to gain momentum, which aids in bringing the chest to the bar. This can be especially dangerous if practiced at home. The swinging motion can knock the chin-up loose and cause dangerous accidents.

More Chin-Up Related Resources

Chin Up Vs Pull Up: Differences And 14 Variations To Build Muscle
Chin-Up | Exercise Videos & Guides |
Chin Ups: Benefits of the Using the Right Technique | ACE

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