Tone Chest, Back and Arms with Chin-Ups

I am trying to mix up my strength training routine and was thinking back to exercises of days gone by (you know before the fancy machines). I’m wondering about doing chin-up/pull-ups what do you think?

Chin-ups provide a great addition to any workout and are one the best exercises you can do with a minimal amount of time. If ancient humans were able to get into shape and sculpt their bodies long before barbells and fitness equipment, you can too. In fact, you can perform chin-ups and pull-ups on the playground monkey bars!

The difference between the chin-up and the pull-up is in the hand position. When your hands are on the bar facing toward you, this is considered a chin-up, and when your hands are on the bar facing away from you, this is known as a pull-up.

To perform a chin-up or pull-up, extend your arms above your head while gripping a fixed chin-up bar with your hands 4 – 6 inches apart. Pull your body up until the bar approaches or touches the upper chest, lower your body down until the arms are straight (but not over-extended). Your knees should be slightly bent with your feet behind you and it is best to brace your abs in an effort to support your core and back. It is essential to stay in control of your chin-up or pull-up however, so try to avoid ‘erratic’ movements. Chin-ups and pull-ups can target many muscle groups, including chest, shoulders, back, triceps, and biceps.

Here are 5 exercises to perform to target specific muscles with a chin-up/pull-up bar.

1. To work the biceps, place your hands approximately 4 – 6 inches apart with the palms facing towards you.

2. The sternum chin-up targets the muscles in your upper back. Your hand position can vary from wide to narrow, palms forward or away. Position your torso in a laid back manner while creating a small arch in the back as you pull your chest up towards the bar. Optimally, your legs should be at approximately a 45-degree angle to the floor (knees bent so that your feet are behind the body).

3. The parallel-grip technique aims to increase the load in the rear deltoids. A medium parallel-grip is a strong position which reduces the stress on the joints of you shoulders, elbows, and wrists. A narrow parallel-grip is a more advanced position.

4. If you are feeling especially enthusiastic, try a mixed grip by placing one hand facing you and one hand away. The wider the grip, the more strength required.

5. To work the muscles under the shoulders (subscapularis) use a wide-grip with your hands facing either toward or away from you. Upon flexion, when your chest reaches the chin-up/pull-up bar, push yourself away from the bar as you lower yourself down. Again, try to avoid ‘erratic’ movements.

It is not uncommon to find a chin-up machine at your local gym. This machine is a great way to get start building your strength to perform full chin-ups. It works by countering your weight so that it is not necessary to pull the entire weight of your body up.

Once you have the ‘hang’ of the chin-up you may want to challenge yourself with a mixed routine. For example, try pulling your self up quickly and lowering slowly, or vice-versa, and counting how many chin-ups you can perform without touching your feet to the floor.

Chin-ups and pull-ups are simple, yet challenging exercises that are easily added to your fitness routine. So next time you go for a run, stop by the monkey bars and give the upper body a workout too.

Author:  Sarah Brown – A Fitness Instructor