The Difference Between Pull-Ups And Chin-ups

by Aaron Pressley Galvin on 01st December,2018

The Difference Between Pull-Ups And Chin-ups

I come across it all the time, clients and gym members ask me how to get stronger at or how to do chin-ups/pull-ups. First of all lets start with basics, Do you know the difference between them? Do you know that they are actually two different exercises? Do you know which is more difficult to perform and why? Well ok, let me hit you with some knowledge!


Start at the Beginning

The chin-up and pull-up are both back training exercises. They are excellent compound movements that are a necessary addition in all back workout routines. They not only build muscle on the back but also the arms since the arms are the main levers during both exercises. However the chin-up incorporates more arm involvement than the pull-up due to the grip difference but ill get into grips later on.

The chin-up is an “easier” exercise to perform than the pull-up. So I recommend to start getting proficient at chin-ups before you move onto the more difficult pull-ups. Pull-ups are the more effective of the two exercises so that's what your aiming to get to in the long run.


Get a grip!

For chin-ups, your palms will be facing towards you (supinated grip) with your hands placed at around shoulder width on the bar with elbows in front of you. 



With Pull-ups your palms are facing away from you (pronated grip) your elbows will be pointing out from the sides of your body 90 degrees to the shoulders/bar, hands placed at roughly elbow width on the bar.



The chin-up involves more arms due to the close supinated grip. The pull-up involves less arms and more back due to the wider pronated grip so your back will be doing most of the work. The chin-ups work a rough ratio of 50/50% arms to back and pull-ups work a rough ratio of 30/70% arms to back (hence why the pull-up is more difficult). The main muscle groups used in both exercises are, In the Arms - Biceps, Forearm flexors & extensors. In the Back - Rhomboids, Latissimus Dorsi & Lower Trapezious. In the Shoulders – Rear Deltoids.


Gender Inequality

Women often find it very difficult, more difficult than men in my experience, to perform even one chin-up up/pull-up. The reason is, genetically men have more muscle fibre/mass distribution in the upper body and arms than women hence the reason it is a more difficult exercise for women to perform, but not impossible!

The assisted chin-up/pull-up machine is a great place to start for both female and male beginners. Its works by using a type of lift to counter balance the weight you can't lift and work with the weight that you can lift (see moving image below). Then slowly over the weeks and months you reduce the assistance and work towards lifting your own body weight unassisted. These days most gyms have or should have this machine so ask the instructor at your gym to show you.



Get Stronger

Here is a sample back workout routine that I would recommend to help build strength, muscle tone and to prioritize progress for chin-ups/pull-ups.


  1. Chin-ups/Assissted Chin-ups – 4 Sets X 8-10 Reps

  2. Lat Pull-down Machine Or Assisted Pull-ups – 4 Sets X 8-10 Reps

  3. Single Arm Dumbbell Rows – 4 Sets X 8-10 Reps

  4. Dumbbell Or Barbell Deadlifts – 4 Sets X 8-10 Reps


*For females reduce the number of Sets to 2-3 and increase the Reps to 12-15.



Last Modified: Saturday 01st December 2018