Like any good fitness junkie, I hit a point where one of my main goals was to be able to do a chin up.  What is the difference between a pull-up and a chin-up?  Equally as important, how do I develop the strength to do a chin-up?  The difference between a pull-up and a chin-up is hand direction.  A chin-up is when your palms face you, a pull-up is when your palms face away from you.

To build strong enough muscles to pull yourself up for a chin-up, you will need to strengthen your biceps, triceps, chest, and deltoids.  For each muscle group, both strength and endurance are helpful.  The benefits of chin-ups include not only muscular strength, but muscular endurance as well.  Chin-ups are also versatile and can be done anywhere there is a stable bar.  Furthermore, chin-up grip tends to be a little less stressful on shoulder than pull-up grip, for those with preexisting shoulder problems.

To begin with, you want to build both strength and endurance in your biceps.  This can be done with dumbbell curls, barbell curls, hammer curls, 21s, and burnouts on the bicep machine. Add some chaturanga push-ups to your routine to work the muscles in your upper back, as well as your triceps.

Utilizing the lat pull-down machine will also work many of the muscles used in a chin-up, especially when used reverse grip.  Be sure your grip is about shoulder width, or just further apart.  Too wide of a grip puts your shoulders at higher risk for injury.  Finally, doing a negative chin-up helps train the muscles for the chin-up movement.  Simply hold onto a chin-up bar, jump up and hold yourself in that position as long as you can, slowly lowering yourself down.

Routine to build up to a chin-up


Reverse Grip Lat Pull-down (heavy weight without compromising form) – 5

Dumbbell Curls – 12

Chaturanga push-ups – 12

Burnouts (use a lighter weight and do one arm at a time) – 20

After you finish your workout, attempt to do a few negative chin-ups.  I typically need a long break between each negative chin-up.  Be sure to warm-up before your workout, and stretch afterward.

About The Author

Kristen Gard is a Blast Magazine correspondent and Certified Personal Trainer. She is the founder of Ace Boot Camp in Jacksonville, N.C.

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