The Only Difference Between A Chinup And A Pullup Is Where You Place Your Hands

If you’re like most people, you probably use the terms “chinup” and “pullup” interchangeably to mean the same hard AF upper-body exercise. But it turns out, they’re actually not synonyms. (Yeah. Mind = blown.)

Still, they have a lot in common. In fact, a chinup is actually a variation of a pullup, says Doug Sklar, CPT.“Both involve pulling your body up until your chin passes a bar,” he explains.

The difference? “A chinup involves the palms of your hand facing toward you, while a pullup would have your palms facing away from you,” he says.

How you hang onto the bar is also different. Pullups generally involve a hold that’s slightly wider than shoulder-width, Sklar says. While “chinups are typically performed with a narrower grip, approximately shoulder-width,” says Sklar.

What are the muscular benefits of chinups vs pullups?

Since chinups are technically a pullups variation, as you might have guessed, the perks of both are basically the same. “There are so many benefits, not only physically, but mentally, which is why I am so passionate about them,” says Angela Gargano, CPT. “It’s a functional movement that creates strength in a natural way using minimal equipment.”

So, what muscles do pullups and chinups target? “A lot of muscles are activated when performing a pullup or chinup,” Sklar says. The major ones include your latissimus dorsi (a large muscle behind your arms), pecs, biceps, deltoids, forearms, and even the abs, he says. “In fact, pullups/chinups are one of the best abs exercises you can do.”

Angela Gargano, CPT, demos the proper overhand grip for a pullup. Peep the three tech recs below to improve your form.
Brett Ritter

  1. Keep your hands close to your shoulders.
  2. Engage lats by thinking about drawing them down toward hips.
  3. Don’t let lower body swing back and forth or tuck knees toward chest for extra oomph.

    The big difference is that chinups work your biceps a little more, while pullups are usually more challenging as a whole, says Albert Matheny, certified strength and conditioning specialist. Both moves target your lats more than other back exercises like rows, according to research from the American Council on Exercise.

    Gargano proves she’s a powerhouse of all pullup varieties by showing off her chinup flex. Check out the tips below to ~really~ nail your form.
    Brett Ritter

    1. Don’t jut your chin out to eek it over the bar. (It’s bad for your neck!) Instead, keep it slightly tucked so the back of your spine stays long.
    2. Position hands slightly wider than shoulders.
    3. Engage abs the. whole. time.

      The muscles and control you’ll build in pursuit of hoisting your chin above the bar will also help make other drills that target the same areas feel breezy (or at least less freakin’ tough); plus, you’ll improve your posture. One of the best benefits, though? Serious grip strength. “It’ll come in handy for anything that involves holding dumbbells or barbells too,” says Gargano. And even though these are challenging exercise, they’re actually not hard in one very important way: It’s low-impact and easy on your joints and tendons.

      Aside from making you feel like Wonder Woman, pullups and chinups will also help you look like her. They sculpt your bod in ways few other moves can, says Gargano. They’re pretty incredible, but it’s time for a quick reality check. Truthfully, achieving your first pullup or chinup is hard and time-consuming–it can take anywhere from two weeks to two months, says Gargano. It all depends on where you start from fitnesswise, and how much time and effort you dedicate to gliding over that bar.

      While the exercises may seem like a lofty goal, it’s totally worth hanging in there. “After thinking it’s never going to happen, one morning you’ll wake up and discover you can finally do it,” says Gargano. “That feeling is empowering, liberating, and confidence-building.” So if you’re ready to join the movement, step—er, pull—right up.

      7 exercises to help you master pullups or chinups

      These key moves will help you work your way to a full pullup or chinup. (Put ’em together with the doable, all-levels training plan below, programmed by Gargano.)

      Passive Hang

      Grip bar with arms straight and palms facing forward, hands just outside shoulders, body fully relaxed. Hang as long as possible (i.e., your max)—ideally, at least 30 seconds.

      Active Hang

      From a passive hang, engage lats and shoulders to draw tops of arms slightly down and away from ears, keeping arms straight and shoulder blades wide. Hold at least 30 seconds.

      Shoulder Shrug

      From a passive hang, engage lats to roll shoulder blades back and down, raising body toward bar. (It’s a small movement!) Return to start and repeat. Keep body straight while elevating/lowering.

      Flexed Arm Hang Series

      From a passive hang, lift body a quarter of the way up to bar and hold for 30 seconds. On second attempt, go halfway up. The third time, try to get chin above bar.

      Eccentric Pullup

      Start at the top of the pullup motion (jump or use step), then lower body as slowly as possible into a passive hang, keeping core engaged and shoulders relaxed the entire time.

      Moving Around Bar

      From a passive hang, keep shoulders relaxed as you walk hands side to side across bar (ya know, like you did as a kid on the monkey bars) for 30 seconds.

      Assisted Band Pullup

      Loop resistance band around bar and place loose end under one foot. Stack other foot on top. Passively hang from bar, then en-gage core, lats, and glutes to perform a full pullup. Slowly lower back down with control.

      Your weekly pullups training program

      Warm up your shoulders, then do one set of each exercise back to back—no breaks. Rest for 45 seconds, then go for another round.