T Nation

Chin Ups vs Pull Ups

What are everyone’s thoughts ( especially ZEB). Since reading ZEB’s article awhile back I have been trying to incorporate them into my work out. I have been doing both of them and just alteranating them. Is one better then the other?

Mitch Green


Both serve a purpose. Chin-ups (palms facing you,) will put more emphasis on your biceps. Pull-ups(palms facing away), put less emphasis on the biceps and a bit more on the Lats.

What are your training goals?

actually the palm position just affects where you feel it more on the bicep muscles. thus a chin up will allow to do more weight because of the emphasis on the strongest bicep muscles. think about which way you can curl more, palms up or down. hand spacing is important in lat recruitment so try different spacing to see the effectiveness of each. i prefer a narrow grip chin-up. laters pk

dont forget neutral grip. those are actually my favorite.


My training is more focused on powerlifting, while trying to whittle away a few extra pounds. However I am trying to add some shape to my body other then a few bulges here and there. I have not paid my back enough attention over the years and I feel that it is holding back my bench. Thank you all for your responses.

Mitch Green


Shoot for three sets of 8 to 12 dead hang Pull-ups. Don’t use a wide grip, I have seen injuries from guys trying to go wide in a false assumption that it will improve Lat development. The only thing it will do is damage your shoulder, (Since you Barbell Bench press you are already placing your shoulder joint in potential jepardy). Use a medium grip, about shoulder width, or even a bit more narrow. Rest about :90 beween sets.

When you have completed three clean sets of Pull-ups wait about 2:00 (or a bit longer if you have to), then do one final set. This time do Chin-ups where you can activate the bulk of the bicep muscle. If you are getting 8 reps of Pull-ups you should be able to do about 12, or so, Chin-ups.

Try this program two to three times per week for three to six weeks. Everyone is different relative to how long a given set rep scheme will be most beneficial before a modification. If you have been neglecting your back, as you have stated, then you will probably be able to go for six weeks and see some great results!

Lastly, make sure you are stretching the Lats as soon as you drop from the bar. Stretch each side for :20 each. (no more than this otherwise you will take away from the next set). The Latissimus Dorsi is somewhat of a stubborn muscle when it comes to growth. I have found that it grows best when it is literally pulled (delicately) away from the body.

The Lats will grow more with Pull-ups than Chin-ups as the function of the Latissimus Dorsi muscle is to raise the body toward the arms during climbing. When you climb you do so with your palms away from your body (in Pull up fashion), in most cases. The purpose of the final set of Chin-ups is to end your four sets by exhausting the smaller muscle, the bicep, last. Always train Pull-ups first then Chin-ups.

If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to PM me!

Good Luck,


hey ZEB i tried to put some wide grip pullups in my workout but found it was very uncomfortable for my shoulder so i took it out. If i were to make the grip closer together with palms out would that still give the benefits you were just talking about or should i just stick with the wide grip cable pulldowns that dont bother my shoulder?


Simple rule of thumb: Pull-ups are better than the Lat pulldown machine! No comparison.

When you take a wide grip on a Pull-up bar, as advised by some bodybuilders, you put an unnatural stress on the shoulder joint. Do this enough times and you won’t be doing Pull-ups (or much else). Note, there are exceptions to this rule as there are to most rules. Some people simply have great body mechanics to do almost anything and get away with it. However, most don’t so why take a chance?

Pulling your body up and then lowering it through space is a far different movement than sitting in front of a machine with your legs tucked nicely under a pad and leaning back and pulling down on a handle. There is really no comaparison between the Lat machine and a Pull-up bar. It’s like comparing the use of a Leg press machine to doing Barbell Squats. We all know that nothing beats Barbell squats for leg development and strength (among the many other benefits). And nothing beats Pull-ups for upper body development! It is the upper body squat.

Businesses cannot make as much money selling Pull-up bars, as they can selling Lat machines. Hence, you have had a glut of advertising over the past 30 years or so regarding the Lat machine (and other similar devices). that is not to say that all machines and such devices are unworthy. However, be wise when making a assesment. More on this in an upcoming post.

If you take a medium grip on a Pull-up bar that should do the trick. And remember, if you are trying to build your Lats stick with Pull-ups over Chin-ups.

Good Luck,


Yea, Zeb said it all, but I used to do wide grip pull ups (past shoulder-width) and I really started to feel it in my shoulder. Then I brought my grip in to shoulder width and have achieved some pretty damn impressive lat width. Like Zeb said, just make sure you start from a dead hang. They’ll take your width to a new level.

What do us guys who can’t do too many pull-ups do?
I weigh about 220 and can only do so many pull-ups.
How do I work up to meaningful sets?

do them first in your routine. don’t go to failure on any set. do a lot of sets instead of a few. work on achieving speed of motion on the up side to recruit more muscle fibers and increase tension. push yourself to do more total reps per workout. laters pk

thanks zeb i appreciate it, as far as pullups like speed said if i just bring my grip in but keep my palms out will it still be a good movement for widening the lats?? width in my lats is probably the largest weakness in my physique (which i will be posting in the days to come hopefully). Im one of the non-blessed who cant get away with messing with shoulders and when i go wide with pullups there is a nasty popping sound happening and a bit of discomfort. Going close dissipates this though so thats why i ask of its usefullness thx for the help.

thoughts on neutral grip?

neutral grip is good if you can get a good bar to use (either cable row bar over a chin bar or towel chins etc). can handle quite a bit of weight neutral too.


Do this for me> Raise your right arm straight up in the air over your head, as you are reading this. Now simply move that arm closer to your head until your bicep is touching the side of your head. Do you feel the Lats engage? Now move it further away from your head to your right. You will now feel less Lat involvement. You can do this with either arm, or both arms at the same time to get the idea.

What this little experiment shows is that a more narrow, not wider, grip will build the Lats! And best of all, you should not feel any shoulder pain while doing them with a medium or narrow grip.


Anytime that you turn the hand in, even with a neutral grip, you will activate more bicep. Not a bad thing depending on your goals. I do nothing for my biceps but Chin-ups and occasional neutral grip Pull-ups.

I have a set of parallel Pull-up bars in my home gym. I like the feel of them and they are fun to do for a change. However, the best Lat development, in my opinion, is with the standard Pull-up (palms away from you).

Reicher, start doing eccentric only chin ups to build up your strength.


Speed has given you a good piece of advice. Negatives are good when you find it difficult to do any, or many reps. However, I like the following two ideas even better as they get you in the groove (up and down motion), of actually doing a Pull-up/Chin-up.

The best way accomplish Pull-ups when you are having a hard time doing them is with a training partner who can assist you on the way up. Your partner should give you just enough help so that you can achieve 5 reps. Maybe you can get the first two, or so on your own, then your partner begins his assistance.

In a previous post “Zeb On Chin-ups” I also give details on how to use the Smith Machine as a Pull-up bar, with an appropriately placed bench underneath. This method is good if you do not have a partner to assist you.

Finally, one of the best ways to be able to do more Pull-ups is to cut excess body fat. All other things being equal the man with lower body fat will be able to do more Pull-ups.

I read somewhere that Chins activate more lat then pull-ups (wish I could tell you where.)

I’;ve been stuck on the same weight for a few weeks. Could doing singles help?

Hey just wanna thank ZEB that was really helpful oh and to add to the guy to help start doing pullups im not sure of the exact name of the machine but many gyms have it where you do the normal movement but there is a pad under your knees that pushes up and you can adjust the amount of force helping you. Just thought using it might get you to being able to do them on your own. Peace