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Weakness at Top of Pull-Up


I can get five or six chins fairly easily, but can't complete one pronated pullup. I get the bar at eye level, and then, no matter you hard I pull, I go nowhere. I always figured my pulls would come as soon as I started to rep higher on chins, but this doesn't seem likely now. I've read about all the different programs, but I just need to know how to get the one full pull up, and I can take care of the rest.

I've been training chins mostly, as it seemed most productive, but now I'm thinking I just might have to go nuts on what is essentially an isometric until I can pull through, along with negatives.

Does that make sense? If so, should I continue chinning as well or simply focus on pull ups?

My goal is pull ups for high reps. Chins mean nothing to me.


My guess would be a lack of shoulder flexibility or simply weak lats...?
Do you stretch before you do pull ups...?

I also think maybe something as simple as doing a lt pulldown for abit would help tons


I forgot to mention I can get one or two reps with a neutral grip.

How would I improve shoulder flexibility?

I doubt my lats are all that weak if I can perform five full chins...right?

I train at home, and don't have access to a lat pulldown machine.


Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but chins use the supinated grip right...? So that nearly removes all of your lat work with that type of grip. In fact it's nearly all your biceps doing the work.
However if you pronate your grip the workload shifts mostly to your lats(forearms and even triceps are involved yoo, but to a lesser degree)and the movement becomes a different ball game(much more than people realise).


Most of the reading I've done says that the whole 'chins are mostly biceps' is bullshit. I believe the common argument is 'No one can curl their bodyweight' I certainly can't.


ur biceps are used more in chinups than with pullups. if u dont believe it try doing curls till failure and doing a chinup and then try a pullup. chins will be alot harder than pulls. not saying that its the only muscle used but unless u concentrate on squeezing ur back muscles or lats they are not working that hard. the lats are set up on the body so that one of the main functions is adduction of the arms.

when doing pullups the elbows kinda flare out to the sides and then adduct in. in chinups its just one line straight forward and back. it sounds to me that u have a pretty weak upper back but being 5'10 and only 150 it cant be alot of muscle weight? (not trying to offend) so i would try to work on that?

since ur pretty limited to wat u can use, i would try and do controlled negatives and work from there. or try and do some isometric holds in diff positions of the pullup. u can jump to the top and try and stay in that position for a certain amount of time and lower urself and do the same in different position.
just my 2 cents (there are also alot of articles/other topics about how to get more pullups


I can see where that argument is coming form but chins also use a lot of your upper back muscles, most if which is lats. But the biceps are the prime movers in the movement. I know when I was doing both chins and pull-ups my biceps would be killing me after tough chins sets, but it would be my lower back(nearly all of it) that would be killing me after my pull-ups.

Plus, most people have the same pull-ups/chins strength imbalance that you do. And no offence but 5/6 chins isn't really strong, so I wouldn't ommit chins completly either.
Use the search function for tips and tricks you can use, there's a bunch of them out there


since ur pretty limited to wat u can use, i would try and do controlled negatives and work from there. or try and do some isometric holds in diff positions of the pullup.

Good advice from fong. Your lacking in your lats, hit the neg if you have limited resources. You would really benefit from a couple weeks on the lat pulldown though. Good Luck!


Thanks guys. Just wanted to know if it was anything other than general sissy-girl weakness. I'll be working on it.


Biceps are NOT the prime mover in any chin-up or pull-up variation. That's just plain stupid. The biceps are stronger with a supinated grip, which accounts for the slight strength difference between chins and pull-ups, provided hand spacing is identical. Lat involvement doesn't change.


Than why such a variance of reps between the two?


I'd assume that the difference is more pronounced if you don't know how to pull with your lats and/or your grip sucks. Even if you're using your arms more than you should, the lats will always be the prime movers.

If you're gripping your pull-ups a bit wider, you probably won't be getting as high as with your chin-ups, but you should still be able to clear the bar with your chin.


Pull ups are with a wide grip. I can get one or two with a closer grip, but wide(what I count as a pull up) I can't get my chin over the bar.


when i started doing high volume weighted chins my traps just blazed. it is a lot of upper back i believe.

i'm not sure why the pullup is giving him a limit at the top unless it's as others suggested, limited shoulder flexibility. maybe a grip that was an inch or so wider would help diagnose. i wonder if leaning back to a more horizontal would help as well?


Dude, that's a totally different story. Generally speaking, pull-up means overhand and chin-up means underhand. Grip width needs to be specified, otherwise it's assumed you're talking about roughly shoulder width.

Struggling with a wide grip when you can only knock out a few regular chin-ups is perfectly natural.


Ah, okay. I never realized a couple inches of width would make such a difference. Is there any way to specifically focus on wide grip pulls? Just keep doing what I'm doin'?


You could try the same stuff that works for those who can't do chin-ups, only with a wide grip. Shoulder adduction involves more of the teres major, so if it's comparatively weak, just doing more wide-grip stuff should help. The variation will likely help your chin-up numbers too.

I personally like multiple sets of 4-6 with chin-ups. So once you can exceed that with bodyweight, definitely start throwing weight on a dip belt.


Should I add weight if I am looking for reps rather than hypertrophy?


Hi Vicomte,

I've had this problem in the past as well. Without getting into specifics and anatomy, this is what worked for me.

Continue doing your chins in the same fashion, i.e. sets, reps. On your pull-ups, try your hardest to get one or two. Then do a few negatives. Immediately go and crank out around 10-12 lat pulldowns to the front, being sure to pull down as far as you can and really concentrate your mind on your back throughout the movement.

I think that by doing this you should be able to complete a full pull-up in no time.


In general lower rep work has good carryover to the hypertrophy and endurance areas, but you can't say the opposite. Of course, regardless of your goals, higher rep stuff has its place, but you don't see guys getting strong by sticking with 185 lbs on the bench press until they can do it 20 times. It's just not practical.

Particularly with chins, performance drops off really fast as you approach failure. Doing multiple sets of lower reps works really well. Get half your bodyweight on a dip belt for one rep and 20 bodyweight chins will feel easy without ever training for it.