Clients, both men and women, have told me that one of their goals is to be able to do chin ups and they want to know how to accomplish this. Here’s what I suggest to help them reach that goal and have a great workout!
A true chin up, or pull up is a very challenging exercise and is meant to focus primarily on working the mid-back muscles, or latissimus dorsi, and the biceps. By engaging several muscles, you must grip a bar and pull your entire body weight up so your chin clears the bar and then lower yourself down until your arms are straight.
There are different variations on the chin up based on the type of grip you have on the bar. A grip where your palms face away from you will work more of your lats and a grip with the palms facing toward you will focus more on the biceps. To improve your chin up form and help you perform the exercise you can train the muscles involved. For the lats, you can train with dead lifts and pull-downs and you can train the biceps with bicep curls. The secondary muscles involved in performing a chin up are the trapezius, rhomboids and abs. These muscles can be trained with barbell and dumbbell shrugs and abdominal crunches.
Once you have mastered the basic chin up, with correct form, you can add variation to make the exercise more difficult. For example, narrow your grip, use a parallel grip to focus on the shoulders, and change the starting angle of your body. Just remember that form will dictate where you produce the power to perform so, if in doubt, ask your trainer for help!