Today we’re going to talk about the benefits of doing chin-ups, without doubt, one of the most comprehensive and productive exercises in existence.

King of Kings

To achieve the physical magnitude and muscular development typical of a bodybuilder, you need to eat right and move heavyweights that hit the major muscle groups, because these are the ones that allow you to make huge gains in strength muscle and size.

This is done with compound exercises, also known as basic or multiarticular movements, which involve various joints and thus implicate numerous muscles.

This, in fact, is preccisely what allows you to move considerable loads with these exercises, as a number of muscles work synergistically in the action.

These exercises include the bench press, military press, power clean, all kinds of rowing movements, the various types of squats, leg press, parallel dips and, of course, chin-ups.

The more muscles involved in the action the greater the potential it has to stimulate growth, as more muscles are affected and more weight can be lifted, and this, in turn, produces a deeper and more anabolic hormonal response.

As such, beginners should stick almost exclusively with basic exercises until they have gained such strength and size that some isolation movement would then become appropriate.

Amongst all the compound exercises available to the beginner, chin-ups stand out as being very difficult, and equally effective.

Diamond In The Rough

Chin-ups are an absolute diamond in the rough for building overall strength and size. They are amongst the best of the compound exercises that involve numerous joints and affect various muscle groups simultaneously.

Firstly, the tension this exercise creates falls mainly on the lats, but also on the other muscles that make up the back, including the traps, rear delts, and even the spinal erectors.

Secondly, since the movement requires a handgrip, a significant amount of tension hits the biceps and especially the forearms, as they are responsible for maintaining a grip on the bar.

And thirdly, as if that wasn’t enough, the abdominals, pectrorials and even the legs contract when you perform chin-ups.

So, the movement actually works the whole body to some extent and, as we mentioned above, the more muscles affected the greater the potential there is for more growth, as well as gains in strength and mass.

How Effective Are They?

The answer to the question lies in their extreme difficulty. It is an unwritten rule that most productive exercises, in terms of size and strength gains, are the ones that are harder to do.

Normally this is because they are the ones with which you can move the heaviest loads, and as such, they require a level of exertion far superior to isolation exercises.

For example, sit down and grab a heavy dumbbell and do a set of concentration curls to absolute failure. I’m sure your arm is totally destroyed, but you are probably not gasping for air.

Now do a hard set of squats, bent over rows or chins ( you don’t even have to go to failure) and tell whether your heart and respiratory rates haven’t just shot through the roof.

The basic difference is the total amount of muscle employed in each case, and the amount of blood that has to be pumped around to them full of fuel and oxygen.

When it comes to chin-ups, well, they are so hard that in the beginning you probably won’t be able to do even one rep. But don’t give up! Keep at it, and even f you have to break it down to four sets of one rep, then so be it.

Make the commitment and pretty soon it will be two reps, then three, then for and so on. When you get to the stage of being able to do four or five sets of ten repetitions you will have gained numerous lbs of muscle and widened your back like you can’t believe.


Objective: To build muscle strength and size in the back, especially in the lats, and to separate the shoulder blades and widen the back, accentuating the torso’s V-shape.

Position: Hanging from a fixed bar with arms extended and legs hanging from straight down or crossed behind the body.

Execution: Lift yourself up until your chin reaches the bar, or rises above it if possible. Then lower your body down slowly, under control, once again to full arm extension.

Tip: The width of your grip determines which part of the back and what area of the lats receive greater stimulation

Wide, Close or Reverse Grip…

There are a few different ways of doing chin-ups, varying the separation of your hands and the way you hold the bar.

Each one slightly varies the way the exercise affects your muscles, but they all have extraordinary benefits: Great strength in the arms and back and exceptional muscle development in the rear of the torso as a whole.

So whether you prefer to use a wide, close or reverse grip…always do your chin-ups.

Wide Grip Chin-Ups

In this version of the exercise, the most traditional way of doing chin-ups, the grip is wider than the shoulders.

Tension mainly falls on the upper and lower lats, the teres and the central traps.

Medium Grip Chin-Ups

Here the hands are shoulder-width, or even slightly narrower, and the tension falls uniformly on the lats. The line of movement is longer and produces more overall growth.

Close Grip Chins, Hands Parallel

With the hands close together and facing each other, the biceps have a mechanical advantage, which allows them to carry more of the load and makes the exercise easier.

This version hits the lower lats more deeply, down where they insert at the waist as well as the rest of the back and the lower traps.

Close Grip Chins Reverse Grip

With the hands close together and facing the torso, the biceps again have a mechanical advantage, making the exercise easier to do.

The wrists must be quite flexible or they will suffer a lot of tension during this movement. Again this version hits the lower lats more deeply, down where they insert at the waist, as well as the rest of the back.

References & Acknowledgments

Excerpts taken from the excellent article ‘Foundations of Your Future Physique: Chin Ups’, Author – Darrell Thomas