Chin Ups vs Pull Ups: Which Exercise Wins In Achieving A Strong Back

So you want to develop a stronger back and you have been eyeballing that pull up bar at your gym but have been wondering which exercise is best.  Which exercise is the most effective? Let us break it down and see who wins in the debate of chin ups vs pull ups when working on the back.

There are different exercises that develop the back such as rows, low rows, high rows and different ways of doing pull ups that target the back.  Some of these exercises focus more on the lats, others the middle back, or the upper back region.

It is important to note that in order to achieve the best results and best back development you have to use a variety of exercises to really build stronger back muscles.  With that being said let us look at what pull ups exercises and chin ups exercises mostly target.

The Differences Between These Two Exercises

Chin ups are performed using palms in grip (underhand) and the hands usually close together.  Pull ups are performed with the palms facing outward (overhand) and the grip can vary either neutral, close or wide grip.  Although many people confuse the difference between these two exercises this is the distinction between the two.
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Muscles Targeted By Chin Ups Exercises

Chin ups exercises are excellent at working the back, primarily the upper and middle back and the biceps to a great extent.  Other muscles that are targeted are rear deltoids.  Although other muscles like rear deltoids and the lats are stimulated they are done so at a lesser of a degree.

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Muscles Targeted By Pull Ups Exercises

Pull ups are known as one of the granddaddies gym workouts.  Unfortunately they are not performed as often as they should be probably because they are considered difficult to perform.  This exercise really targets and stimulates the entire lats area.  For a good example of lats development just look at a gymnast or swimmer’s body.  The lats begin from right below the armpit all the way down below the ribs area.

Pull ups stimulate the lats in a way that makes them stand out more and give the back a wide appearance.

Although the biceps are also stimulated they are done so to a lesser extent than chin ups.  However it is clear that both exercises serve their purpose when working out the back.  It is also important to note that both of these exercises are excellent as they provide upper body strength if done on a regular basis.

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Who Wins Between Pull Ups vs Chin Ups?

This depends on which muscle group you want to focus on more.  If you had to decide on an exercise that focuses more on the back then pull ups exercises are ideal.  However there is nothing that says you have to do one or the other.

In fact, I would suggest using both in any back workout.  If you are doing strictly a bodyweight workout then you should definitely do both exercises.  If you are including weights in your workout you can do both or replace one of these exercises in place of lat pulldowns for example.

I advise doing as many repetitions as you can for these exercises.  If your rep volume is low just continue practicing them in your workouts until you can do more.

For a beginner I would advise doing chin ups for a few weeks to develop strength in the back and biceps that will then prepare you for more difficult exercises like pull ups.

In reality I would not look at it as a competition of chin ups vs pull ups but rather learning to incorporate the two for best maximum back and upper body results.