Chin-ups and Pull-ups as Part of a Calisthenics Routine

Chin-ups and pull-ups are exercises which fall at the more rigorous end of the calisthenics routine, so if you are completely out of shape, you should not attempt them on your first day.

Build up your muscles first before you take on chin-ups and pull-ups.

However, if you are already fairly athletic, you can start adding these types of exercises to your workout routine immediately.

At some point, you are going to need a larger challenge than pushups or squats can provide, and both chin-ups and pull-ups are ideally suited to this. A full hour of chin-ups or pull-ups would theoretically burn a full 560 calories of energy – though there are very few people who can carry out these exercises steadily for an entire hour, and even fairly muscular fitness enthusiasts often content themselves with ten or a dozen of each per session.

Although these two types of exercises are quite similar, and many details of correct performance are the same, chin-ups and pull-ups are slightly different in execution and target different muscle groups. Therefore, adding equal numbers of both to your exercise schedule is a viable plan.

The essential difference between chin-ups and pull-ups is as follows:Chin Ups - Pull Ups

  • Chin-ups are carriedout with the palms of your hands grasping the bar and facing towards you. These exercises focus much of the effort in your arms, especially your biceps, and less on the back, and therefore help to build arm musculature, using your own bodyweight for resistance.
  • Pull-ups involve grasping the bar with the palms facing away from you. Because of this detail, they can also be done on the top of a (firmly secured) door or other solid object, since you do not need to “reach through” while grasping the bar as is the case with chin-ups. They are best performed on a chin-up bar, and installing such a bar will allow you to do both exercises. Pull-ups work the back muscles most heavily, though they obviously provide some bicep and forearm development, too.


Correct Posing and Method for Chin-ups and Pull-ups

The whole object of these exercises is to work the muscles of your arms, chest, and back with your whole body weight, so you should avoid using your legs at all during the lift. Your legs should simply trail behind you and serve no function other than keeping you from falling to the floor when you eventually let go of the bar.

You should start each chin-up or pull-up with your full weight suspended directly from your arms – the so-called “dead hang”. The chin-up or pull-up should end in this manner, too. This ensures the effort is focused exactly where it is supposed to be, in the arms, shoulders, back, and chest. If you start from a standing rather than a hanging position, the effect will be lessened and the motion will be distorted, and provide a less beneficial effect.

The goal is to lift your head entirely over the bar at a minimum – hence the name “chin-up”. Note that this is the minimum acceptable outcome for chin-ups or pull-ups. What you should ultimately be aiming for is to pull yourself up so far that your chest touches the bar. As long as you are unable to do this, you still need to improve your pull-ups.

Variant Chin-ups and Pull-ups for Challenging or Targeted Calisthenics

Chin-ups and pull-ups are very rigorous exercises, so it will be some time before you are ready to move on to more advanced types. At first, you should sprinkle a few into your overall workout regime for heavy-duty muscular workout. As your physique becomes more toned and powerful, you can, if desired, make a series of chin-ups and pull-ups the centerpiece of each exercise session; these exercises will certainly keep you in top trim and add to your muscle mass effectively.

Once you are able to touch your chest to the bar ten or twelve times in succession, however, you may also want to add some unusual or particularly challenging pull-ups to your routine – something we look at more closely in the article: Advanced Chin-ups and Pull-ups.

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