If you’re looking for efficient ways to accomplish everything you want to do in your busy day, that attitude likely extends to your exercise routine as well. If that’s true for you, then chin-ups are good exercises to include in your program, because they train so many muscles while taking up so little of your precious time. If your health club has a chin-up bar, or you’ve installed one in your home, take advantage of this body-weight exercise dynamo to tone your upper half.
Don’t confuse chin-ups with pullups. The key difference between the two activities is the way you grip the bar. Instead of using an overhand grip, grasp the bar with your palms facing inward -- directly toward your body at the peak of your movement -- to perform chin-ups. Set your hands shoulder-width apart or a bit closer, then hang from the bar with your arms fully extended and your feet off the floor. Exhale as you pull your chin above the bar, then inhale as you slowly return to the starting position.
You lift all of your body weight when you perform chin-ups. Your fingers are wrapped around the bar, so, technically speaking, there are a few ounces that you don’t lift. By percentage, however, the amount of body weight that you lift will round up to 100 percent because the rest of your body hangs in space below the bar.
If you’re not yet strong enough to pull all of your body weight up to the bar, you can begin developing that strength by doing negatives, which are basically half chin-ups. Raise yourself up to the bar with some type of assistance, such as climbing on a stool or having a training partner give you a boost. When your chin is over the bar, step off the stool or have your partner release you, then lower yourself slowly until your arms are fully extended. Depending on the help you receive, you’ll lift very little or none of your body weight to the bar, but you’ll control all of your body weight during your descent.
Perhaps you’re in such good shape that lifting all of your body weight isn’t sufficiently challenging. In this case, perform weighted chin-ups by holding a dumbbell or other small weight between your feet, or by wearing a weight belt. You’ll now be lifting more than 100 percent of your body weight up to the bar. If you weigh 150 pounds, for example, and you wear a 30-pound weight belt, you’ll be lifting 120 percent of your body weight as you ascend.
The chin-up is primarily a back exercise that targets your latissimus dorsi and also works several other back and shoulder muscles. Chin-ups also engage several upper-arm and chest muscles. Speak with your physician before adding chin-ups to your routine, particularly if you’ve been inactive or have any health concerns. Warm up before doing chin-ups by performing five to 10 minutes of light cardio activity. Stop doing chin-ups if you feel pain.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.