What Muscles Does a Chin Up Palms in & Palms Out Work?

Chin-ups work arm and shoulder muscles.
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Chin-ups, pullups and pulldowns are compound exercises that work the back and arm muscles. Not only are chin-ups and pullups versatile exercises that can be performed using just body weight, but they can also improve athletic performance and prevent injury. Varying hand position and grip width for these exercises emphasizes different muscle groups. Avoid extremely wide grips as they limit your range of motion and place excessive stress on your shoulders.


The starting position for a chin-up is standing and reaching overhead to grasp a bar with straight arms in an underhand or supinated grip, with your palms facing in the direction of your head. The major muscle groups used for chin-ups are the latissimus dorsi back muscles and biceps brachii arm muscles, but other back, arm and shoulder muscles assist the lats. Compared to pullups, chin-ups use the pectoral muscles more at the start of the movement and focus the biceps and forearms slightly more. A narrower grip emphasizes the biceps more and a wider grip, the back muscles.


The difference between a pullup and chin-up is that a pullup uses an overhand or pronated grip in which your palms face away from your body. Pullups use the pectoral muscles less for initiating the movement and rely less on the biceps and rely more on the lower trapezius muscles than chin-ups. Pullups, especially if done with a wide grip, are also better for improving round shoulders.

Neutral Grip Pull-up

For a neutral or parallel grip pullup, position your hands so that your palms face each other. A neutral grip uses upper back muscles such as the rhomboids slightly more than regular pullups or chin-ups. A neutral grip stresses the shoulder joints less than other hand positions for this exercises, so it is preferable for people who are concerned about shoulder pain or injury.

Chin-up and Pullup Variations

If you have difficulty completing a single pullup or chin-up with good form, use an assisted pullup machine or do lat pulldowns on a high pulley machine to build up your back and arm muscles. Alternatively, if regular pullups or chin-ups have become too easy, rather than piling on extra reps, do weighted chin- or pullups using a weight belt, ankle weights or holding a weight plate or dumbbell between your thighs.

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