The Pull-Up and Chin-Up are two of the best bodyweight exercises for strengthening back and other upper body muscles. Most experts make these exercises staples of their sports training programs.
The exercises primarily engage the lat muscles, which contribute to shoulder and back strength; however, other muscles, including the arms and chest, are used to complete each movement.
A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research sought to prove whether Pull-Ups or Chin-Ups contributed more to overall strength. During the Pull-Up, the entire trap is activated, while the Chin-Up relies on significant contributions from the biceps and chest muscles to complete the movement.
So, which exercise is better? According to Mike Reinold, physical therapist for the Boston Red Sox, it depends on your strength goals.
“If you are weightlifting for good looks, the Chin-Up is best for you—high lat activity with greater biceps and pec activity,” he says. “For those worried about posture, shoulder function and general athleticism, the Pull-Up may be the better option as you minimize pec activity and maximize lower trapezius muscle activity.”
Based on this information, the Pull-Up appears to be better for athletes; however, Chin-Ups can be incorporated to add variety to an upper body strength program.
Watch the video above to see a Pull-Up routine performed by NFL star Josh Cribbs.