3. Pull ups/Chin up

The fourth place in my body Weight list goes to the Pull up/chin up. It is, once more, a basic exercise and a "selective" one, as it actually sets people apart. Those who can do them and those who cannot. The exercise is respected and highly rated in the fitness world and the forces. From the general population, body builder, crossfitters and forces, everybody do pull-up or chin up.

In my personal, experience being able to pull up consistently is a proof of me being really fit and healthy. Having dodgy shoulders, I don't do them as I often as I should, so being able to do them means I am healthy.

As a personal trainer or gym instructor it is a pleasure and pride seeing people manage to pull up. It is for the general population and the female in particular a hard exercise to perform, so to master them is a true source of pride.

The difference between a Pull up and a Chin up:

A Pull up is when the palms of your hands are facing away from you. The muscles worked will be your back, the "Lats" and your biceps.

A Chin up is when the palms of your hands are facing towards you. The same muscles are working, with more emphasis on the biceps.

How do I do a pull up?

1. Grab a bar with your grip slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Chest up, lower back straight (neutral spin), legs contracted. In regard to the grip width, it will depend on if you want it wide or narrow. A wide grip will be having your hand further apart than the initial shoulder width apart. On the other hand the narrow grip will be having the hands closer than shoulder width apart.

*2. My toes are contracted and pointed towards the front and I contract my abdominal muscles. The latter action force my legs slightly up. In other words, my body will look more like a half moon shape instead of a stick!

3. Finally, I pull myself up "WITHOUT BALANCING" and bring either my chin or my chest to the bar. I will pull myself as fast as I can and control the descent while returning to the starting position at the bottom of the lift with arms fully stretched and elbows locked.

*Let me explain the point 2, in the past I used to keep my legs totally straight with toes pointing down. I could say that my legs where a dead weight that I had to lift only with the strength of my "Lats" and "Biceps". With the emergence of Crossfit, I learnt the mechanic of the kipping pull up and the butterfly pull up.

The position described above is my starting position, my grips is slightly more than shoulder width apart, my palms are facing away from me, chest up, legs slightly raised with toes pointing up and forward.

The above techniques (kipping and butterfly pull up) require our abdominal muscles to be contracted, a plus as I used to do my pull up without engaging my core.

Secondly, at first it feels harder to lift your body with your legs and abdominal muscles tight but then it is actually easier and make total sense. As we lift we tighten all our muscles as much as possible making of the lift a whole body exercise instead of a lifting a "dead weight exercise".

Finally, this little change was more than beneficial as it turns out that the starting position that I newly adopted fit in different exercises such as the Burpee and the mentioned above kipping and butterfly pull up.

A quick word on the Burpee, if you dissect the Burpee motion you may realize with astonishment that you end up when on the floor in the starting pull up position. When you have to do few burpees, let say less than 20 reps, you can hammer them. However, when you have to do a lot of them in a short period of time, mixing them with different exercises, the explained posture help me being more efficient.

As a matter of fact, in my classes, I am between the first ones when we do the burpees but rarely the first. As the number of Burpee increases, I tend to keep up the same pace and do more than my training partners.

How to do the Chin up?

Follow all the steps described above with your palm facing towards you, et Voila!

Pull up and Chin up made easy: 

Step 1: If you cannot do a single pull up, then try to do a Chin up as it feels normally slightly easier.

Step 2: Get a step that you place close to your pull/chin up bar and jump into the finishing position, chin or chest go the bar and then control the descent. It has to take you 10" to gradually and in a control manner bring your body down and fully stretched at the bottom.

If 10" is too demanding, do what you can 5" or 3", eventually you will get to do sets of 6-8 with 10" and give a try to the step 1. 

Step 3: A training partner and the chin up machine are valuable. Your training partner will support by holding you from the hips or the knees and pushing you up.

If you have access to one of those assisted machine, where you place your knees on the pad and execute your pull, then use it and reduce, as improve the assistance provided by the machine.

Once comfortable at that stage, move to step 2, then 1 and finall give a go to the real thing!


The variations that I used recommend and warn about.

Tempo: I always make sure that my pull up is the fastest possible and then control my descent. Doing it like this I avoid stress in my elbow joints and ensure that I do a strict pull up without balancing my body.

Weighed: I hardly used weight as I am not capable of doing enough pull ups to need to upgrade myself to a harder exercise!

Kipping and Butterfly Pull up:

These are the famous Crossfit pull up and I warn you about them. These are technical and explosive movements that put a lot of stress on your lower back, shoulder and joints muscles when not performed properly.

You need to be properly taught if you want to perform them or you may hurt yourself, "As I did!"

Benefits of pull up:

The pull up is a compound exercise, which means that it works several joints and muscles at the same time. It strengthens your body in several spots and it is  a functional, free and versatile exercise.

A stronger grip:

By doing a pull up you will increase your grip strength, as your fingers, hands and arms are greatly challenged in the exercise execution.

Stronger arms:

Your shoulders and triceps will be involved in the pull ups, not as prime movers or main muscles but they will help the execution of the motion.

The biceps: They will definitely grow, especially if you do chin up. The biceps are prime movers. They are the main muscles targeted in a chin up, so they fully benefit of the exercise.

A stronger and thicker back:

The V shape that people who lift weight want to get is achieved by doing pull ups and chin ups. In a certain extent most of the athletes with and imposing back have some sorts of pull ups and chin up in their routines, such as the gymnasts, the crossfitters and the bodybuilders.

A stronger core:

In order to make a pull up easy, you need to stabilize your core muscles. In the proper execution of a pull up, pretty much anything from your cervical spin to your toes is contracted. In other words, you are almost "planking" yourself up! I mean that your core is engaged and working isometrically. This leads you to be stronger.


Pull ups and Chin ups are free, you can do them anywhere you want as long as you get a bar that can sustain your bodyweight.


It is a functional exercise as we find ourselves, not everyday though, but sometimes in a situation where we have to pull ourselves up. When in the park with the kids and using the monkey bars or having to demonstrate how...when trying to climb a fence, a wall...

Anybody should be able to lift her/his body...


As soon as you have a bar and feel comfortable with the pull ups, you can start doing all sorts of different demanding exercises, such as toes to bar, kipping, butterfly pull ups or even muscle up.

Give it a go and share this post with your friends!


Chin up starting position

Chin up starting position

Chin up final position... 

Chin up final position...