Kinesiology on Chinups


If you are looking for exercises to improve the strength and muscle tone of your upper body without the use of weights and machines, take up chinups. Although chinups are one of the hardest exercises to master, when you learn the kinesiology of a chinup, they yield fast and rewarding results. Kinesiology is the study of movement. Learn how to properly move your body during a chinup and get the highest rate of return.

Body and Muscle Direction

  • The actions and muscles recruited during a chinup are similar to the traditional narrow grip lat pulldown. During the lat pulldown, however, you are moving the bar down to your body, while in the chinup you are moving your body up to the bar. Because you are using your muscles to lift yourself versus pulling a weight down, the stresses on your muscles during a chinup are different and more challenging than the lat pulldown. For both exercises, muscles involved are the latissimus dorsi, biceps, teres major and minor, rotator cuffs, pectoralis major, rhomboids and deltoids.

Hand Positioning

  • Chinups are performed with your hands in a supinated position, palms facing you, while pullups are performed in a pronated position, palms facing away. The supinated chinup is easier than the pronated pullup. In pronation, the radius crosses over the ulna and the biceps tendon wraps around the radius, meaning the biceps create force at an angle. In supination, the ulna and radius are parallel to each other and the biceps pull in a straight line. In a neutral position, palms facing each other, elbow flexion is most effective and biceps are the strongest.


  • Grab the bar with a supinated grip and hang with your feet a few inches above the floor. Inhale to begin bending your elbows. Your shoulder muscles will initiate the upward movement. Your biceps with then move your elbow joint to 90 degrees and your latissimus dorsi will pull your body up to the bar. Lift your chin above the bar to engage your pectoralis major. Exhale as you slowly lower your body down. Fully extend your arms before you repeat. Do not swing or use momentum. Perform six of three sets, increasing your repetitions by two at every workout.


  • To place greater stress on your lats, widen your grip. The wider the grip, the greater the stress on the latissimus dorsi. If you are doing chinups for biceps toning, maintain a slight flexion in your elbow at the bottom. However, if you do this for an extended duration, realize that you will decrease the flexibility and function of your biceps and triceps. Also note that chinups only activate the lower fibers of the latissimus dorsi while pullups activate the upper fibers. To engage the entire latissimus dorsi, perform both chinups and pullups.

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