How To Do a Proper Chin-up

April 13, 2022

The chin-up is an incredibly empowering move — and also a challenging one! Using the power of your arms to lift up your entire bodyweight builds unrivaled overall strength and even improves your posture.

Ready to learn the essentials? CA personal trainer Andy Guerin is here with pro tips for proper chin-up form, plus beginner-friendly variations.


Basics of the chin-up

First, let’s differentiate between the chin-up and pull-up. In the chin-up, you grip the bar with your palms facing towards you; in the pull-up, your palms face away from you. This subtle difference results in different muscle activation. Chin-ups target the front of your body, particularly your biceps, lats and chest, whereas a pull-up focuses more on the back of your body.

Of the two moves, chin-ups are a good place to start, since they’re slightly easier (not to be confused with easy!) and more shoulder-friendly. If you have an injury to your shoulders, wrists, upper back or elbows, it’s best to avoid chin-ups.


  • With your arms shoulder-width apart, grab the bar with your palms facing in.
  • Brace your abdominals (this helps create stability; you don’t want your body swinging).
  • Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, with your legs positioned straight below below your torso and your neck in a neutral position gazing straight ahead.
  • Pause briefly at the top.
  • Carefully lower yourself down (go slower than you want to), keeping your core engaged.

One of the biggest keys to a quality chin-up is full-body engagement. The tighter and more stabilized your body is, the better.


  • Swing your legs behind your body. The momentum might make it feel easier, but it won’t yield the results you want (aka, upper body strength).
  • Jut out your chin. Keep your neck in neutral alignment, with your chin slightly tucked.
  • Cheat with half chin-ups! One full extension chin-up is always preferable to multiple half chin-ups.
  • Forget to engage your core.
  • Tuck your knees toward your chest.

Vertically challenged? Not to worry! Below, Andy demos how to bring the bar closer with the help of a box.

Get stronger with CA 

If doing a full chin-up still seems out of reach, suspension trainers (available in all three of CA’s fitness clubs) can help you build foundational strength and practice proper form.

Remember, one quality chin-up is much better than cranking out five sloppy ones. When we sacrifice good form, bad habits are created and we put ourselves at risk of injury. 

If you’d like professional expertise, CA’s personal trainers are here for you! We have more than 30 skilled trainers across three fitness clubs who are passionate about helping you reach your fitness goals. Check out our blog to learn more about the benefits of personal training, or sign up here for a free consultation.

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