Answering this question is very important for a beginner that wants to learn how to do more pull-ups.
The real reason for that is because choosing the wrong exercise to start your journey may be the difference between learning to do pull-ups in a month and learning to do them in six months.
I bet you want results as fast as possible.
Are chin-ups safer than pull-ups? Chin-ups place more demand on your biceps and pull-ups place more demand on your lats. Because of that, chin-ups are safer and easier for beginners. Your grip width and individual body weight will have an important role in how easy chin-ups will be.
I’ve been receiving a lot of questions about how to learn to do pull-ups and if they are safe for beginners or older people. This is why I decided to create this article where I will compile useful information, my personal experience, recommendations, and observations
Table of Contents:
Are Chin-Ups and Pull-Ups Safe?
First, let’s take a good look at these two exercises.
Chin-ups are easier for beginners because they place a higher demand on your biceps (the muscle above your elbow).
This happens because chin-ups are done with an underhand grip, which will resemble a lot the grip of a barbell curl. The mechanics of the movement are such that you will be using your biceps to pull yourself up, and your lats will have more of a secondary role. Of course, you will still be training your lats, too, and chin-ups are a great way to strengthen and develop your back muscles.
Conversely, with pull-ups you will be using an overhand grip – this means your palms will be on top of the bar facing down. Imagine it. This will eliminate your biceps when you try to pull yourself up. This means that your back will need to work a lot harder compared to the chin-ups.
The majority of people are going to have stronger arms compared to the other muscles that one needs when doing pull-ups.
This means that most of the beginners will find chin-ups a lot easier and arguably safer because of the less intensity they will be placed on one’s body and muscles.
Another important thing is the apparent difference in the grip of the two exercises.
Generally speaking, you can use three types of grip when you train on the pull-up bar.
- Overhand grip – An overhand grip is a grip that has your palms on top of the bar – or your palms are facing the ground. This is the grip you use when doing pull-ups;
- Underhand grip – An underhand grip is the grip that you will use when doing chin-ups. Your palms will be facing upwards; and
- Neutral grip – Neutral grip is the grip where your palms are facing one another. Doing pull-ups with neutral grip is going to be moderately difficult as these pull-ups will be right in between the chin up and pull up difficulty.
What Makes Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups Dangerous
Both of these exercises are super safe. However, despite saying that certain things can make them dangerous.
Let’s take a look.
Doing Pull-Ups on Very A High Pull up Bar
Of course, that would depend on where you train. I always go for a pull-up bar that is about 10 to 15 inches above my head. This allows me to get a good grip on the bar, and it gives me enough clearance between my feet and the ground while doing the pull-ups. (You don’t want your legs to reach the ground.)
Some people like to train on very high pull up bars which require them to jump up to the bar. This is not the safest thing to do for a beginner. For the more advanced people, it is going to be okay, though. But at the beginning jumping up to the bar may lead to different things like:
- Not being able to get a proper grip.
- You may slip and fall from the bar.
Both of these may expose you to an injury or poor performance while working out.
Doing Pull-Ups on a Doorframe Pull up Bar
A lot of people like to do pull-ups on a doorframe pull up bar.
Using a doorframe bar is an extremely convenient way to train at home, without worrying about the weather outside or anything else that may get in the way of training.
However, this means that you need to invest in a good doorframe pull up bar in the first place. A bad product may be dangerous as we all have seen the videos of people falling with the bar in their hands.
Even though you are not likely to fall from dangerous heights, you are still at risk of getting some bruises.
You want to use a sturdy and durable doorframe pull up bar that can withstand more weight than your bodyweight. Also, make sure to install it properly and secure it as much as possible.
Also, a doorframe pull up bar is not really suitable for any advanced movements – like doing a muscle-up. It is best used for regular slow pull-ups or chin-ups that will not place any momentum on the bar.
For more information on the topic of doorframe pull-up bars check out my article about the effectiveness of doorframe pull-up bars.
Doing Pull-Ups With Bad Form
Doing both pull-ups and chin-ups with bad and incorrect form is not safe.
Understanding the right way to do pull-ups is of utmost importance for every beginner. If you get used to doing this exercise with bad for you are risking it becoming a habit that usually takes a long time to fix.
Doing any exercise with bad form is actually very dangerous as this opens the possibility of getting yourself injured.
Doing a pull up with bad form may place unwanted stress on the wrong joints, ligaments, or muscles, thus defeating the whole purpose of the exercise.
Make sure to watch yourself in the mirror if you are training at a gym or have a buddy watch you and comment on your form if there are no mirrors nearby.
Learning to do pull-ups the right way is not only safer, but you will benefit from advancing much faster.
I am a big proponent of training outside – after all, I started my fitness journey doing street fitness outside – but it may not always be safe.
Mind your surroundings.
Falling from the pull up bar on the hard ground may injure you.
Also sometimes the weather may bring unexpected surprises. For example, I’ve trained numerous times under the rain, and once I had to run under a nearby tree to protect myself against the hailstorm that came out of nowhere.
If you train outside, to make sure to dress accordingly. During the summer you may want to bring extra water to avoid dehydration. Make sure to not train for extended periods of time under the direct sunlight. And during the winter make sure to dress well in warm clothes. Be careful with drinking the cold water.
Are you motivated?
You should be! But overdoing it can hurt you in the long term. One of the things I stumbled upon when training with some beginners is that often they are so motivated that they can hardly wait until the next training sessions.
However, your muscles and body need to time after each training session to recover. Every workout is like doing a small injury to your muscles, and through recovering from that minor injury, they grow!
If you don’t give yourself enough time to recover any exercises will be dangerous as this will lead to overtraining. And overtraining is a no-no!
Overtraining leads to loss of motivation, low energy levels, and even injuries. Giving yourself a good amount of rest between each training sessions will make these exercises safe and fun.
Focusing on the Wrong Things
Another thing that I have noticed some people often do is focus too much on just one exercise or muscle group.
For example, doing huge amounts of pull-ups to train their back muscles, but forgetting about their chest muscles, or leg muscles.
This is dangerous as it will lead eventually to muscle imbalances that may take a lot of time to fix properly. I’ve had to train people with muscle imbalances before, and it is not an easy task as you need to really help them focus on the right thing and forget for a while their “favorite” body part.
Muscles imbalances are bad for several reasons: they create an undesirable body image that is no aesthetic and pleasing to the eye, and they can lead to injuries. And both of these are not fun.
How to Make Chin-Ups and Pull-Ups Easier and Safer
Well, if you just started training, you don’t want anything to stop or slow down your progress; and several things will ultimately affect your performance.
And more importantly, your body fat percentage. One of the things that can definitely set you back is any unnecessary body fat.
The heavier you are, the harder you will find doing the pull-ups.
What that means is that it would benefit you to go on a healthy diet to lose any extra fat that you may have on yourself. You will be amazed by how much even one pound will affect your performance.
You don’t really need to worry about this too much. Just focus on a healthy diet. Avoid any sugary and processed food.
For more information about how your bodyweight affects your pull-ups check my article about, “Are pull-ups harder if you weigh more?“
If you train way too often, you are not giving yourself enough time to recover. For example, if you want to get really good at pull-ups, I would NOT recommend doing them more than three times a week.
And if you do pull-ups, say, five days a week it won’t be too long before you get yourself into the overtraining mode. And this is not a fun place to be.
Overtraining will make pull-ups not only more difficult for you – slowing down your progress – but also you can get an overuse injury.
A Healthy Lifestyle
A good, healthy, and balanced lifestyle will allow your body to recover faster after each training session and be stronger. You will be more energetic, focused, and motivated to succeed.
Make sure to:
- Eat a healthy and nutrient-dense diet;
- Always get good quality sleep during the night; and
- Avoid any stressful situations.
Time and Experience
Here’s the ugly truth about pull-ups and chin-ups – it takes time to get really good at them. The only way to do more pull-ups is … to do pull-ups.
Make sure to stock up on patience and persistence, and you will succeed.
Doing Easier Pull up and Chin up Variations
Nowadays, there are a lot of ways you can make chin-ups and pull-ups safer and easier to learn.
If you are having a tough time even hanging on the bar, then make sure to take a step backward and do an easier variation that will strengthen your muscles.
- Inverted rows;
- Negative pull-ups or chin-ups;
- Hanging off the bar;
- Neutral grip pull-ups;
- Assisted pull-ups on a machine;
- Assisted pull-ups with a resistance band;
- Lat pulldowns; and
- Barbell or dumbbell rows.
Both pull-ups and chin-ups are safe when done correctly.
They are a great exercise that will develop your back muscles, shoulders, and arms. I’ve never seen a man that will not enjoy having a wider and broader back and shoulders.
Training smart and safe is the sure-fire way to achieve your goals!