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How Many Chin-Ups Should I Do For Solid Strength Gains?

Although it seems that many people focus on mastering pull-ups, incorporating chin-ups into your workout routine can also have many of the same benefits while strengthening somewhat different muscles than the muscles worked by pull-ups.

But, when you are planning your strength workouts, you may wonder, how many chin-ups should I be able to do? How many chin-ups should I do based on my fitness level and training goals?

In this chin-ups reps workout guide, we will discuss how to perform chin-ups properly and ultimately answer your question, how many chin-ups should I do based on my training goals?

Let’s get started! 

A person doing a chin-up.

How Do You Do a Chin-Up?

Before we look at how many reps of chin-ups to do, let’s discuss how to perform chin-ups correctly.

A chin-up is a bodyweight exercise that involves hanging from an overhead pull-up bar with a supinated grip (your palms facing your body) and then using the muscles in your back, arms, and core to bend your elbows and lift your body up.

The end position of a chin-up is to have your chin or ideally your clavicles or nipple line up above the level of the bar.

Then, you slowly straighten your elbows and lower your body all the way back down until your arms are straight, resisting the pull of gravity so that you are using your muscles in an eccentric (lengthening) contraction.1Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D. I., Vigotsky, A. D., Franchi, M. V., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Hypertrophic Effects of Concentric vs. Eccentric Muscle Actions. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research31(9), 2599–2608. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001983

‌To do a chin-up, you will need a sturdy overhead bar that can support your weight.

A person doing a chin-up.

Here are the steps for how to do a chin-up:

How To Perform A Chin-Up

  1. Grab onto the chin-up bar, positioning your hands about shoulder-width apart with your palms pointing towards your face (when your palms point away, you are in the pull-up vs chin-up position).
  2. Hang on to the bar with your arms fully extended. If the bar is too low so that your feet are touching the ground, bend your knees so that your shins and feet are behind your body. Try to keep your upper body relatively relaxed, but engage your core and glutes for stability. 
  3. Pull yourself up by engaging your lats, biceps, abs, and shoulder muscles, and driving your elbows down toward the floor in front of your body as you bend them.
  4. Lift your body up until your chin is above the bar or the bar approaches chest height. Do not swing your body to gain momentum. Stay stable and use your muscles to raise your body, not momentum.
  5. Pause briefly at the top, squeezing your biceps and upper back muscles. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed away from your ears.
  6. Slowly lower your body back down in a controlled manner until your arms are fully straight.
  7. Repeat, doing as many repetitions as possible or as desired.

Should I Do Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups? 

Like pull-ups, chin-ups are not an easy exercise, but they are one of the most effective strengthening exercises for back and biceps workouts.

With pull-ups, you use a pronated or overhand grip (palms facing away from your face) with your hands generally spaced slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.2Ortega-Rodríguez, R., Feriche, B., Almeida, F., Bonitch-Góngora, J., & Padial, P. (2020). Effect of the Pronated Pull-Up Grip Width on Performance and Power-Force-Velocity Profile. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2020.1762835

When performing chin-ups, the hand position is reversed, so you use a supinated or underhand grip with your palms facing your face.

Oftentimes, the distance between your hands with chin-ups is less than it is with pull-ups, but with either exercise, varying your hand spacing is a great way to target slightly different muscle fibers.

Although the muscle groups worked by chin-ups and pull-ups are similar, the differing hand positions shift the primary muscles worked by chin-ups vs pull-ups to some degree.

A person doing a chin-up.

The primary muscles worked by chin-ups include the rhomboids, traps, lats, biceps, the brachialis on the lateral part of the upper arm under the biceps, the brachioradialis and all of the forearm/grip muscles, and the muscles of the shoulder such as the teres major and deltoids.

Assisting muscles for chin-ups work include the abdominal muscles, the serratus anterior, the rotator cuff muscles, the levator scapulae, and the deep spinal stabilizers and core muscles, including the transverse abdominis, lumbar multifidus and thoracolumbar fascia.

Like pull-ups, chin-ups also strengthen the wrist flexors, wrist extensors, and finger flexors involved in grip strength

A lack of grip strength, which is primarily a matter of the strength of your forearm muscles, is actually the limiting factor for big lifts like maxing out on your deadlift, barbell rows, or kettlebell exercises, and can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in older adults.3Leong, D. P., Teo, K. K., Rangarajan, S., Lopez-Jaramillo, P., Avezum, A., Orlandini, A., Seron, P., Ahmed, S. H., Rosengren, A., Kelishadi, R., Rahman, O., Swaminathan, S., Iqbal, R., Gupta, R., Lear, S. A., Oguz, A., Yusoff, K., Zatonska, K., Chifamba, J., & Igumbor, E. (2015). Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. The Lancet386(9990), 266–273. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(14)62000-6

Ultimately, performing both chin-ups and pull-ups in your strength training program is important.

A person doing a chin-up.

How Can I Get Better At Chin-Ups?

Chin-ups are notoriously difficult, especially for a bodyweight exercise.

Here are a few tips for getting better at chin-ups:

#1: Try Negative Chin-Ups

Negative chin-ups involve jumping up so that you are at the end position of a chin-up with your clavicles over the level of the bar and then slowly lowering your body down. 

The slower you can go, the better.

This is because studies suggest that the eccentric portion of an exercise triggers the greatest stimulus for muscle protein synthesis, which can translate to greater gains in muscle growth and strength for the chin-ups muscles. 4Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D. I., Vigotsky, A. D., Franchi, M. V., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Hypertrophic Effects of Concentric vs. Eccentric Muscle Actions. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research31(9), 2599–2608. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001983

You can progress this chin-up training exercise by pausing at certain portions of the lowering and then holding the position to build grip strength like a dead hang but in other joint angles. 

After a rep of the negative chin-up training exercise, jump back up and then repeat for as many reps as you can or want to.

A person doing a chin-up with a resistance band.

#2: Perform Assisted Chin-Ups

The assisted pull-up/chin-up machine allows you to offset some of your weight and then perform chin-ups as if you have a lower body weight. 

You can use a resistance band looped around your feet to help provide some elastic recoil assistance to lift your body with a chin-up if you don’t have access to an assisted chin-up machine.

#3: Strengthen the Muscles Worked By Chin-Ups

You can also get better at chin-ups by training the muscles worked by chin-ups with other exercises.

Examples include pull-ups, dead hangs, bent-over rows, Pendlay rows, lat pull-downs, face pulls, straight-arm pulldowns, inverted rows (bodyweight), T-bar or barbell rows, renegade rows, and deadlifts. 

Supplementary exercises like bicep curls, hammer curls, wrist curls, wrist rollers, captain’s chair, hollow holds, shrugs, and hanging knee raises can also help strengthen the muscles used for chin-ups.

A person doing a chin-up.

#4: Make Chin-Ups Harder

There are also ways to progress chin-ups as you get stronger. 

If you don’t want to do more reps of chin-ups (which is really only ideal for increasing muscular endurance) because you want to do chin-up workouts for hypertrophy or strength, you can add a weighted vest or chains to increase your effective body weight.

How Many Chin-Ups Should I Be Able to Do?

If you’re a competitive athlete, you might ask: How many chin-ups are “good” for men or women to be able to do?

Although there aren’t necessarily official chin-up standards for all ages and fitness levels, the table below shows the average number of chin-ups for men and women based on fitness level, according to 637,716 chin-up workouts logged by community users of Strength Level.5Chin Ups Standards for Men and Women (lb) – Strength Level. (n.d.). Strengthlevel.com. https://strengthlevel.com/strength-standards/chin-ups

Because the intermediate level is said to be the average ability level—or represent the 50th percentile—across all ages for the given sex, it can be said that the average number of chin-ups for females of all ages and ability levels is 6 while the average male can do 14 chin-ups.

Strength LevelFemales Chin-Up Reps Males Chin-Up Reps 
Beginner< 1< 1
Novice< 16
Intermediate614
Advanced1324
Elite2235
A person doing a chin-up.

How Many Chin-Ups Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals?

For many strength training exercises, deciding on how many reps to do and how much weight to use is guided by your primary fitness goal.

Because chin-ups are a bodyweight exercise and a very challenging one at that, the number of chin-ups you should do may be limited by your fitness level, meaning that beginners might not be able to do many chin-ups in a row.

Even many advanced athletes don’t add additional weight to chin-ups for quite some time, as bodyweight chin-ups alone tend to be difficult enough that fatigue is reached by the end of a set of an appropriate number of chin-up reps.

How Many Chin-Ups Should I Do If I Am A Beginner?

If you are a beginner, start with 2 to 3 sets of 3 to 6 chin-ups, or as many chin-up reps as you can do.

Eventually, try to build up to three sets of 10 to 12 chin-ups in a row.

A person doing a chin-up.

How Many Chin-Ups Should I Do To Increase Muscular Endurance?

If your primary training goal is increasing muscular endurance, do as many chin-ups as you can without stopping, building up to 30 to 50, or aim for three sets of at least 15 chin-ups reps with 30 to 60 seconds of rest in between each set.

How Many Chin-Ups Should I Do For Hypertrophy?

If your primary training goal is hypertrophy (building muscle), aim for 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 chin-ups.

However, if you are not reaching fatigue by the end of the set of chin-ups, add external resistance as described above. Take about 90 seconds of rest in between each set.

A person doing a chin-up.

How Many Chin-Ups Should I Do For Strength?

If your primary training goal is increasing strength, build up to 4 to 6 sets of 3 to 8 reps of chin-ups, again adding more external resistance as necessary to reach fatigue.

Take two minutes of rest in between each set.

With any of these recommended rep ranges, make sure you are using the full range of motion, and not “cheating” by not fully extending your arms at the end of each rep, or cutting back your reps.

Advanced athletes can also superset chin-ups, alternating chin-ups with another exercise that either targets the same muscles or the pulling muscles instead, depending on your fitness level.

You can learn more about superset training here.

A dead hang.

References

  • 1
    Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D. I., Vigotsky, A. D., Franchi, M. V., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Hypertrophic Effects of Concentric vs. Eccentric Muscle Actions. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research31(9), 2599–2608. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001983
  • 2
    Ortega-Rodríguez, R., Feriche, B., Almeida, F., Bonitch-Góngora, J., & Padial, P. (2020). Effect of the Pronated Pull-Up Grip Width on Performance and Power-Force-Velocity Profile. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2020.1762835
  • 3
    Leong, D. P., Teo, K. K., Rangarajan, S., Lopez-Jaramillo, P., Avezum, A., Orlandini, A., Seron, P., Ahmed, S. H., Rosengren, A., Kelishadi, R., Rahman, O., Swaminathan, S., Iqbal, R., Gupta, R., Lear, S. A., Oguz, A., Yusoff, K., Zatonska, K., Chifamba, J., & Igumbor, E. (2015). Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. The Lancet386(9990), 266–273. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(14)62000-6
  • 4
    Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D. I., Vigotsky, A. D., Franchi, M. V., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Hypertrophic Effects of Concentric vs. Eccentric Muscle Actions. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research31(9), 2599–2608. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001983
  • 5
    Chin Ups Standards for Men and Women (lb) – Strength Level. (n.d.). Strengthlevel.com. https://strengthlevel.com/strength-standards/chin-ups
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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