How Often Should I Do Pullups & Chinups for Results?

mature couple training with chin-up bar
elderly man doing a chin-up (Image: JackF/iStock/Getty Images)

Chinups and pullups are two of the most effective exercises for building latissimus dorsi muscles and the overall upper body. As with any exercise or fitness program, it's important to consult a physician before engaging in these exercises. The frequency at which pullups and chinups should be performed depends upon the goals of a given program.

Establish Goals

fitness lifestyle shot of a young adult woman in a workout outfit as she does pull ups
You can use pullups to increase your strength and power. (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Chinups and pullups can and should be integrated into the overall needs and goals of your fitness routine. They can be performed in repetition sets or to failure. If your goal is to increase endurance, then they can be done on a daily basis. If your goal is to increase strength, size and/or power, then at least a day of rest between exercise sessions is required. In the latter case, if Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are workout days, then Tuesdays and Thursdays are the rest days. Whatever results are desired, proper form and technique are essential.

Use Proper Form

Young woman using pull-up bar in gym
Proper form is the key to obtaining results. (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

When your palms are facing away from your body, it's a pullup, and when your palms are facing toward your body, it's a chinup. The same muscle groups are targeted. Chinups place a greater emphasis on your pectoral and bicep muscles, while pullups work your lower lat muscles. The starting position for both movements is to hang from the bar with your arms fully extended. This position is referred to as the dead hang. Your arms will be approximately shoulder-width apart. Your legs can be straight, bent or crossed. Slowly and evenly pull yourself up. Once your chin clears the bar, slowly and evenly descend back into the dead-hang position.

Get Some Assistance

Team doing chin-ups in obstacle course
Assisted pullups will help you gain strength to perform the exercise unassisted. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Initially, you may not have the strength to perform as many repetitions as you would like. Chinups are typically easier to perform than pullups. Focusing on chinups while you continue to build strength can be helpful, but techniques such as assisted pushups can also be employed to increase your ability to perform pullups. Assistance can come in the form of human exercise partners or machines explicitly designed to assist with pullups. Continue to maintain proper form when performing assisted pullups. Over time, slowly decrease the amount of assistance and you will gain the necessary strength to perform unassisted pullups.

Tips and Cautions

Practice proper form and technique. Doing so targets the appropriate muscles and prevents injuries. To avoid injuries, refrain from jumping or kicking when doing chinups or pullups. Preexisting conditions such as rotator cuff injuries or a shoulder impingement can be exacerbated by these exercises. If you feel pain or dizziness while doing chinups or pullups, stop doing the exercises and seek medical attention if necessary.

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