Is There an Ideal Pull Up to Chin Up Ratio? (Explained!)

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In case you’re curious if there’s a particular ratio of pull ups to chin ups you should strive for, I have the information you need.

I will hazard a guess that you find chin ups easier to perform than pull ups.

However, perhaps you’re slightly concerned by how much of a difference in reps there is between the two.

In fact, you may even be worried that this disparity is potentially pointing to a muscle imbalance or weakness.

So, allow me to explain what you need to know about pull up to chin up ratios.

Pull Up to Chin Up Ratio

There is no specific pull up to chin up ratio. In fact, the differences in reps performed can vary quite dramatically. Some people may find that their pull up to chin up ratio is as much as 1:5, whereas others find that it’s much closer to 1:1. Chin ups will always feel slightly easier, as there is more bicep involvement. However, your aim should be to get pull ups to chin ups to a ratio 1:1.25 or below.

The Pull Up to Chin Up Ratio Can Dramatically Vary

If you’re looking for an exact ratio of pull ups to chin ups then you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

Yes, they are two very similar exercises which pretty much hit the same muscles.

So, both pull ups and chin ups will work the lats, trap, rhomboids, rear delts, and biceps.

Plus, something that most people never consider is how much both exercises activate the core muscles.

In fact, the core is the most activated muscle during pull ups and chin ups.

So, if you’re struggling with your pull up/chin up numbers you’ll probably want to look at your core strength before anything else.

With that being said, even though both exercises work very similar muscle groups, there can be quite a large disparity between the two.

In fact, there are some people who will typically be able to perform as much as five times as many chin ups than they can pull ups.

Then again, there are those of us who will find that our reps are fairly close.

'Some people will typically be able to perform as much as five times as many chin ups than they can pull ups.  Then again, there are those of us who will find that our reps are fairly close'

I will also say that the movement you practice more is generally the one that you’ll be better at performing.

The reason I mention this is that I know many people start out trying to pull ups but fail.

However, when they turn to chin ups they find that they’re able to crank out a few reps.

So, it makes sense to concentrate on the “easier” exercise first and progress with that.

But unfortunately, even though getting good at chin ups can definitely help with pull ups, there is still a difference between the two movements.

And this is why it is so difficult to pinpoint an exact pull up to chin up ratio.

The Main Differences Between Pull Ups & Chin Ups

The main difference between pull ups and chin ups is your hand position.

Pull ups involve your palms facing away from you, whereas chin ups mean that your palms are facing you.

Furthermore, the width of our grip will also typically vary.

Chin ups are usually performed with your hands at shoulder-width apart, and often slightly less than this.

However, pull ups are generally done with a slightly wider than shoulder-width hand grip.

In fact, quite often you’ll see gym-goers performing wide grip pull ups, whereby their hands are almost double shoulder-width apart.

Now, the major difference between pull ups and chin ups is that the biceps are much involved during chins ups.

This is actually why you’ll generally find chin ups easier than pull ups.

Furthermore, the wider your hands are for pull ups, the more you’ll work the upper lats.

But, when it comes to chin ups, they specifically target the lower lats to much greater effect.

So, while you’ll hear that both exercises “work the lats”, it’s not exactly the same area of the lats that are stimulated.

Personally, I don’t see the movements as an either/or scenario, and I feel that you should perform both for the greatest improvements to your physique.

Plus, if you’re finding that chin ups are so much easier, there are many pull variations to attempt to get you onto an even keel.

The Pull Up to Chin Up Ratio to Aim For

I guess we would all love to have a pull up to chin up ratio of 1:1.

And I’m sure there are some lucky people out there who can achieve this.

However, the fact remains that chin ups will always be slightly easier than pull ups.

Just that additional “help” from your biceps makes all the difference.

With that being said, with regular training of both movements you can get fairly close to each other in terms of reps.

I would say that the ideal pull up to chin ratio to aim for should be approximately 1:1.25.

So, your aim would be to perform 4 pull ups for every 5 chin ups you can do.

The best way to achieve this is to train both movements just as much as each other.

However, you’ll generally make far greater gains with weighted pulls and chins.

Okay, I accept that if you can’t perform 10 straight reps of either movement then you’re probably not at the stage where you can add weight.

But, even performing sets of 1-3 reps of perfect-form weighted pull ups/chin ups can help to significantly increase your strength.

Additionally, as they are both vertical torso pulling movements it makes sense to also incorporate horizontal torso pulling movements.

By this I mean that you should also add a variety of rows to your upper back training.

You’ll generally find that vertical torso pulling movements, e.g. pull ups/chin ups, work on upper back width.

However, horizontal torso pulling movements, e.g. bent over rows, work on back thickness.

So, in order to improve and increase your strength and muscularity, while also providing your upper back with an all-round workout, you should focus on both types of movement.

Improving Pull Up & Chin Up Performance

Final Thoughts

So, I hope you understand that there is no ideal pull up to chin up ratio.

Even though both exercises work many of the same muscle groups, it won’t automatically mean that they translate directly to each other.

In fact, there are people who can potentially do five times as many chin ups as they can do pull ups.

Then again, there are those who are far closer to a pull up to chin up ratio of 1:1.

In truth, your aim should be to achieve a ratio of approximately 1:1.25.

So, for every 4 pull ups you can perform you should be able to do 5 chins ups.

The closer you get to this ratio, the better muscle and strength balance you’re likely to have.

While I’m on the subject of pull ups and chin ups, check out what I have to say about pull ups making you feel light-headed.

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