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Should you do chinups or pullups if you want to build bigger arms. This video is finally here to answer the question for you and help you to build big arms fast. As with any situation where you pit two popular exercises head to head, you are going to get people who defend each one. I’m going to do the same, and give you the best parts about both the pullup and chinup and how they work different parts of the arm so that you can decide which arm exercise you want to focus on.
First, we must start as we always do with a little bit of anatomy.
The upper arm consists of the biceps and triceps muscles. As we know, the job of the biceps is do supinate the forearm and flex the elbow. It also has the ability to flex the shoulder since it has a biceps long head attachment that crosses the joint. The triceps of course are designed to extend the elbow and bring the arm back into extension behind the body.
That said, there is another very important muscle in the upper arm that is also heavily used in the pullup. This is called the brachialis. This muscle is a strong flexor of the elbow. The brachialis lies directly underneath the biceps and, when developed, can give you wider arms and taller looking biceps.
When we start to compare the differences between the exercises for bigger arms, we are going to see where these two start to become rather complimentary to each other. That is because in order to get bigger arms you are going to ultimately want to build up your biceps as well as your brachialis. Performing both exercises at the right time and in the right way is going to help you to reach this goal.
Let’s start with the chinup. Based on the fact that the underhand position required to perform the exercise immediately demands supination, we realize right away that the biceps are going to be more engaged here than they are in a pullup. That said, that’s not the only thing that happens when we get in position to perform a chinup. Along with the supination of the forearm we also have to get the elbow out in front of the body.
The issue here is that along with getting better biceps activation we also can potentially recruit better lat engagement at the same time. How does this happen? This is a byproduct of getting the attachment points of the lats further away from each other. When the elbow drifts out in front of the body the stretch on the lats becomes greater. Due to the activation of the stretch reflex at the bottom of the rep, we can turn the exercise into one that favors the lats rather than the biceps. You don’t want this to happen if you are trying to build up your biceps.
To keep the focus on the biceps then, you’ll want to make sure you focus on how you are pulling your body up to the bar. Don’t pull yourself straight up or remain close to the bar throughout the exercise but rather keep some distance between your body and the bar on the way up. Act as if you are curling your body to the bar like you would curl a bar to your body in a traditional barbell curl. This will demand that the biceps do more of the work and that the lats do less.
From here however we have to discuss the pullup. Once again, how you do the exercise matters when it comes to building bigger arms.
On the pullup of course we have an overhand grip rather than an underhand one. This is going to shift the focus away from the biceps and to the brachialis muscle.
The grip width on the bar matters here however. The wider grip you take the less you are going to work the brachialis because the amount of flexion at the elbow is going to be less. With the brachialis one of the stronger flexors of the elbow we want to get more flexion by taking a more narrow grip.
Once again here, be sure to keep the relationship of the bar to the body a bit distanced. If you bring your body up close to the bar you are going to lessen the effect on the brachialis and ultimately not build big arms like you could if you performed the exercise properly.
In terms of whether the chinup or pullup is better for building bigger arms the answer is both of them. Watch the video to see the best recommended split.
Finally, if you are following a total body workout routine you can alternate the chinup or pullup on any individual workout.
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