Coach Alicia Fong

Just another weblog

Health Tip for week May 17th

  • Best exercise for your back is “Chin Ups/Pull Ups”

People and clients often ask me what is the best exercise for your back.  I tell them Chin-Up and Pull-Up.

The chin-up or pull-up is a multi-joint compound exercise that involves multiple muscle groups like fingers, forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders, lats, back and core. It is one of the most efficient exercises for upper body. It saves time and creates functional strength applicable to other physical activities – work or other sports and even in a survival situation.  If you are hanging off the roof, able to do few chin-ups will save your life as you are able to pull your body up to safety.

The benefits you will get from performing regular chin-ups include:

  • Increase functional strength
  • posture improvements, especially for those with upper cross syndrome (head forward posture)
  • back pain alleviation (most pain starts due to weak muscles)
  • a better looking physique (not bodybuilding body, but lean, defined and athletic body)

I personally do weighted chin ups.  The most I have done chin ups with 66 pounds hanging from my waist.  And it took me awhile to get there.  I, like everybody else, started off very weak and had to start with assisted chin ups, and progressed from there.  So how to do them?  Click here for details and progressions as I wrote about it before.

There are different variation of chin ups (palms facing away, palms facing forward, parallel grip, one arm, etc.).  However, please be warn that kipping pull ups are not very good unless you have good shoulder stability.  There is much debate about whether kipping pull-up is good or not.  This is my opinion: it is not worth doing them.  The jerking motioned movement doesn’t appeal to me.  As you are jerking or rocking your body, it puts a lot of stress in the shoulder joint area.  Most people don’t have good shoulder stability and this also includes athletes.  In fact, some athletes like baseball players have too much range of motion.

How do you know if your shoulder is stable or not?  Have an assessment.  Ask a trainer or coach to assess you.  This is another good way to find out if a trainer or coach is a good one if they know how to assess this part.  Here is one tip, if your scapula or shoulder blade wings out, 90% of the case, your shoulder is unstable.  So be aware of the kipping chin-up or kipping pull-up.  If you are in doubt about your shoulder stability, avoid them.  It’s not worth doing them.  You are putting yourself in high risk of injury.  You are far, far better off doing weighted chin-up or pull-ups.

And one last thing, elbow tendonitis is another common injury from doing chin up and pull ups incorrectly and sometimes from kipping pull-ups.  It is fixable through neuromuscular release work.  If you are interested in this, please contact for more information.


May 17, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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