Enhance Biceps Activation with the Close Grip Chin Up

close grip chin ups

Close grip chin ups are one of the best ways to activate your biceps muscles. 

The pull-up is a powerhouse exercise that develops relative strength in the upper body. It mainly targets your lats while engaging your biceps. It also recruits your shoulder girdle for stability (1). But what if you want to focus on biceps growth? Enter the close grip chin up, which involves a supinated grip. 

Chin-ups activate your biceps more because of the supinated grip (2). When you use a close grip to do the chin-up, your arms get recruited even more. This is because when your arms are close in front of you, your lats are out in a disadvantaged position for activation, leaving your arms to do all of the work.

The close grip chin-up is one of the best ways to target your biceps. However, doing this routine with proper form is essential to avoid injuries. In this exercise guide, we look at how to do the close grip chin up, the benefits of this exercise, and other alternatives that you can use to build your biceps. 

Techniques and Muscles Worked

The close grip chin up recruits your lats, biceps, traps, forearms, rhomboids, rotator cuff, and abs. This exercise is an effective way to improve your upper body strength and muscular endurance. Using a close grip for this exercise places greater emphasis on your middle back and can overload your biceps for more hypertrophy.

You use your bodyweight and a pull-up bar to do a close grip chin up. Tricks like keeping your head neutral can also help to avoid overextending your neck. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to close grip chin up.

  1. Stand under a pull-up bar and grip it with your palms facing you (underhand or supinated grip). Your hands should be six to eight inches apart to get a close grip.
  2. Let your body hang with your arms fully extended and slightly point your legs before you to form a “C.”
  3. Press your legs together, brace your core, and put your shoulders down and away from your ears. This is your starting position.
  4. Pull yourself up by bending your elbows and raising your chin above the bar. At this point, your chest should be just at the bar.
  5. Pause and slowly lower yourself back to the starting position to complete the rep.

Benefits of Close Grip Pull-Ups

The close grip chin up is a tremendous upper body routine and should be a part of your workouts. Below are the benefits of this exercise. 

Overload & Grow Your Biceps

Due to the close and underhand grip used for the close grip chin up, the biceps get activated more. This is because your lats are put in a position that doesn’t let them do the bulk of the work.

Strengthen Your Back

Close grip chin ups recruit your rhomboids, traps, and lat muscles. These are the big muscles in the back, and strengthening them can improve the strength of your back, too. As a result, your posture also benefits, as a stronger back leads to a better posture.

Improve Grip Strength

In general, chin ups are great for your grip strength because you must hold onto the bar. The close grip further improves that by activating your forearms and biceps more. 

Functional Training

The close grip chin up is a functional exercise. That means it trains and strengthens muscles you use in everyday activities, thus giving you an edge and preventing injuries. Research shows that functional training affects adults’ speed, balance, and muscular strength (3).

Better Upper Body Strength

Close grip chin ups work on upper body muscles in the arm and back. It strengthens and defines those muscles, increasing your upper body strength. Improved upper body strength will improve your form for important muscle-building exercises like the bench press.

Close Grip Chin Up Alternatives

The close grip chin up is a bodyweight exercise you can easily do at home. All you need is a steady bar overhead to pull yourself up. Below are other bodyweight exercises at home that also target the biceps.

Inverted Rows

Inverted rows are an excellent bodyweight pulling movement that engages your back and biceps. You can do them using TRX bands, a Smith machine, or a bar that allows you to get underneath and pull your bodyweight up. 


Finally, you can also do regular pull-ups, especially for variety and to avoid training monotony. This exercise will activate your lats more than the chin up and increase shoulder stability while targeting your biceps less than the chin up. 


Are close grip chin ups better?

If you aim to strengthen your arms and build your biceps, close grip chin ups could be more efficient than pull ups. This exercise is also functional and helps to improve your grip strength.

What muscles does the close grip chin up work?

The close grip chin up works on your lats while emphasizing your biceps. For a more detailed breakdown, check the exercise guide above.

Which grip is better for chin-ups?

Choosing a better grip for your chin-ups depends on your ultimate goal. If you want to recruit your biceps and arms more, an underhand close grip is the best option. 

Overall, the chin up is an excellent bodyweight pulling routine to try if you want to get your biceps more involved. In addition, it’ll place less stress on your shoulder joints compared to the pull up, which requires a wider pronated grip.

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more exercise guides! 


  1. Ronai, P., & Scibek, E. (2014, June). The Pull-up. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 36(3), 88–90. https://doi.org/10.1519/ssc.0000000000000052
  2. Youdas, J. W., Amundson, C. L., Cicero, K. S., Hahn, J. J., Harezlak, D. T., & Hollman, J. H. (2010). Surface electromyographic activation patterns and elbow joint motion during a pull-up, chin-up, or perfect-pullup™ rotational exercise. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 24(12), 3404–3414. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181f1598c 
  3. Xiao, W., Soh, K. G., Wazir, M. R. W. N., Talib, O., Bai, X., Bu, T., Sun, H., Popovic, S., Masanovic, B., & Gardasevic, J. (2021, September 6). Effect of Functional Training on Physical Fitness Among Athletes: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Physiology, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2021.738878
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.