This has GOT to be one of the most talked about questions in strength training.
Which is better - the chin-up, or pull-up? And I've seen this question posed so often in so many different places, that I thought I'd do my best to try and address it today. . .
First off, I'd like to say that ANY sort of pulling exercise involving your own body-weight is good - be that chin-ups, pull-ups, pull-ups on rings, horizontal pull-ups and so forth. It isn't so much which one is better than "they're all good", so if your doing any of them at all (and most people DON'T), more power to you.
My own preference has always been for pull-ups, and I state this in my book as well; the main reason being the pull-up is a more natural movement, and builds more strength throughout the upper body in lifting postures you actually USE throughout the day. Think about it - do you generally lift stuff with palms out or in? I'd say the former most of the time, and thats one main reason behind my preference.
Second, the pull-up tends to target the LARGEST muscles in your upper body a lot more than the chin-up does - those being the lats, which provide most of the pulling power/support throughout your entire back area. Develop real strength in the traps and lats, and you'll never have trouble picking up heavy objects again - not to mention you'll LOOK strong as well, no matter what you wear.
So, what does this mean - should we ignore the chin-up altogether?
Well, it depends. Most people actually end up ignoring the pull-up in favor of the chin-up, mostly because the chin-up is an easier move to accomplish. Chin up brings your chest and biceps into the movement a lot more than regular pull-ups will, so it is easier to do them that way a lot of times. Chinning can also put your wrists and elbows in a somewhat unnatural position, which could be a problem for some folks.
Is that OK to do long-term - well, again, it depends - I'd say no if you want to develop your back to the fullest, but at the same time, the chin-up can be an interesting and intense variation at times; especially to target the upper chest area. Try mixing these in with a bunch of dips and pull-ups - YOW!
And at the end of the day, if pull-ups are too tough for you to do, and chins are all you can do, well, do them - you'll still build way more strength doing them than you would on the lat pulldown machine in the gym (an useless piece of equipment if I ever saw one); and they are probably the only one exercise that will aid you in making the "leap" to a regular pull-up.
So, there's my answer - make of it what you will. As with most other things, it all really depends on YOUR goals, and how far YOU want to go - but that is a basic outline of the issue.
And that, my friend, is that for now - back again later!
PS: To read and learn more about these amazing body weight exercises, order a copy of Fast and Furious Fitness HERE: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/83-fast-and-furious-fitness-the-book