March 11, 2020

It’s no secret that pull ups and chin ups are absolute ALL-STAR exercises, but what actually are the benefits we receive from them? What’s the difference between the two? And why are they important for Boxing and Muay Thai athletes?

Many people think that the main benefit we receive from pullups and chin ups is strengthening our Lat’s (those big wing-like muscles on the sides of your back), and although this is a great benefit, I believe the largest benefits we receive is learning to control our own bodyweight under load and being able to brace the core during movement. This has so much carry over to everything else we do in life, because if we don’t brace our core effectively when reaching for things, or lifting heavy objects, then this will put excessive strain on our lower back which over time increases the risk of injury in that area.

The main difference between the two is that chin ups are performed with an “underhand” grip (palms facing you) and pull ups are performed with an “overhand” grip (palms facing away from you). Due to this, chin ups are easier because you are able to recruit help from the Biceps and the Brachialis muscles is the upper arm, whereas pull ups require pulling from mainly the Lat’s. I always recommend people use whichever variation they are more comfortable with and have the best technique with, so try both and see what works well for you! Although there are these clear differences between the two movements, I think we should more so celebrate the similarities. If you think about it from the perspective of the two main benefits I listed above, they are very similar movements, and both will effectively teach these things.

When punching in Boxing and Muay Thai, we generate power from our legs, which is then transferred up our body, through our core, into our arms and finally, onto our opponent’s face (hopefully). From this, we can see that if we do not effectively brace our core whilst punching, we will lose the ability to transmit power into our punch; this is where chin ups and pull ups come in. As said before, these movements teach us to brace our core whilst moving. In other words, they teach you to brace your core and transmit power through your body whilst your arms are moving (punching). They also help with kicking! As we swing around with our leg when kicking, we counter swing in the opposite direction with our arms and upper body to keep ourselves balanced. Having more strength in the lats will mean we can counter swing with more power, which will therefore mean we can put more power into our kick whilst keeping balanced!

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Head Strength & Conditioning Coach @ Highgate
Bodie Webster