Chest to Bar Pull-Ups: Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

In this article we will cover the chest to bar pull-up and it’s direct variations, the strict and kipping forms. In the below sections we will specifically discuss the muscles worked by chest to bar pull-ups,  provide exercise tutorials on how to perform both chest to bar pull-up variations, and offer four beneficial training outcomes of both the strict and kipping chest to bar pull-up.

Muscles Worked

The chest to bar pull-up (strict or kipping) is a movement that targets primary the pulling muscles of the upper body. In addition, the midline is also challenged, especially during kipping chest to bar pull-ups due to the increased need for body control. The below muscle groups are the predominant muscles worked during both the strict and kipping versions of the chest to bar pull-up.

  • Latissimus Dorsi (back)
  • Biceps
  • Posterior Shoulder and Rhomboids
  • Abdominals and Hip Flexors (especially during kipping)
  • Forearms

Chest to Bar Pull-Ups Exercise Demo

The chest to bar pull-up can be done using strict form in which the lifter minimizes momentum, or done using a kip, referred to as a kipping chest to bar pull-up. Both movements are shown below, and both offer lifters benefits of strength, muscle hypertrophy (more benefits from the strict version), body awareness, gymnastic skill, and more. Be sure to watch both strict and kipping chest to bar pull-up tutorials to maximize your technique and performance.

Strict Chest to Bar Pull-Up

In the below video the strict chest to bar pull-up is performed. Note, this is very similar to a standard strict pull-up, with the exception that the lifter must touch their upper chest to the bar which increases the demands and pulling strength greatly (when compared to a standard strict pull-up).

Kipping Chest to Bar Pull-Up

In the video below the kipping chest to bar pull-up is demonstrated. Note, that the kipping movement should be learned independently to the chest to bar pull-up to best learn proper body and bar mechanics. Additionally, exercises like the kipping pull-up can be done and progressed into the more difficult and complex forms or movement.

4 Benefits of the Chest to Bar Pull-Up

The below benefits apply to both versions of the chest to bar pull-up (strict and kipping). Note, while some of these may be more specific to one variation over the other, the inclusion of both strict and kipping chest to bar pull-ups will in fact improve the potentials for all benefits below to be maximized.

Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength

Pull-ups can increase upper body strength, muscle hypertrophy (growth), and muscular endurance depending on the intensity and reps prescribed. Both the strict and the kipping movement have eccentric and concentric muscle actions, which is a key stimuli for muscle growth. Strict chest to bar pull-ups can help to increase strength and muscle contractions, while kipping chest to bar pull-ups can increase muscle damage (ballistic movement and eccentric contractions) and enhance grip endurance. It is recommended that lifters have the ability to perform strict chest to bar pull-ups prior to performing higher volume kipping chest to bar pull-ups, as having enough muscle tissue and coordination to withstand the high degrees of force placed on the body during the kip is essential to injury prevention at the shoulder joint and muscle tissues.

Application to Competitive Fitness and Gymnastic Movements

Both the strict and kipping chest to bar pull-up are applicable to competitive fitness and gymnastic-based movements, as they are either (1) a sport specific skill or (2) a foundation movement to be then progressed into movements like muscle-ups.

Body Awareness and Midline Control

As with most ring, bar, and bodyweight movements, body awareness and midline control can all be developed using the strict and kipping chest to bar pull-up. When done slowly for tempo or pause repetitions, body control and awareness can be increased (as well as increased isometric strength). During the kipping chest to bar pull-up, individuals must demonstrate proper body fluidity, mobility, and awareness to maintain the kip and cycle these into longer sets (potentially even as butterfly chest to bar pull-ups).

Grip Strength and Endurance

Improving grip strength and endurance by way of hanging, higher rep-based training, and/or ballistic movements that rely on grip (such as kipping movements) can work to increase grip strength and endurance. This is an important attribute for competitive fitness sports, climbing, and gymnastics, as the ability to withstand grip fatigue an slipping (off the bar) can increase performance in competition and/or training.

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