Body weight exercises are pretty safe exercises to add to your workouts.
They typically put less stress and tension on your muscles as the load being moved throughout the movement is limited to your body weight.
As a result, injuries tend to be less common during bodyweight exercises compared to free weight exercises.
That being said, there are some body weight exercises that can put additional strain, stress, or pressure on certain parts of your body though.
And chin-ups are one of these exercises.
In this article, we look at whether chin-ups are bad for your back, or if there are other reasons why people experience back pain during and after the exercise.
We also discuss whether chin-ups can cause a back injury or if they could actually help reduce back pain in the long term.
Are Chin-Ups Bad For Your Back?
When performed correctly, chin-ups are a safe exercise with a relatively low risk of injury.
However, if you get things wrong, there’s a chance they could cause some back issues.
It’s worth mentioning though that serious injuries are rare occurrences during chin-ups.
(Even with improper form and other errors.)
You may experience back pain from doing improper chin-ups, but usually, this pain can be easily and quickly resolved by removing the mistakes from your form and technique.
As long as you have the appropriate levels of strength and fitness, understand the technique, and the chin-up bar you are using is correctly installed, chin-ups aren’t usually bad for your back.
Why Do Some People Get Lower Back Pain After Chin-Ups?
Weak Core Muscles
Your core muscles play a big part in keeping your body stable and balanced in pretty much every exercise you do.
If your core muscles are weak, other muscles around your body (including those in your lower back) have to do more work to keep your body in the right position.
During chin-ups, your abs work hard to help prevent your body from swinging.
If they aren’t strong enough to do this, then your lower back could come into play more than it should, which can lead to lower back pain after chin-ups.
Hyperextending Your Lower Back
If you hyperextend your lower back (leaning back too far during the movement), this can place additional stress on that area of the body which will likely cause pain and discomfort.
This is much more likely to happen if you’re using a solid chin-up bar.
If your gym has a pull-up/chin-up frame with separate handles for each hand, then hyperextending your lower back is usually less of an issue.
When using a solid bar, you often have to move your face out of the way at the highest part of the movement.
This can lead you to lean back, which in turn, can hyperextend your lower back resulting in pain after the exercise.
Any pain felt after exercise may be a sign of injury.
While this isn’t necessarily the case in every situation, it’s worth speaking to a medical professional if you’re worried you’ve picked up an injury.
It’s worth bearing in mind that mild discomfort in your lower back after chin-ups could be perfectly normal as they’re recovering from the exercise.
However, anything more than mild discomfort that turns into pain should be given the appropriate attention to avoid any long-term issues.
Why Do Some People Get Upper Back Pain After Chin-Ups?
Normal Muscular Discomfort
During chin-ups, many of the working muscles are located in your upper back.
Microscopic tears form in the muscles during the exercise which can cause discomfort afterwards until they’ve fully recovered.
Some people may confuse this normal discomfort with upper back pain.
It’s important to think about whether this feeling in your upper back is normal post-exercise muscular discomfort or if it’s something more than that.
Poor Or Incorrect Technique
It can be pretty challenging to get the technique used in chin-ups right.
There are many gym-goers who will sacrifice their technique in order to perform a few more reps.
In exercises like chin-ups, this can quite easily lead to injury, particularly in your upper back where many the working muscles are located.
You may experience upper back pain after chin-ups if you use an incorrect technique at any point in the movement.
(Watch below to find out what common mistakes in technique people do during chin-ups.)
Weak Working Muscles
Chin-ups are a challenging exercise to do.
As they’re a compound exercise, there are multiple muscles working at the same time throughout the movement.
If any of these working muscles are weaker than the others, the stronger muscles could end up doing more of the work and being placed under greater levels of stress.
If your upper back muscles have to do more of the work, upper back pain could be a possibility after chin-ups.
Can You Do Chin-Ups If You Have A Sore Back?
Yes, although it depends on why your back is sore in the first place.
If your sore back is caused by weak muscles, then chin-ups could actually be beneficial to do as they can help strengthen the weak muscles.
That being said, if your back is sore as a result of an injury, chin-ups might not be a good idea.
You should always listen to the advice given to you by a medical professional if you’re recovering from an injury.
If they say chin-ups are ok to perform, then there’s no reason why you couldn’t do them with a sore back.
However, if they advise against them, it’s well worth taking their advice.
Can Chin-Ups Cause A Back Injury?
While chin-ups can cause a back injury, the risk of this happening is low if you’re doing them properly.
Something worth keeping in mind is that every exercise has some potential risk of injury.
This has to be managed by making sure you’re using safe and appropriate equipment, you’re properly warmed up, and you’re using the correct technique throughout the exercise.
If you do all of this during chin-ups, they’ll be unlikely to cause a back injury.
Are Chin-Ups Good For Back Pain?
Chin-ups can be good for back pain but it’ll ultimately depend on what’s causing the back pain in the first place.
Weak back muscles are a common cause of back pain and discomfort.
As chin-ups help to strengthen your back muscles, they can actually help reduce the amount of back pain you experience.
All exercise helps increase endorphin levels too, which isn’t something to be overlooked when it comes to pain management.
As long as you don’t have a serious injury and haven’t been advised not to do them, chin-ups can help release lots of feel-good endorphins into your body which can result in a significant reduction in back pain.
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.