Chin-ups are a very popular exercise found in many gym-goers’ upper-body workouts.
They’re great at building your back, shoulders, arms, and abs.
Despite the many benefits associated with this exercise, there seems to be some concern about whether they’re bad for your elbows.
This makes some sense as your biceps work hard during chin-ups.
In this article, we look at whether chin-ups are bad for your elbows or if there could be other reasons why some people feel pain and discomfort during chin-ups.
We also look at some ways you can help reduce elbow pain so you can keep doing chin-ups with as little risk to your elbows as possible.
Are Chin-Ups Bad For Elbows?
Chin-ups aren’t bad for your elbows but some pain, discomfort, and even injuries are possible as a result of doing them.
What’s important to keep in mind is that a huge number of people do chin-ups on a very regular basis.
Many of these people will experience no negative effects as a result of doing them.
However, some people will pick up injuries or will feel uncomfortable doing them.
That doesn’t mean that chin-ups are bad for elbows, it just means that some people’s bodies are less suited to the exercise.
Your technique will also play a big role in how your elbows cope with chin-ups.
If you’re making mistakes in the chin-up technique, you could potentially be putting additional stress on your elbows which isn’t normally a good thing.
Why Do Some People’s Elbows Hurt During Chin-Ups?
If you have medical issues related to your elbows such as tendonitis or similar, this can make chin-ups more painful to perform.
Chin-ups can put quite a bit of stress on your elbows, so if you already have issues in that area, you’re more likely to feel pain during the movement.
If you’re making errors in your chin-up technique (no matter how small), it can move the focus of the exercise onto one area of the body that isn’t meant to take so much of the focus.
Incorrect technique during chin-ups can put your elbows under a lot of stress which can cause pain and potential injury too.
The technique involved in chin-ups isn’t necessarily too difficult to master, but it isn’t the easiest of exercises to get exactly right without lots of practice.
If you’re experiencing elbow pain during chin-ups, it’s always worth double-checking your technique is completely correct as this could quickly solve the issue.
If the elbow pain you experience during chin-ups comes on suddenly and unexpectedly, it could be a sign that you’ve picked up an elbow injury.
An elbow injury doesn’t have to be that serious for quite a bit of pain to be experienced, but it’s still worth getting any suspected injury looked at by a medical professional before carrying on with your training.
Why Do Some People’s Elbows Hurt After Chin-Ups?
Poor technique can lead to pain and discomfort.
If you have been doing chin-ups with incorrect technique, there’s a real chance that this could be what is causing your elbow pain.
Your elbows are somewhat vulnerable during chin-ups, so it’s important that you get the technique exactly right.
Even small errors in your technique can quite easily lead to bigger issues including a potential elbow injury.
If you injure your elbow during chin-ups, you might not experience pain straight away.
The pain might not actually begin until after you’ve finished your chin-ups and have completed your workout.
Your elbows are a joint and not one of the working muscles involved in chin-ups.
Any pain or discomfort felt in the joint and not the muscles surrounding it can be a sign that you have an elbow injury.
Injuries to joints can be a bit more serious than muscular injuries so it’s really important to speak to a medical professional if you’re concerned you might have injured your elbow.
Can Chin-Ups Cause An Elbow Injury?
Technically, yes but all exercises come with some element of risk involved.
During chin-ups, your elbows are placed in a somewhat vulnerable position.
This increases the risk of injury compared to other exercises where they’re in a stronger and more natural position.
That being said, chin-ups are generally a pretty safe exercise as long as you have the appropriate levels of strength and fitness and you do them with the correct technique.
How To Prevent Elbow Pain When Doing Chin-Ups
Elbow pain can make progressing your chin-ups much more challenging.
If you’re experiencing elbow pain during chin-ups, there are certain things you can do that might make them more comfortable for you.
Changing your grip to a neutral grip can be enough to significantly reduce elbow pain during chin-ups.
The underhand grip (supinated – palms up/facing you) can put quite a bit of stress on your elbows.
By changing to a neutral grip (like in hammer curls), there is less torque and tension on your elbows.
If your elbows are in a more natural and comfortable position, you’re less likely to feel pain in that area.
Another thing to consider is the space between your hands on the bar.
If you have your hands too far apart or too close together, you can put additional stress on your elbows.
Usually, good hand placement is around shoulder width although this could be a bit different depending on how your body feels.
You should also pay attention to how much your working muscles struggle during chin-ups.
It could be that the exercise is a little too difficult for you right now.
If this is the case, your elbow pain could be a result of your muscles being put under excessive stress causing the same to happen to the joints involved in the movement like the elbows.
If chin-ups are proving to be a bit challenging for you, assisted chin-ups or other alternatives might be a better choice for you in order to minimize elbow pain.
Can Chin-Ups Cause Tennis Elbow?
Any repetitive movements that put stress on your elbows, such as chin-ups, can cause tennis elbow.
However, if you avoid overtraining (doing chin-ups too much), the risk of tennis elbow is reduced.
Can Chin-Ups Cause Golfer’s Elbow?
Yes, like tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow is a repetitive strain injury.
Any repetitive movement which involves your elbows being used under stress can lead to golfer’s elbow.
As chin-ups fit into this category, they can cause golfer’s elbow.
Are Weighted Chin-Ups Worse For Elbows?
Weighted chin-ups put a lot more stress on the working muscles and joints during chin-ups.
If you think about it logically, during chin-ups, you’re lifting your entire body weight using just your upper body muscles.
This is already a very challenging thing to do.
If you then add more weight to be lifted, chin-ups become even more difficult.
Extra weight being lifted increases the amount of stress on your elbows which isn’t usually a good thing to do unless you have properly prepared your body for it.
Why Do Some People’s Elbows Pop During Chin-Ups?
There are quite a few reasons why your elbows could pop during chin-ups.
One reason is that your joints (elbows) could be releasing gas in the form of air being moved around in the joint.
If this is what’s causing your elbow popping, it’s usually completely normal and harmless.
Tight muscles and tendons could also be rubbing over bone in and around your elbows.
As tendons and muscles move over bone they cause vibrations that can make a popping or clicking sound.
Elbow popping during chin-ups could also be a sign of injury.
If a muscle is injured, it could have its shape altered which can cause it to rub against bone in an unnatural way.
This can cause a popping sound.
If elbow popping is accompanied by any pain or discomfort, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor to rule out any serious injury.
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.