Chin-ups are a compound exercise.
This means that they work multiple muscles at the same time.
While some of the muscles being worked during the exercise are fairly obvious (back and biceps), there are actually several other muscles working too that might not be as obvious.
In this article, we look at whether chin-ups work your triceps.
We discuss why you might feel soreness in your triceps during and after chin-ups as well as considering whether you can use chin-ups as a tricep-building exercise.
Do Chin-Ups Work Your Triceps?
While chin-ups do work your triceps to some extent, it’s unlikely they’ll work them enough to effectively build them alone.
In particular, the long head of your triceps comes into play during chin-ups.
Your triceps play a part in shoulder flexion and, as chin-ups require your shoulders to flex, your triceps will activate and will therefore be working as you perform chin-ups.
As a lot of your upper body is involved in chin-ups, they’re a great upper-body building exercise.
However, if you’re looking to pack on some serious size and strength to your triceps, chin-ups alone probably won’t be enough to stimulate the type of muscle growth you need.
Why Do Some People Get Sore Triceps During Chin-Ups?
Your triceps have to activate during chin-ups.
If you have any kind of weakness in the muscle, this can cause them to hurt during the movement.
Although your triceps aren’t one of the primary muscles working during chin-ups, they still need to be strong enough to activate and assist in the exercise at the appropriate time.
If you have weak triceps in comparison to the rest of the working muscles, you might find them getting quite sore the more chin-ups you do.
Small errors in your chin-up technique can quite easily move the focus and the stress onto muscles that shouldn’t be the main working muscles.
Your triceps will play a role in chin-ups but they are by no means one of the main target muscle groups.
If you’re feeling lots of soreness in your triceps during chin-ups, it’s probably a good idea to stop what you’re doing, reset, and double-check that your technique is correct.
Although the chin-up technique may look fairly straightforward, it can take a bit of time to coordinate your body and get everything exactly right.
(Watch this short vid showing you how to do the perfect chin-up and avoid common mistakes!)
If you have any kind of tightness in your triceps, this can cause some soreness during chin-ups.
You can usually overcome this by properly warming up and thoroughly preparing your body for the exercise it’s about to do.
Why Do Some People Get Sore Triceps After Chin-Ups?
Normal Post Exercise Muscular Discomfort
As your triceps activate during chin-ups, you may feel some mild discomfort afterward as they recover from the stress placed on them.
During exercise, microscopic tears form in the working muscles which can cause some soreness and discomfort.
As long as any soreness felt in your triceps is mild and doesn’t stop you from doing your usual daily activities, it could be completely normal post-exercise muscular discomfort.
There’s a potential risk of injury occurring during chin-ups.
It’s worth mentioning though that chin-ups are a pretty safe exercise with a low risk of injury.
However, no exercise is completely risk-free. So there’s a chance that soreness in your triceps after chin-ups is a sign of injury.
If you’re experiencing anything other than mild discomfort, it might be a good idea to speak to a medical professional who should be able to diagnose any injuries (or rule them out).
Pre-Existing Injuries Or Issues
Sometimes, the area of your body where you feel soreness isn’t necessarily the cause of the discomfort in the first place.
For example, some elbow and shoulder injuries could result in pain being felt in other areas of your arm (including your triceps).
Before focussing your attention on healing a tricep injury, you may want to speak with a doctor or a physiotherapist who may be able to offer guidance on another potential injury that’s causing tricep soreness.
Are Chin-Ups Or Pull-Ups Better For Triceps?
There tends to be quite a bit of conflicting information about this one with many gym-goers claiming one is better than the other at building triceps.
If you think about the way each exercise works, it could help you decide which one will be better for you.
Chin-ups work more muscles on the front of your body whereas pull-ups target the backside of your body more.
With that in mind, it would make sense that pull-ups would be better for triceps.
However, it’s also worth keeping in mind that pull-ups put a lot of focus on your back (in particular your lats).
This means that, while your triceps might be in the target area of pull-ups, they might not actually get as much of the focus as some of the bigger muscle groups involved in the exercise.
Chin-ups probably bring your triceps into play a little bit more, but only because your lats aren’t doing as much of the work as they would be in pull-ups.
Can You Do Chin-Ups With Sore Triceps?
Possibly, but it would depend on why your triceps are sore in the first place.
If they’re sore as a result of chin-ups previously performed, then you should be able to do a few more chin-ups (be mindful of overtraining though).
If your triceps are sore due to injury, it’s a good idea to wait until you’ve fully recovered before you do chin-ups again.
This will largely depend on what your doctor says though.
If they say chin-ups are fine to do, then there’s no reason why you couldn’t do them with sore triceps.
Can You Do Chin-Ups And Train Triceps On The Same Day?
Yes, depending on what your fitness goals are, doing chin-ups, and training your triceps on the same day can be beneficial.
Chin-ups are very good at building your biceps as well as putting some focus on your triceps too.
If you use chin-ups as part of your arm workouts, then doing them on the same day as training your biceps and triceps is certainly feasible.
Chin-ups are not just an arm exercise though, so it’ll ultimately depend on what you’re targeting on the day…
…and whether you use chin-ups as a back exercise, arm exercise, core exercise, or a general burner exercise at the end of a session.