Kneeling Chin-Up

How To Do A Kneeling Chin-Up
By Alli McKeeFebruary 19, 2016

Kneeling Chin-Up Exercise

The kneeling chin-up is a great alternative to chin-ups and helps improve upper body strength, most notably, the muscles of the mid to upper back and scapular stabilizers. These assisted chin-ups also strengthen the shoulders, arms, and the anterior core. While chin-ups are thought of as an upper body exercise, in order for them to be performed properly, the entire body needs to be working in unison.

These chin-ups for beginners are a perfect option for people who are looking to develop the necessary levels of strength, and stability, to perform unassisted chin-ups, or are already able to do unassisted chin-ups, and want to add in more volume.

Equipment needed:

To perform this exercise, you need a bar that is in a fixed position. You can set up a barbell in a squat rack, or can use a Smith machine. You can also perform this exercise on rings, or if you are in a playground, low monkey bars.

Ability level:


The kneeling chin-up might be too advanced for beginners. If this is the case, you can start out by performing basic concentric hangs where you are on your knees, engage the muscles in your mid to upper back, scapular stabilizers and arms, and simply hold with your body in the chin-up position. Or, beginners can modify the exercise by starting in a more upright position so the range of motion is less, or they can use more assistance with their legs. Beginners who are able to perform the kneeling chin-up might do 1-3 sets of 5 to 10 reps.


The kneeling chin-up is a great option for lifters with an intermediate level of experience, who have mastered some of the kneeling chin-up variations for beginners that are listed above. Intermediates lifters can progress by performing this exercise using less assistance from their lower body, and can perform more sets and/or reps. They can also make the exercise more advanced by performing kneeling eccentric chin-ups where they lower themselves down in 3-5 seconds.

If an upper body workout is being performed, and the lifters main goal is to improve their ability to perform chin-ups, this exercise should be done towards the beginning their workout when the body is fresh. If a full-body workout is being performed, the kneeling chin-up can be paired with a lower body compound movement (but avoid pairing it with any deadlift variation as both require that your body is in a hinging position), or an upper body pressing movement. You can also make it part of a conditioning circuit. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 5-15 reps.


Women of an advanced fitness level can perform kneeling chin-ups the same way as intermediate lifters. They can also do full unassisted chin-ups. When lifters are able to do this proficiently, they can use additional resistance in the form of a weighted vest or a weight belt.

Benefits of Kneeling Chin-Ups:

This exercise provides many chin-up benefits. How a woman chooses to use a kneeling chin-up is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much assistance is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general, kneeling chin-ups can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing upper body strength, primarily in the lats, traps and rhomboids
  • increasing upper body strength in the shoulders, and to a lesser degree, the musculature of the upper arms and forearms
  • increasing core strength in the erectors, scapula stabilizers, and the anterior core
  • building muscle
  • fat loss (if your diet and exercise routines are conducive to fat loss)
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)
  • convenient as it requires very little equipment

How to perform a Kneeling Chin-Up:

  • Kneel down on the ground. The more you bend your knees, the more challenging the exercise will be. Conversely, the straighter your knees are and the higher off of the ground your hips are, the easier the exercise will be.
  • Grab onto the bar/rings and set your hands so they are approximately shoulder width apart, and your palms are facing you.
  • Before each rep, take a deep breath in (360° of air around the spine), brace your core, gently tuck your ribs towards the hips so your body is in a slight hollow body position, and squeeze your glutes. This will provide the much needed stability around your spine and pelvis.
  • Initiate the pull by drawing your shoulder blades together and down (you can pretend that you are tucking each shoulder blade in your opposite back pocket of your pants), leading with your chest, and pulling your elbows down to the floor. While the muscles of your arms are working, even more than during pull-ups, you want the muscles in your mid to upper back to be doing the majority of the work.
  • Do not allow your elbows to flare away from your body.
  • Now slowly lower yourself down in a controlled manner by using the muscles in your mid and upper back, and scapula stabilizers. These muscles need to remain engaged at all times so the shoulders remain packed.
  • Lower yourself down until your arms are fully extended.
  • Maintain proper alignment the entire time. Your spine should remain in neutral alignment, your ribs should remain down, and your pelvis and torso should not rotate. your pelvis or torso to rotate.
  • Reset and repeat before each rep.
  • The more help you use from your legs, the easier the exercise will be.

Video Transcription: 

The kneeling chin-up is a fantastic progression to a regular chin-up because it allows you to give yourself a little support and only as much support as you need. I like it for clients who are working their way to their first chin-up, or maybe clients who can only do a couple of chin-ups.  Just to be able to get a little more volume with the movement.  

Start in a kneeling position. You can grab whatever suspension trainer you like. Kneel down with your toes tucked underneath you,  you should be able to sit all the way down and still reach the rings or whatever you are holding onto. You are going to get your core nice and braced , ribs are down and initiate the movement with your arms. A lot of people want to initiate the movement with their lower body, but again you want to make this as challenging as possible and only use your legs for as much support as you need.  As much as you need but as little as possible. Then when you go to pull you are going to pull your shoulder blades back and down you are going to pull with your lats,  your elbows are going to stay by your body and then you are going to pull yourself up. It looks like this; You know you are doing it right if you are shaking when you are doing it.  Otherwise, you are probably giving yourself a little too much support.



Want to learn more about the women’s health and fitness issues you care most about?

Get Access to Our Free 5-Day Courses

Find the most up-to-date and helpful resources for tackling body image struggles, pre- & postnatal training issues, and everything in between.

Whether you’re a health and fitness professional looking to level up your knowledge or a woman wanting to feel stronger, fitter, and more confident, get the advice you can trust from the experts at Girls Gone Strong.

About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

More Resources

envelope-oclosechevron-upchevron-downbookmark-otwitterfacebookchainbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram