Assisted Chin-Ups and Lower Back Pain

Chin-ups can be uncomfortable for people with extension based back pain.

When someone suffers from extension based back pain, they may experience discomfort or outright pain doing exercises that generally require a strong arch in the lower back.  Or they may struggle with exercises that tend to pull them into this extended position.

With chin-ups, once you start to pull yourself up towards the bar, your lower back is going to arch. It’s almost inevitable unless you’ve got such ridiculous abdominal strength that you can hold your lower back flat as you pull.

Assisted Chin-Ups with TRX Straps

One way around this is to do assisted chin-ups using TRX straps with your feet on the floor.

Here is the position you start in and try to maintain as you pull yourself up.

this is an image of someone doing chinups with TRX and a rounded lower back

Chin-ups with a rounded lower back


Keeping your lower back rounded will keep you out of extension, and it tends to make the exercise harder.

All you are really doing is performing a posterior pelvic tilt and maintaining that tilt through the entire repetition.

In this chin-up version, you get the traditional benefit of the chin-up–back and bicep stimulation–while also keeping yourself out of any extension pattern that may cause discomfort.

You also get good abdominal activation, including the obliques, rectus, and transverse abdominus as they work to hold the posterior pelvic tilt.

Use your feet and legs for support as little or as much as you want. The more help you give yourself the more reps you’ll be able to do.

Biceps and Comfort

An added benefit of using the TRX straps is that you can rotate your arms as you pull, or keep them in just one position the whole time. Different positions will recruit the biceps to different degrees and one position may feel more comfortable than others, particularly  your elbows and possibly your shoulders.

Palm position:

Palms facing you =  increased bicep activity.

Palms facing each other = decreased bicep activity. This is the “neutral grip”.

Palms facing away from you = this position will result in the least amount of bicep activity.


  1. Debra Andrews says

    Any idea why performing posterior pelvic tilt causes lower back spasm and coming out of it into neutral or anterior tilt cause major pain? MRI shows DDD but no herniation or stenosis. I am always in a spinal state of extension and have a flat thoracic spine with anterior tilt.

    Rounding the back and tucking tail is such a cornerstone of PRI.

    • admin says

      Hi Debra.

      Perhaps you are tucking it too far and are upsetting the disk? All we want is a slight posterior pelvic tilt on most of our exercises, or rather, we want to stay out of extension. Rounding the back serves the purpose of engaging glutes, hamstrings, and obliques while helping facilitate proper position of the diaphragm.

      Rounding of the back is used by PRI because there is a recognition that extension patterns lead to pain and dysfunction in many people. We only use rounding the back to stay out of extension when doing special PRI exercises for people who need it. After that, I use rounding of the back on some general training exercises, but by no means all. Depends on the person I’m training.

      And it’s not that we should never extend, it’s just that we can’t live in extension. We need to be able to flex and extend, rotate a torso, and shift side to side. If you are stuck in extension, you can’t rotate and shift effectively.



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