10 Pull Up Alternatives (Substitute Exercises For Pull Ups)

Pull ups are one of the best exercises that target several of the key muscles in the back. However, there are many alternatives to pull ups that are equally beneficial, especially when you don't have access to a horizontal pull up bar or do not have time for the gym. 

We have listed many excellent pull up alternatives that will activate the same muscle groups involved in using a pull up bar. There are no more excuses not to perform pull ups just because you do not own a high-end p90x pull up bar.  

Check out the 10 best pull up alternatives that you can perform at home today! 

The main challenge when it comes to finding a pull up alternative is that there are many muscles to cover. Pull ups are a popular exercise because they work a variety of upper body muscles, including: 

  • The muscles of the core/trunk 
  • The biceps 
  • The forearms 
  • Scapular depressors  
  • Scapular retractors  

The movement of the pull up is controlled by these muscles. The skills trained in the movement include vertical pulling, horizontal pulling, grip, and trunk stability. 


More Information On Muscles Targeted In Pull Ups 

The main muscles worked in pull ups include: 

  • Trapezius 
    The traps are set in the back of your neck, and they spread across your shoulders. They support the shoulder blade (also known as the scapula). The upper section of the trapezius supports the weight of your arm, and the middle and lower parts are responsible for the movement of the shoulder blade.
  • Latissimus Dorsi 
    The latissimus dorsi is the largest muscle in your upper body, and it offers support to the shoulder movements and pulls the trunk up when you raise your arms above your head. The latissimus dorsi aids with the movement of the lumbar spine, which is the lower area of the spine (above the tailbone). In addition, lat workouts activate the long head of your triceps and the deltoid muscles.
  • Infraspinatus 
    The infraspinatus muscle is an important aspect of the four muscles in the rotator cuff, even though it is smaller than the traps and lats. The infraspinatus is involved in the movement of the humerus bone that stretches across the shoulder to the elbow beneath the biceps. When you strengthen the infraspinatus, it will help to reduce the pain and prevent injury in the upper body joints.
  • Thoracic Erector Spinae 
    The erector spinae runs along the length of the spine and helps to make the spine move. The thoracic section of the muscles is the longest part of the spine, and it connects the cervical aspect in the neck and the lumbar area in the lower back. If you build strength in the thoracic erector spinae, then you will avoid injury and develop better posture.
What Muscles Does The Pull Up Train

What Do Pull-Ups Do? 

Pulls ups are one of the best workouts for your back, and they are a great compound exercise that helps build strength in your upper body. It is no surprise that many people want to increase the number of pull ups that they can do. If you are looking to develop a broad and chiseled back, then pull ups are essential. 

In addition, you can improve your grip strength by performing pull ups. This will also help you in other exercises like flipping tires and on the bench. Grip strength is an important skill for everyday life. 

Participants face a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease and a 16% higher risk of dying from any cause for every 11-pound decrease in grip strength, according to an international study in the year 2009. 


10 Best Pull Up Alternatives You Can Do Anywhere

We have divided 10 alternatives into three different lists. They will help you in the event that you do not have access to a pull up bar, or you simply want to build up the necessary strength to perform a pull up in the first place. 

The three categories are: 

  • Bodyweight Back Alternative Exercises 
  • Weight Training Pull Up Alternative Exercises 
  • Pull Up Bar Alternative Exercises 

Bodyweight Back Alternative Exercises 

1. Inverted Rows 

The bodyweight row is an excellent pull up alternative for people who are just starting out. The inverted row is a horizontal pull rather than a pull up. The exercise puts more focus on the arms, rhomboids, and lower trapezius muscles. 

How To Perform The Inverted Rows 
  • Stand with a shoulder-width grip on any horizontal bar and keep your arms extended. 
  • Engage your core and keep your body in a straight line from the feet to the head. 
  • In the original position, pull yourself to the rings by pulling back the shoulder blades and flexing the biceps. 
  • At the end position, lower your body down slowly in a controlled manner. 

2. Elevated Foot Chin Up 

You will be able to reap all of the benefits of a pull up with the elevated foot chin up. It is an easier version of the chin up because the legs will hold a portion of your weight. 

The elevated foot chin up tends to prioritize the arms and trunk while at the same time developing the essential movement skills that you need to perform a pull up or a chin up. It is a great pull up alternative that will help you to build your physique, strength and assist you in getting better at pull ups. 

How To Perform Elevated Foot Chin Ups 
  • Keep your feet on an elevated surface (at a 90-degree angle in the hip). 
  • Put an underhand grip on the bar and lower yourself to the length of your arms. 
  • Engage your core, pull your body up to the bar by pulling down the shoulder blades and closing the elbow. 
  • Try to hold the top position by lowering yourself back down in a controlled manner. 

3. Squatting Rows 

The squatting row is a classic bodyweight row with many variations. The exercise is simple: get into the squat position and row your bodyweight. 

The exercise can be performed with a towel, in a doorway, against a tree, or with a strong cable or rope. The squatting row is an easy exercise that you can improvise in any way that you like. 

How To Perform The Squatting Row 
  • Put your grip on a towel or a doorway and keep your torso upright
  • Bend your knees to 90 degrees and do not adjust your upper body position. 
  • Tuck the shoulders back, bend the arms, and pull your chest towards the support or the door. 
  • Pause for a moment at the end and slowly lower your body to the original position. 
The Door Frame Variation 

Using a door frame allows for a horizontal pull, which is more like a seated cable row as opposed to a pull up. However, it does help you to develop a lot of the same back muscles without the challenge of having to overcome the pull up bar. The door and the towel row are great alternatives to pull ups, especially for a home workout. 

Weight Training Pull Up Alternative Exercises 

4. Lat Pulldown 

The lat pulldown is a great choice for developing the muscles of the upper back. It is a similar motion to a pull up, which makes it an excellent weight training alternative. 

If you wish to achieve the best transfer, then you should try to aim for the same grip as your pull up. Remember not to lean back and keep your focus on the lats. 

How To Perform Lat Pulldowns 
  • Place a standard pull up grip. 
  • Try not to lean back and keep the trunk in a stable position. 
  • Start the exercise by pulling down the shoulder blades. 
  • End the repetition by raising the bar to your chest before you slowly return to the original position. 

It is important to note that you can use weight training to develop the back muscles and use bodyweight exercises to practice movement skills. 

5. Barbell Rows 

Another great pull up alternative, especially for a beginner, is the barbell row. It is an easy way to build a foundation of strength in your upper back, just like pull ups. If you feel like you are not getting the most out of your muscles, the barbell row is a great place to start building strength again. 

How To Perform The Barbell Rows 
  • Stand over the barbell and take a shoulder-width grip. 
  • Flatten your back, keep your hips at a 90-degree angle and open your chest. 
  • Start the movement by squeezing the shoulder down and together. 
  • Pull the elbows back and close them. Pause for a moment as the bar reaches your chest. 
  • Lower the bar back to the original position to complete the exercise. 

6. Dumbbell Rows 

Dumbbell rows are great for muscle gain, just like other types of loaded rowing movements. However, the bent-over dumbbell row is a single-arm movement that is important to build control in the stabilizer muscles around the shoulder area. 

How To Perform The Dumbbell Rows 
  • Bend over, support your weight on a single hand and hold the dumbbell in the other hand. 
  • Keep the back straight, tuck back the shoulder blade, and hold the dumbbell at arm's length. 
  • Row the dumbbell back towards the body, pull the elbow back and squeeze the shoulder blades together. 
  • Pause for a moment at the top of the position and slowly lower back to the original position. 

7. Band Pull Aparts (No Bar Pull Up Alternative For New Lifters) 

Pull aparts are a great preparation exercise because you will not get jacked by using a resistance band alone. Band pull aparts will help you develop control and muscular endurance in the upper back, and they will fight against 'slouched shoulders.' 

The exercise is not a direct pull up alternative, but a pull apart with a resistance band targets the same muscle group that a pull up does. Band pull aparts help to build traps and rhomboid control, which is important in all exercises that involve pulling. These pull apart exercises only require a resistance band, which makes them an excellent home workout and a great no equipment pull up substitute. 

How To Perform Band Pull Aparts 
  • Put a shoulder-width grip on the resistance band and hold it at shoulder height. 
  • Bend your arms a little and keep them in the same position throughout the movement. 
  • Perform the movement by edging the elbows back until they are in line with your body. 
  • Pause for a moment before you return to the original position. 

The band pull apart is an excellent exercise for warm-ups and cooldowns. They will assist you in getting additional muscle quality, control, and prevent you from sustaining an injury. 

Pull Up Bar Alternatives 

8. Pull Up Hold & Negative 

If you have a bar at home, then the pull up hold and negative is one of the best alternatives to the pull up. You will be able to build the same muscle and skill of traditional pull ups but in an easier way. 

How To Perform The Pull Up Hold & Negative 
  • Place your hands at shoulder width. 
  • Use a box to get into position or jump into the top position. 
  • Try to hold the top position for as long as you can. 
  • Move slowly and stay active as you lower your body. 
  • Repeat the movement as soon as you reach the length of your arm. 

You can progress the exercise by increasing the length of the hold, the time of the lower, and the number of repetitions. This will help you build trap, lat, and bicep size, as well as scapular control. 

9. Box Pull Up 

The box pull up is one of the greatest pull up alternatives because of the strict nature of the exercise and the fact that it emulates the traditional pull up. The box pull up will bring your legs into the movement and help you to relieve some of your body weight. 

How To Perform The Box Pull Up 
  • Put a solid plyometric box under a bar at a height that is high enough to stand as you hang. 
  • Put an overhand grip on the bar and hang at the length of your arm. 
  • Bend your knees, move some of your body weight to your legs, and onto the box. 
  • Perform a pull up and use your legs to carry some of your bodyweight. 

10. Chin Up 

One of the most popular alternatives to the pull up is the chin up. It is a great vertical pull up exercise for bicep training. The chin up places more focuses on the biceps while taking the stress off the upper muscles in the back.

For some people, the exercise offers an easier time while offering the same benefits. The chin up works the traps, arms, lats, and rhomboids in the same way that a traditional pull up does. 

How To Perform The Chin Up 
  • Take an underhand grip and hang at the length of your arm. 
  • Engage your core and keep your feet in the front of your hips. 
  • Start the movement by squeezing your scapular down and bending your elbow. 
  • Close your elbow until your chin reaches the bar or lands above the bar. 
  • Pause for a moment and then lower your body to the original position. 
Pull Up Alternatives

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is the best pullup alternative? 

The pull up requires the strong engagement of the upper back, biceps, and core. The best exercise you can do to improve these three specific groups is a weighted lat pulldown. By implementing a strength routine of lat pulldowns, you should see a dramatic increase in your pull up potential. 

What are the options for Crossfit pull up alternatives? 

One popular Crossfit alternative to a pull up is the towel pull up, or the more advanced see-saw towel pull up. These are pretty advanced, but if you are interested in learning how to do them, head here for a great guide from the official Crossfit website. 

What can I use if I do not have a pull up bar? 

The number one alternative to a pull up bar is to get a pair of gymnastic rings. They are inexpensive, and they can be attached to anything that is stable, such as a tree or overhead garage support.

In addition, you will be able to perform the same type of exercises with a pair of gymnastic rings as you can with a pull up bar. A list of exercises that you can perform with gymnastic rings includes pull ups, chin ups, and dips.  

What is the easiest type of pull up? 

The box pull up is considered the easiest variation of the pull up. You will be able to move your load as much as you need, making it a great exercise for anyone at any level. If you keep your feet in front of your hips, the box pull up scales easily into the traditional pull up. 

Can you get ripped with just pull ups? 

Yes, you can — but within reason. The pull up works everything from the biceps to the core, making it one of the best upper body strength movements. For example, you will see that an elite gymnast has notable developments in their upper back and trunk. 

However, there are certain areas that you are going to miss (such as the triceps, chest, and lower body) if you only focus on pull ups. That is why it is important to have a balanced workout routine that focuses on the whole body strength. 


Conclusion

The 10 best alternatives to pull ups listed here will help you get stronger, fitter, and develop impressive back muscles. They will offer all of the necessary muscle and skill training that you need to get into better shape and start your pull up journey.