Looking for an alternative to pull ups? If so, I can help.

Whether you don't have access to a pull up bar, or you just fancy a change, there are many alternatives to pull ups that are equally beneficial. 

In this article, you'll discover 10 excellent pull up alternatives that'll activate your back muscles the same way using a pull up bar does. 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 alternatives to pull ups that you can perform at home today! 

We have divided 10 alternatives into three different lists. They'll 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 Alternatives - Exercises 1-3 
  • Weight Training Pull Up Alternatives - Exercises 4-7
  • Bar Alternatives - Exercises 8-10

1. Inverted Rows

Man Doing Squat Rack Inverted Row Exercise

The bodyweight row is an excellent pull up substitute for people who are just starting out and want a bodyweight back alternative exercise.

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.

However, if you lack the necessary inverted row equipment in your home gym or want some variations, inverted row alternative exercises prove to be highly useful and beneficial.


  • Improved upper body strength.
  • Better posture.
  • Great way to build up to pull ups.

How To Do It

  1. Stand with a shoulder-width grip (using an overhand grip) on any horizontal bar and keep your arms extended. 
  2. Engage your core and keep your body in a straight line from the feet to the head. 
  3. In the original position, pull yourself to the rings by pulling back the shoulder blades and flexing the biceps. 
  4. At the end position, lower your body down slowly in a controlled manner. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Keep your core engaged and keep your body in a straight line. The last thing you want is to dip your hips and lose body control.  
  • Imagine you're pushing your elbows towards the earth rather than pulling your body to the bar; you'll get better muscle activation. 

Related Article - Best Burpee Alternatives

2. Elevated Foot Chin Up 

Man Doing Elevated Foot Chin Up Exercise

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. 


  • Improves overall grip strength.
  • Easier than traditional pull ups. 
  • Great for developing lat width.

How to do it

  1. Keep your feet on an elevated surface (at a 90-degree angle in the hip). 
  2. Put an underhand grip on the bar and lower yourself to the length of your arms. 
  3. Engage your core, pull your body up to the bar by pulling down the shoulder blades and closing the elbow. 
  4. Try to hold the top position by lowering yourself back to the starting position in a controlled manner. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  •  If you struggle with this pull up alternative, try to perform negative reps to develop your base strength. 

3. Squatting Rows (Pull-up Alternative With No bar)

Man Performing Squatting Rows In The Gym

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

This great 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. 


  • Don't need a barbell. 
  • Ideal for building up to your first pull up.
  • Develops overall upper body strength. 
  • One of the easiest bodyweight rows to perform. 

How to do it 

  1. Put your grip on a towel or a doorway and keep your torso upright.
  2. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and do not adjust your upper body position. 
  3. Tuck the shoulders back, bend the arms, and pull your chest towards the support or the door. 
  4. Pause for a moment at the end and slowly lower your body to the starting position. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  •  Ensure you focus on retracting your shoulder blades during each rep; it'll help you develop the scapula strength needed for pull ups. 

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.

4. Lat Pulldown (Best Weight Training Pull Up Alternative)

Man Doing Lat Pulldowns In The Gym

The lat pulldown is a great choice for developing the same muscle groups as the pull up. And, it's a similar motion to the pull up exercise, making 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 too much and keep your focus on the lats. 

My only gripe with this movement is that you'll need a cable machine or lat pulldown. 

Related Article - Lat Pulldown Vs Pull Up


  • Extremely similar movement to the pull up and uses all of the same muscles.
  • Develops a thick looking upper back. 

how to do it

  1. Place a standard pull up grip. 
  2. Try not to lean back and keep the trunk in a stable position. 
  3. Start the exercise by pulling down the shoulder blades. 
  4. End the repetition by raising the bar to your chest before you slowly return to the starting position. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • It is important to note that you can use this exercise to develop the same muscles pull ups do while practising the movement pattern.  
  • Don't have room for a cable machine or lat pulldown machine? Try using a resistance bad instead to perform banded lat pulldowns. 

5. Barbell Rows 

Man Doing Barbell Row Exercise

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. 

Once you master this exercise, you'll be well on your way to developing the muscle strength you need for your first pull up. 

If you're unable to perform the barbell row or simply want alternative options, there are effective barbell row alternatives to target and strengthen your back muscles.


  • Increases back thickness. 
  • Fantastic compound exercise that works all of your upper body. 
  • Makes an excellent addition to any workout routine.

How To Do It

  1. Stand over the barbell and take a shoulder-width grip. 
  2. Flatten your back, keep your hips at a 90-degree angle and open your chest. 
  3. Start the movement by squeezing the shoulder down and together. 
  4. Pull the elbows back and close them. Pause for a moment as the bar reaches your chest. 
  5. Lower the bar back to the starting position to complete the exercise. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • While it's nice to lift a lot of weight using this pull up replacement exercise, I recommend starting lighter and focusing on your form. Only increase the weight when your form is near perfect.  

6. Dumbbell Rows (Pull-Up Alternative With Dumbbells)

Man Doing Dumbbell Rows In Home Gym

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. 

I've found the neutral grip position used during this movement is good if you have a shoulder joint issue. 


  • Excellent for developing strength in your upper back muscles.
  • Improves grip strength (needed for pull ups)

How to do it

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

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Let your working arm come to a "dead hang" at the bottom of each rep. This will eliminate any momentum developed during the movement. By doing so will increase the range of motion your muscles work through.

7. Band Pull Apart (Pull-Up Alternative For Shoulder Injury Recovery) 

Man Doing Resistance Band Pull Aparts

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. 

Add them to your workout routine. 


  • Can assist your rotator cuff muscles. 
  • Great for shoulder injuries. 
  • Engages core muscles.
  • You can perform this exercise from a standing or seated position.

How To do it

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

Tips From A Trainer!

  • You can use your resistance band to assist you during any other bodyweight exercise (such as band assisted pull ups, inverted row, chin ups, dips, etc.). 
  • 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. 

8. Pull Up Hold & Negative 

Woman Doing Pull Up Hold & Negative Exercise Outdoors

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.

While negative pull ups won't replace pull ups completely, they're an excellent method to develop the strength needed to perform an unassisted pull up. It still works multiple muscle groups such as your biceps, lats, rhomboids, and rear delts. 


  • Perfect way to develop pull up strength. 
  • Develops your upper arms and grip strength. 
  • Works similar muscles as the pull up and lat pulldown machine.

How To do it

  1. Place your hands at shoulder width apart using an overhand grip. 
  2. Use a box to get into position or jump into the top position. 
  3. Try to hold the top position for as long as you can. 
  4. Move slowly and stay active as you lower your body. 
  5. Repeat the movement as soon as you reach the length of your arm. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • 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 

Man Doing Box Pull Ups

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 and lower body into the movement and help you to relieve some of your body weight. 

It's basically an assisted pull up without the assisted pull up machine... Who doesn't love assisted pull ups, right?

And most importantly, this great exercise works all of the same muscle groups that pull ups do and is one of my favorite bodyweight exercises to perform with clients. 


  • Increases muscle mass. 
  • Easier than a strict pull up. 
  • Works your lats through a wide range of motion. 
  • Trains the same muscles regular pull ups work.

how to do it

  1. Put a solid plyometric box under a bar at a height that is high enough to stand as you hang. 
  2. Put an overhand grip on the bar and hang at the length of your arm.  (Grip placement should be a little wider than shoulder width).
  3. Bend your knees, move some of your body weight to your legs, and onto the box. 
  4. You should now be in a pull up position. 
  5. Perform a single pull up and use your legs to carry some of your bodyweight. 
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Don't be afraid to let your lower body do some of the work; that's the point of this exercise.  
  • Use this movement as a progression of bodyweight rows.
  • If you don't have a plyometric box, you can use a sturdy table instead. 

Required Equipment - Best Plyo Boxes

10. Chin Up 

Man Doing Chin Ups

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. 

I'm fond of this exercise and would say it could be the perfect pull up alternative for you. 


  • Can be used to increase your pull up count. 
  • Great for adding more muscle mass to your biceps.
  • Uses all the muscles the pull up does.

How To Do It

  1. Take an underhand grip and hang at the length of your arm, roughly shoulder width apart. (You can use wider than shoulder width if needed). 
  2. Engage your core and keep your feet in the front of your hips. 
  3. Start the movement by squeezing your scapular down and bending your elbow. 
  4. Close your elbow until your chin reaches the bar or lands above the bar. 
  5. Pause for a moment and then lower your body to the original position. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Try not to focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together on this movement. Focus on pulling your upper chest to the bar and then getting a full stretch of the lats at the bottom (dead hang).  

What Do Pull-Ups Acheive?

Pulls ups are one of the best workouts for your back, biceps, and other muscles. They're 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.[1]

What Muscles Do Pull Up Substitutes Train?

Pull up substitutes train similar muscles to the regular pull up, working a variety of upper body muscles, including: 

  • The Muscles Of The Core/Trunk 
  • The Biceps 
  • The Forearms 
  • Scapular Depressors  
  • Scapular Retractors  

Pull ups are controlled by these muscles. The skills trained in the movement include vertical pulling, horizontal pulling, grip, and trunk stability. 

The main muscles worked in pull up alternative exercises 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.[2] 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.[3] If you build strength in the thoracic erector spinae, then you will avoid injury and develop better posture.

Common Pull Up FAQs

What is the best pull up alternative? 

The best pull up alternative exercise you can do 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 [4]. 

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

If you don't have a pull up bar, you can use a barbell on J Hooks or get a pair of gymnastic rings. They're inexpensive, and can be attached to anything that is stable, such as a tree or overhead garage support.

What is the easiest type of pull up? 

The box pull up is considered the easiest variation of the pull up. You'll be able to move your body the same way a pull does, while controlling the load. 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 get ripped with just pull ups — but within reason. The pull up works everything from the biceps to the core, making it one of the best upper body strength movements. But you will need an excellent diet to go with this movement. 


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. 

So what are you waiting for? Try these exercises out and watch your pull up count increase. 






Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.