Pull up is a good exercise that strengthens your back, lateral, and trapezoid muscles. If you don’t have access to a bar or you are yet to achieve one that does not mean you should avoid it. Instead, do other pull up alternative moves that targets the same muscle groups – deltoid, rhomboids and lats – until you are strong enough to do the real thing.
No matter the case, we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a closer look at all the pull up related stuff so we can show you some of the best pull up alternative that you can do.
What muscles do you pull ups target?
Pull ups involves lifting your body weight with a pronated grip through the retraction of your scapular, flexion of the elbow joint and support from a range of muscles in your upper body mechanics. The main muscles used are your latissimus dorsi, Traps and rhomboids (upper back), Biceps, triceps, and forearm (arms), abdominal muscles.
Colossus Fitness, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Trained muscles: Back muscles (back), traps (upper back), biceps, and shoulders (arms), and abdominal muscles.
The inverted row uses anything you can hold that is below the height of a standard pull up bar. The legs will always touch the ground, so it is a good way to pull for those who do not have confidence in their own strength.
How to do the inverted row:
- Lie on your back, under the bar.
- Hold the bar firmly with both hands.
- Keep your body straight, then pull up towards the bar, let touch your chest touch the bar. This makes one rep.
- Then, lower yourself slowly back to the starting position and repeat.
Wide Grip Lat Pull Down
These exercise offers advanced lifters a stable place to maximize the amount of weight they are pulling and beginners a good starting point to develop baseline strength through their lats.
Don’t have access to a lat pulldown machine? You can also try the lat pulldown methods with dumbbells.
How to do the wide grip lat pull down:
- Hold the bar with a wide grip.
- Pull the shoulders back.
- Squeeze through the lats and pull the bar down to your chest level.
- Pause for a second before returning back to the starting position.
Kneeling Resistance Lat Band Pulldown
Equipment needed: A resistance band and an anchor point.
Trained muscles: Back muscles, biceps.
This pulling method uses a resistance band – completely lightweight and very flexible, making it a perfect companion for home or gym. And perhaps the best thing about these bands, especially if you do modified pull ups, is that you can easily add a lot of resistance by adding a lot or changing them. This pull-down variation also requires core stability to perform.
How to do the kneeling resistance lat band pulldown:
- Hold both ends of the band, attached to the anchor point. The palms of your hands should face up.
- Kneel down. Keep your hands above your head holding the resistance band above you.
- Bring your hands to shoulder height, then release back up again.
- Repeat for desired number of reps.
Assisted pull ups
Teran61, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Muscles used: Upper back, arms, Shoulders
To do this exercise well, you will need a band that will support your bodyweight every time you climb. We suggest that you use a band that the weight and resistance is equal to your fitness level.
If you are just starting out, you should find a band with easy resistance. This pull up variation allows you to straighten your upper back and not get too tired of using too much weight.
By using less resistance, you get more training while reducing the chance of injury, but if you have experience, increase the level of resistance. Doing this helps you grow muscles in your upper body and core.
How to do the assisted band pull up:
- To make the assisted pull effective, place the resistance bands securely in the pull bar.
- Fold one knee inside the loop. Pull your body up and down until your chin passes over the bar.
- Lower down slowly and repeat for desired number of reps.
- All in all, this is a great exercise that will help you grow faster muscles.
Resistance Band Pull apart
Trained muscles: middle back and shoulders.
Speaking of resistance bands, this is one of the best exercises they use. This band workout is perfect for both beginners and experienced athletes. Want more challenge? Instead of going back and forth and keep moving, keep the band extended for 20 seconds.
How to do the resistance band pull apart:
- Grad both ends of the band.
- Hold it at chest level, arms straight forward.
- Extend your arms out to the sides. Hold the shoulders blade back and down. (Optional: Hold this position for 20 seconds)
- Withdraw your arms back, repeat if necessary.
One Arm Pull Down
Muscles worked: Mainly Lats. The second muscles used are rhomboids, pecs, oblique and traps.
The one arm pull down can be measured to your fitness level. Resistance bands make it easy to raise or lower the challenge allowing you to strengthen the traps and lats like in a pull up.
Dumbbell Lat Pulldown
It trains the shoulders, back and arms and also to prepare you for pull ups.
How to do the dumbbell lat pulldown:
- Start with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Lift both of the dumbbell over your head with your hands facing forward.
- Start in a controlled and slow manner, lower the dumbbell and keep your back contracted until it reaches shoulder height.
- Then raise them back up.
Muscles Used: Shoulders, Back, Arms, Abs
The renegade row is a very effective pull up alternative exercise for putting your muscles in shape quickly. you can either use dumbbells or kettlebells for this exercise.
How to do the renegade row:
- Start the exercise by standing in a high plank position.
- The dumbbell or kettlebell needs to be on both hands before starting a rep. squeeze the core tightly.
- Pull the dumbbells slowly and in a controlled manner to your chest and keep your elbows close to your body.
- Lower the dumbbell and switch to the other side. Keep alternating sides until you have completed the desired number of reps.
Lats, Rhomboids, Traps, Delts.
This exercise will give your body the necessary strength and energy it needs to do a traditional pull up.
How to do the barbell row:
- Start in a slow and controlled manner and keep your muscles locked in a tense position. This a verry good pull up alternative for working the back muscles.
- Start with the barbell on the floor placed in front of you.
- Place on your waist at a 90-degree angle and hold the bar in palms down grip.
- The hands should be spaced shoulder-width apart. With your back straight down, pull the bar up to your chest and bend your elbows.
- Lower your arms straight and repeat for desired number of reps.
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet, CC BY 2.0
Lats, deltoid, rhomboids, biceps and arm.
Rhomboids, rear delts, lats, biceps and forearm
Why is it a good way to do the dumbbell row:
The dumbbell row is an effective pull up alternative with dumbbells. It’s a very good pull up exercise that you can use a lot of weight with and have good progress towards doing a pull up, or use to build strong lats when a pull up bar is not available.
How to do the dumbbell row:
- Use a sturdy high platform to lean on when doing this exercise.
- Place the non-lifting hand and the same knee the flat bench.
- Bend over and keep your back straight so that your upper body is parallel with the ground.
- Reach down and inhale, pick up the dumbbell with the lifting hand using a neutral grip. Bring the dumbbell up to your chest.
- At the top of the movement, squeeze you’re your back and shoulder muscles.
- Inhale and lower the dumbbell slowly until your arm is fully extended.
- Complete for desired number of reps.
Pull up with Suspension Trainer or TRX Pull up
Slyngebehandling, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Muscles worked: Traps and lats
This is one of the best pull up alternative for building a big back without a bar. It works the same muscle groups as similar to a pull up. The difference is it is scaled down because some of your weight is still on the floor since your feet touch the floor during this exercise.
The TRX gets you up easily, because your hands can move and swing a little bit, forces you to work stabilizer muscles too, which is good.
Pull up negatives
This is a pull up in reverse, if you can’t do a pull up by yourself, this exercise will help get there fast.
- Stand on a bench just beneath a pull up bar so you can begin at the top of a pull up bar without having to jump up to grab.
- Using an overhand grip, grip the bar with your hands shoulder width apart.
- Pull yourself up until your upper chest is at the bar and your lats fully contracted.
- Now the negative, lower yourself slowly down as you can until your arms are fully extended. This completes one rep.
- Do this for the desired number of reps.
As you can see, there are a lot of exercise you can do in place of a pull up. This workout is designed to make your muscles grow big and strong and can also help as a progression if you can’t do a pull up.
Also, remember that in order to get the most out of your workout, the key is practice, practice and practice. When you do these exercises more often, you will see the results you want very quickly.
No bar – No excuses!