pull up alternatives

13 Best Pull Up Alternatives That Work The Same Muscles

September 23, 2021

Pull ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises for the upper body, point blank period. However, we do believe your training should include variety of exercises in order to make continuous progress. That’s where pull up alternative exercises come into play. Whether you can do a pull up or not, it’s important to train using a mixture of exercises. In the post we’ll cover 13 of the best alternatives to pull ups that work similar muscles, helping you to build a strong back and eventually become a pull up professional.

alternative exercises for pull ups

What’s a pull up?

The pull up is one of the quintessential bodyweight exercises that can tell you a lot about your fitness level with regards to your upper body strength. A pull up refers to a closed chain movement where you start in a dead hang on a bar with a pronated grip (palms facing away) then you pull your body up until your chin is above the bar and your elbows are by your torso.

People are often confused about what the difference is between pull ups and chin ups. And still to this day, depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different answer. For example, if you ask us, Guinness Book of World Records or countless other trainers in the fitness industry they’ll say that pull ups are done with a pronated grip while chin ups are done with a supinated grip (palms facing towards you). However, if you speak with the Us Marine Corps or the World Pull up Organization, they’ll consider both grips as pull ups.

To keep everyone on the same page, from here on out we’ll consider pull ups using an overhand or pronated grip while chin ups use a supinated or underhand grip. 

Related: Pull Ups Vs Chin Ups: Muscles Worked, Differences & Which Is Better

Why are pull ups important?

Pull ups are an important exercise because it’s a bodyweight exercise that demands you lift your entire body mass upwards. Pull ups strengthen multiple muscle groups in one exercise making it an efficient and effective exercise to help build functional power in the upper body.

We’ve all seen movies where the character is struggling to hang on to a ledge, bridge or landing gear of a helicopter. Now imagine yourself in a situation like that, would you be able to pull yourself up if you needed to? If you can’t do a pull up yet, pull up alternatives will help get you to that point. If you can already do pull ups then exercise alternatives to pull ups can help you do more and/or build up more upper body strength.

How many pull ups should I be able to do?

There are no exact formula regarding how many pull ups you should be able to do but we can look at the averages for different groups of people below:

  • Children: 6-12 should be able to do 1-2 pull ups
  • Teenagers: Boys 13-18 should be able to do 3-8 pull ups. Girls 13-18 should be able to do 1 pull up or 1 5-9 second flexed arm hang (hang with chin above the bar)
  • Adults: Men should be able to do 8 pull ups but if they can do 13-17 this would be considered strong and fit. Women should be able to do 1-3 pull ups while 5-9 reps would be thought of as strong and fit.

Can pull ups be replaced with alternatives?

Pull ups are one of the best upper body exercises around and shouldn’t be replaced but there are a number of pull up alternatives that should be added to your workout plan. In reality, pull ups should be done in conjunction with other  horizontal and vertical pulling exercises if you really want to build up your back.

We recommend that if you can do pull ups you should do them. However, not all people can perform full unassisted pull ups. Don’t worry we have you covered, we summarize a pull up progression plan that will get you on the right track to performing pull ups on your own.

Can I train my back without a pull up bar?

Yes, you can train your back without a pull up bar with a variety of exercises and equipment. Resistance bands offer a range of back exercises that will work back muscles like a pull up would. You can also use other traditional gym equipment to train your back such as the cable machine for lat pull downs or the Smith machine for bent over rows, dumbbells for single arm rows, barbells for Yates rows and even towels for row variations.

There are plenty of ways to train your back without a pull up bar. So, if you don’t have a pull up bar or can't do a pull up then you should definitely be working on some of the pull up alternatives that we cover later on.

Related: 21 Best Cable Back Exercises For Strength & Hypertrophy

What muscles do pull ups work?

Pull ups work a variety of muscles in the upper body including:

Primary muscles (movers):

Latissimus Dorsi: This is the largest muscle in your back. This paired broad, flat triangular muscle stretches across the width of your mid and lower back. Commonly referred to as the lats, the scientific name in fact comes from Latin latissimus meaning “broadest” and dorsum meaning “back”. A well-built lats creates the tapered V look.

The main functions of the lats is adduction, extension, transverse extension, flexion from an extended position and medial rotation of the shoulder joint. The lats also have other functions in the body but for the sake of this post we’ll focus on how it functions when it comes to pull ups. The lats attach directly to the spine so when the arms are in a fixed position overhead the lats are primarily responsible for pulling the trunk upward and forward.

Biceps Brachii: This two headed muscle is comprised of the long head and short head that act on both the elbow and the shoulder joint. In the case of pull up the biceps help turn the forearm out so that your can grip the bar with a pronated grip. It also helps the lats pull us upwards. The narrower the pull up grip the more your biceps will be engaged.

Brachioradialis and brachialis (forearms): These muscles found in the forearms play a role in pull ups. The brachioradialis is a forearm flexor when the forearm is semi-pronated, or when the palm is perpendicular to the ground like in a pull up position. The brachialis and the brachioradialis work in concert with the biceps to flex the forearm at the elbow.

Infraspinatus: This is a rotator cuff muscle that acts as a stabilizer of the glenohumeral joint during shoulder abduction.  

Lower Trapezius: The traps are a large triangular muscle in the upper back that stretches from the base of the skull to the lower thoracic vertebrae of the spine and laterally to the spine of the scapula. Retracting the scapula is the main function of the traps. The lower lat muscle fibers assist in depressing the scapular which is the opposite movement of shoulder shrugs.

Secondary muscles:

Rear Deltoid: This muscle found on the back of the shoulder helps to pull our shoulders back during pull ups. At the bottom of a pull up it’s important to release the tension and come to a dead hang so that the rear delts and shoulders have to work harder to generate the momentum to lift your body upwards.

Rhomboids: This back muscle found in the middle of the upper back between the shoulder blades is vitally important in providing stability to the shoulder girdle and with arm movements. They help to pull the scapula back during a pull up.

Levator scapulae: This long slender muscle starts at the top of the spine and runs down the sides of the neck to the scapula. The main function is to elevate the scapulae.

Pectoralis Major/Minor: These muscles that form the chest primarily help with pushing or pressing movements. However, when performing pull ups the pecs help to assist the lats as you pull up towards the bar.


Rotator Cuff Muscles: (infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor): These muscles work to stabilize the shoulder joint while doing pull ups.

Triceps: This three headed muscle on the back of the upper arms is responsible for extension of the elbow. While doing pull ups the long head of the triceps help pull your body towards the bar.

Obliques: Located along the side of the rectus abdominis in the abdomen area. These muscles help with bending and twisting of the trunk. Hanging from a bar while doing a pull up engages the obliques.

Erector Spinae: This is a collection of muscles; the iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis located in the center of the back that are centered around the spine. The primary function is trunk extension, think of deadlifts or back extensions. While doing pull ups these muscles help to keep the body using proper posture.

Benefits of pull ups

The point of the post is to highlight pull up alternatives which will also have the similar benefits of pull ups. Below is a sampling of the positive effects of doing pull ups.

Build Strong Back: The primary movers in pull ups are the back muscles especially the lats. A strong back can help improve your posture and make every day tasks easier to complete. Plus a well-built back looks great on both men and women.

Work Multiple Muscles: Pull ups are one of the best compound exercises that you can do. This bodyweight compound exercise activates many muscles in order to complete the movement. Besides the major back muscles, pull ups also work the shoulders, core and arms. Working multiple muscles in unison will result in better coordination and more strength overall. If you’re in a rush and want to get an effective upper body workout in then pull ups can be a staple exercise in your arsenal.

Boost Grip Strength: Holding your bodyweight up on a bar then performing a pull up requires you to have a grip that’s strong enough so you don’t slip and fall. Building grip strength is one of the most important and most neglected parts of many people’s training programs.

The old saying, “you’re only as strong as your grip” is true. Most people’s grip will give out before the main muscles they’re training. For example, with deadlifts you’ll see that many people can’t do them without wrist straps because of weak grip. All your upper body lifts will improve if your grip strength does.

Burn Calories: Pull ups are a compound exercise where many muscles are engaged which requires more oxygen and calories to be burned. Your lungs and heart work harder which will improve your cardiovascular capability. Also, because pull ups are a great exercise to build lean muscle mass, you will boost your metabolism. The more muscle mass you have the more energy they require even at rest.

Versatility: Pull ups can be done with only two things; your bodyweight and a bar. Not all exercises are created alike, pull ups have some amazing health benefits and you can do them or similar exercises that work the same muscles by doing pull up alternatives.

How to Do a Pull up

  • Reach up and grab the bar with both hands using an overhand grip (palms facing away) slightly wider than shoulder width apart
  • Start from a dead hang where your arms are straight
  • Retract your shoulder blades and pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar and your elbows are by your torso
  • Briefly pause at the top while squeezing shoulder blades down and in
  • Slowly lower yourself down until you’re back to the dead hang position

Who should do pull up alternatives?

In short, everyone should be performing pull up alternatives whether or not they can do a regular pull up. The key to building strong functional muscles is to use variety in terms of reps and sets, load, grip, body positioning, equipment used and tempo. The pull up alternatives in we provide in this post give you a range of exercises that can be done at home or the gym.

Why Can’t I do a pull up?

There could be a number of reasons why you can’t currently do a pull up. Let’s remember that pull ups are a hard exercise but with the right work ethic and training plan you will be able to do pull ups in a few months. Here’s a few common reasons why you might not be able to do a pull up.

  • You’re injured: if it hurts when attempting to do a pull up then you might have an injury you weren’t aware of. Pull ups are tough but they shouldn’t cause you pain. Pain when doing pull ups would usually be felt in the joints such as the wrists, elbows or shoulders. Pull ups require a degree of shoulder mobility so you should make sure that your shoulders are healthy before attempting pull ups. Make sure to consult with a doctor if this is the case before continuing any physical exercise.
  • Overweight: Pull ups require one thing: you must be able to lift your bodyweight up through a full range of motion. This is difficult if you’re carrying a lot of extra weight. Usually losing weight will help you to do a pull up in a shorter amount of time. It is true that some overweight people do have the muscular strength to do a pull up but, in that case, losing fat should help do even more reps. You can try to lose fat with a cutting program or even intermittent fasting.
  • Lack of Grip Strength: Grip strength is essential to performing pull ups. If you can’t hold onto the bar at a dead hang for more than 10-20 seconds, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do a pull up. You should start incorporating more grip work into your training program.
  • Improper form: Doing a traditional pull up necessitates proper form and muscle engagement. A common mistake we see people make is tilting the head up which throws the body out of alignment by pushing your shoulders forward thus putting more stress on the neck. You should be looking forward throughout the movement.
  • Weak Back: Your back muscles are mainly responsible for lifting your body up to that bar, so it’s vital that you train these muscles often enough. You should be working the back muscles with enough volume and frequency so that you strengthen them over time. We usually recommend you hit all major muscle groups twice a week with a range of 10-20 total sets. Keep in mind that rep ranges to gain strength and hypertrophy should be around 6-12 reps.
  • Grip Too Wide: Your hands should be on the bar just slightly wider than shoulder width. All too often we see people with their hands way too far out to the sides which makes the pull up much more difficult to execute.

Pull Up Progression

For some of you that are reading this, you’re here because you want to learn pull up alternatives but others might want to know how to work their way up to doing a pull up. If you’re part of the latter then you can check out our full post on Pull Up Progression.

To summarize how to follow a 9+ week pull up progression plan:

Weeks 1-3

Practice Australian pull ups or bodyweight inverted rows

  • Start at a high angle where the bar is at your navel until you can do 3 sets of 10 reps.
  • Move your feet down so the bar is halfway between navel and chest then do 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Last step is being able to do a full inverted row of 3 sets of 10 reps

Week 3-4

Continue working on the inverted rows

Add dead hangs to the mix (3 grips-close, normal, wide).

  • 9 sets(3 sets each grip) x 10-60 seconds or as long as you can hold

Add shoulder depressions

  • 5 sets x 10 reps

Weeks 5-8

Band assisted pull ups (start with heavy resistance band and work your way down to light resistance)

  • 5 sets x max reps

Add Negatives (start with chin over the bar then lower to dead hang as slow as possible)

  • 5 sets x 8 reps

Week 9+

Try unassisted pull ups

13 Best Pull Up Alternatives

The following 13 pull up alternative exercises and variations will hit your lats plus a handful of other muscles that are also involved with executing a perfect pull up. You'll also see we included pull up alternatives that can be done at home with no pull up bar or other equipment.

1. Inverted Row

This bodyweight exercise is a perfect pull up alternative because it uses the same muscles as a pull up. There’s a reason why the inverted row is part of the pull up progression plan. All you need is a low bar, railing or even a sturdy table to perform this exercise if you’re not at the gym.

The beauty of inverted row is that they’re easier to do compared with a pull up. They also allow for multiple tweaks to make the exercise easier or harder. You can readjust your body positioning to change difficulty and the angle in which you target the lats. Standing up taller with a taller bar makes it easier while the more you bring your feet out under the bar coming closer to parallel with the floor, the harder it gets. You can also place your feet on a raised platform to make it more difficult.

inverted row
How To:
  • Set up bar at desired height
  • Sit under the bar the reach up and grab the bar with both hands using an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width
  • Bring your feet out so that your body is in a straight line with your core engaged and hips up
  • Retract your shoulder blades and pull your lower chest up to the bar
  • Slowly lower to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Keep your body in a straight line throughout the movement, don't let your hips sag.

Suspension Trainer Inverted Row

This exercise is the same as the above except for the fact you will be forced to use more stabilizer muscles to pull your body upwards.

suspension inverted row

2. Wide Grip Lat Pull Down

The lat pull down mimics how a pull up works but instead of pulling weight up with your lats you’ll be pulling it down. Lat pull downs are great to get extra volume in this range of motion even after you’re fatigued from pull ups. You can really focus on contracting and squeezing your lats when doing lat pull downs. Also, for people who can’t yet do an unassisted pull up, the lat pull down is perfect because you can set the weight or resistance at an amount that’s manageable.

wide grip pull up alternative

How To:

  • Set knee pads at correct height, sit down and set pin in weight stack
  • Reach up to grab the bar with an overhand grip using both hands wider than shoulder width apart
  • Pull down on the bar while keeping your back straight and chest up until you elbows are at your sides and the bar is at your upper chest
  • Slowly let the bar return to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Keep your core engaged and head forward throughout the movement and try to control the bar on the up back up in a 2-3 second timeframe to get maximum eccentric contraction and longer time under tension.

3. Bent Over Rows

There are numerous variations of rows but the bent over row takes the cake for building muscle and adding size to the back. You can perform bent over rows with either an overhand or underhand grip. With the overhand grip you’ll be hitting the upper back muscles more like the rhomboids and the traps. With underhand grip your emphasize the mid back and lats more.

best pull up alternatives

How To:

  • Slightly bend at the knees and hinge forward so that your torso is over the bar
  • Keeping a neutral back, grab the bar using an underhand grip with hands shoulder width apart
  • While maintaining the bent over position, pull up through your elbows until the bar reaches your upper abs
  • Slowly lower the bar to starting position where your arms are fully extended
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Engage your core and maintian a neutral back throughout the movement.

Smith Machine Bent Over Row

This is the same exercise as above but you'll be able to focus more on your lats as you're reomving some need for stabiliziing muscles to work due to the fixed movement on the machine.

smith machine pull up alternative

Related: Best Smith Machine Exercises

4. Lat Push Down

The lat pushdown is an exercise that works the lats without elbow flexion. This exercise will also hit the posterior deltoid, teres major and a little of the triceps.


pull up alternative without pull up bar

How To:

  • Set up the bar on the cable machine higher than head height
  • Reach up and grab the bar with both hands using an overhand grip wider than shoulder width apart
  • Step back so that your arms are fully extended and there’s a stretch in your back
  • Keep a slight bend in your elbows and knees with your chest up and back arched to stretch your lats
  • Push the bar down towards your hips until the bar reaches your thighs
  • In a slow controlled manner let the bar return to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Make sure to focus on using your lats to drive the bar down rather than your triceps.

5. Single Arm Lat Pulldown

This is a great unilateral exercise that works the lats and other muscles involved in pull ups. You can really get a good stretch in the lats with this one plus work the lower lats more.

By doing single arm exercises like this you’ll be able to notice if there’s any weakness on one side vs the other. If you do spot a muscle imbalance on one side then you can work on improving it until both sides are equally strong. This exercise allows for a complete range of motion which can help stimulate new muscle growth.

single arm pulldown

How To:

  • Set cable with stirrup at head height the grab the stirrup with a neutral grip
  • Get into half kneeling position with your active side’s shoulder aligned with the cable and your arm fully extended so that there’s a stretch in the lats
  • Pull down through your elbow until your elbow is to your side while squeezing your lats at the bottom
  • Slowly let the cable return to starting position where your arm is fully extended
  • Repeat for desired reps then switch sides

Note: Change up your grip to overhand for more emphasis on the upper back or underhand to target the lower lats more.

Cable Crossover Lat Pulldown

This is a simalal exercise to the single arm lat pulldown but you'll get more of a stretch in this version due to the wide grip positioning.

cable pull up alternative

6. Close grip V Bar Pulldown

This lat pull down variation requires a neutral grip that forces your elbows to be drawn down and tucked to your sides. This movement leads to greater shoulder extension. You’ll also be leaning back slightly so that you can pull more weight which can lead to building stronger lats, making the V bar pull up a great alternative exercise.

v bar pull up alternative

How To:

  • Set up V bar on the cable machine
  • Get into position on the seat then reach up to grab the bar with a neutral grip
  • Keeping your core tight pull down through your elbows while concentrating on squeezing the lats as you lean back slightly until your hands are at your upper chest
  • Slowly return to starting position by reversing the movement

Note: Don’t round your back to pull the weight down, keep your chest up as you pull down.

Related: Lat Pulldowns: 10 Variations, Muscles Worked, How To, & Benefits

7. Close Grip Chin Up

With the close grip chin up you’ll use the same muscles as you would for a pull up but you’ll redirect some of the tension to the arms. In this movement you’ll hit your lower lats and biceps more. This exercise should be easier to pull off compared to a traditional pull up making it a great pull up alternative.

chin ups

How To:

  • Reach up to grab the bar with both hands using an underhand grip with your hands 3-6 inches apart
  • Starting from a dead hang with your shoulders depress, pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar
  • Slowly lower to starting position with arms fully extended
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Remember to keep your head straight throughout the movement to avoid straining your neck.

8. Assisted Pull Ups

Assisted pull up are exactly what the name suggests, pull ups that are done with some type of assistance. Assisted pull ups are great for beginners who can’t complete a pull up or can’t do enough pull ups to get a good workout in. You can do assisted pull ups in three ways; with a machine, with bands or with a partner.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these options:

Pull Up Assist Machine

With the pull up assist machine you should first determine what a good starting weight to choose in the weight stack. For example, if you set the weight at 50lbs then it will take 50lbs off your bodyweight. The amount of weight you choose will be largely dependent on how close you are to being able to do an unassisted pull up. If you’re far away then you will probably start somewhere with the weight around half your bodyweight or more.

Try doing a set of 6-12 reps and if it’s too easy/hard then make necessary adjustments. Over time you should gradually lower the amount of counter weight until you’re able to do unassisted pull ups. You should be able to do at least 5 reps of unassisted pull ups before you move one from the assisted versions.

assisted pull up alternative

How To:

  • Set the pin in desired weight stack amount
  • Get into position by grabbing the bar over head with both hands using an overhand grip (pictured above is the chin up with underhand grip) slightly wider than shoulder width apart
  • Place your knees on the padded platform
  • Lower down to start at a dead hang position
  • Retract your shoulder blades and pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar and your elbows are by your torso
  • Briefly pause at the top while squeezing shoulder blades down and in
  • Slowly lower yourself down until you’re back to the dead hang position

Pull Up Assisted With Bands

The second way of performing an assisted pull up is with the help of loop resistance bands. Loop resistance bands are a great tool to assist with pull ups because there’s the capability to change the amount of assistance by using different bands or band combos. Bands are also nice because you can carry them with you to use at the gym, at home or even outside at a park.

Start with a heavier resistance band then work your way down to the lighter resistance band as you progress. Overall, the resistance band pull up is a perfect alternative for beginners.

band assisted pull up alternative

How To:

  • Loop the band over the bar to set the anchor point
  • Get into position by grabbing the bar over head with both hands using an overhand grip (pictured above is the chin up with underhand grip) slightly wider than shoulder width apart
  • Step your foot onto the band then place your other foot on top to lock it in place
  • Retract your shoulder blades and pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar and your elbows are by your torso
  • Briefly pause at the top while squeezing shoulder blades down and in
  • Slowly lower yourself down until you’re back to the dead hang position

Partner Assisted Pull Ups

This version of the assisted pull up requires you to have an extra set of hands. You can use this pull up alternative if you don’t have a pull up assist machine or bands at your disposal. You just need someone willing to hold your legs as you perform the pull ups.


  • Reach up grab the bar with both hands using an overhand grip hand slightly wider that shoulder width apart
  • Bend at the knees to lift your feet behind you. Have your partner hold your ankles to help push you upwards
  • Follow same cues from regular pull up

9. Dumbbell Pullover

The pullover is good for stretching the lats while the shoulders are extended. This exercise is a hybrid that will work your lats and your chest. The first part of the lift targets the lats while your pecs become involved as the weight moves past your head. Your triceps with also get a nice workout with this one without having to constantly press down and extend at the elbows like most triceps exercises.

pull up alternative dumbbell

How To:

**You can position your body two ways with this exercise(fully lying on the bench or perpendicular to the bench with only your upper back in contact)

  • Grab a dumbbell then get into position with your upper back against the bench and your head hanging off the edge
  • Hold the dumbbell by making a triangle with your hands with your palms against the weight or by gripping the handle with a neutral grip
  • Start with the weight directly over your head with your arms straight towards the ceiling
  • Reach the dumbbell behind your head, keeping a slight bend in your elbows, until your arms are stretched behind you
  • Pull up and over your head back to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Keep your arms stationary without movement in your elbows.

10. Seated Cable Row

This exercise is great for the lats as it mimics the bent over row. The big difference here is that you’re in a seated position which removes the lower back muscles from assisting with the lift. This means you can really hone in on using your lats to lift the weight. This variation of the seated row can be executed with multiple grips and equipment.

seated pull up alternative

How To:

  • Set up chosen attachment to pulley
  • Sit down then grip the bar using an underhand grip then push your butt back so that your arms are fully extended and there’s a bend in the knees.
  • Pull back through your elbows without leaning or rocking backwards until your hands are at your sides
  • Slowly return to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Keep your back straight and dont rock your bodyweight to pull the weight, focus on using your lats.

11. Renegade Row

The renegade row is a fantastic pull up alternative with dumbbells. This full body exercise works some of the same muscles of a pull up including the obliques, rhomboids, lats and triceps. An added benefit of this exercise is that while building upper body strength you’re also improving balance and stabilization in the core and shoulders.

renegade row

How To:

  • Set up two dumbbells (preferably hex dumbbells rather than round) on the floor shoulder width apart
  • Get in to position with your hands on the dumbbell handles and your shoulders stacked above
  • Row one side upward by pulling back through the elbow while balancing on your other hand and feet until the lifted dumbbell is at your ribs
  • Slowly return to starting position then repeat movement with the other arm
  • Repeat for desired reps alternating with each arm

Note: Spreading your legs out further with make this exercise easier by giving you a wider base. Try to use hex dumbbells so the dumbbells don’t shift.

Related: 12 Types Of Dumbbells Which Is Best For You?

12. Dumbbell Kroc Row

This exercise is also called the single arm row is perfect to move your lats through a wide range of motion. Because you're only using one arm at a time you can really focus on the mind-muscle connection. This unilateral exercise will also work the core as you will have to stabilize yourself throughout the motion.

dumbbell pull up alternative exercise

How To:

  • Grab a dumbbell with your left hand using a neutral grip
  • Place your right hand and knee on the bench with your left leg to the side of the bench
  • Your shoulders should be slightly higher than your hips.
  • Start with your left arm fully extened then pull through your elbow until your hand is next to your ribcage
  • Slowly lower the weight to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps then switch sides

Note: Keep your hips forward and core engaged throughout the movement.

Kroc Row with Bands

Follow the same cues from above except for the set up below:

  • Stand on the band with your front foot then loop around your other foot
  • Bring your other foot back behind you so that your leg is straight
  • Reach down to grab the band with the hand on same side as back leg and place your inactive hand on your knee for added stability
  • Follow cues from above exercise


pull up alternative no bar

Related: 8 Resistance Band Back Exercises & Full Length Workout

13. Towel Rows

The towel row is a great at home pull up alternative because you don’t need anything except for yourself, a towel and a sturdy anchor point. With this no bar pull up alternative make sure you have a good grip on the towel, a longer towel will enable you to move through a larger range of motion.

pull up alternative at home

How To:

  • Wrap your towel around a secure anchor point then grab it with both hands using a neutral grip
  • Put your feet close to the bottom of the anchor point then lean back until your arms are fully extended
  • Pull through your elbows until your hands are at your sides
  • Slowly return to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: You can also do this exercise on a vertical column for the anchor point. To make the exercise more difficult you should anchor the towel lower and lean back more.

Single Arm Towel Row

This version of the towel row will work one side of the body at a time but you'll follow the same cues as above. The biggest difference here is that it will be more difficult to perform becuase you're using one arm. You'll also need to focus on anti-rotation to keep your body aligned without having your inactive side leaning back.

pull up alternative no equipment

Bent Over Towel Rows

With the bent over towel row you will execute with the same body positioning as the bent over row. The key focus point here is to apply force and contraction to the muscles as you pull your hands away from each other and pull your elbow upwards. Constant tension is needed to reap the beneifts of this because not weight is being moved.

pull up alternative at home without equipment

Related:  7 Best Back Exercises With A Towel (No Bar Needed)

Pull Up Alternative Workout

This workout consists of pull up alternative exercises that work your back and other major upper body muscles through a range of motions and with different grips. We based this workoutu around the idea that you're looking to gain muscle size.

Note: Take 60-90 seconds rest between sets.

  • Wide Grip Lat pull Down 3 sets x 8-10 reps
  • Kroc Rows 3 sets x 6-8 reps (each side)
  • Assisted Pull Ups x AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
  • Dumbbell Pullover 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Inverted Row 3 sets x 10-12 reps

How often should I do pull up alternative exercises?

In general, you should target major muscle groups twice a week. This also pertains to pull up alternative exercises. You should have at least 24 hours rest between workout sessions. Depending on what your end goal is, your sets and reps will change. Go for lower reps higher weight of 1-5 reps for strength and power. Use a rep range of 6-12 for hypertropy and strength gains and 12-20 for muscle gain and endurance. As we mentioned before it's beneficial to mix up rep and sets ranges to keep the workouts fresh and your muscles responding to new stimuli.

Related: How many Exercises, Sets & Reps Should I Do Per Muscle Groupd & Workout?

What can I substitute for Crossfit pull ups?

Crossfit makes a few recommendations for pull up alternatives including jumping pull ups, negatives, ring rows, pull-downs and assisted pull ups. Regardless of the exercise you choose, make sure you follow the proper form to get the most from the exercise.

pull up alternative kettlebell


Pull up alternative exercises can help you to build strength and muscle. Use some of these exercises in your training program and you're sure to see your pull up ability improve. No more excuses, even if you don't have a pull up bar or you're working out at home without access to a cable machine or barbells/dumbells you can still do some pull up alternatives. Grab some bands or a towel and get to work!

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