It is hard to maintain a good level of motivation when you’re doing the same exercises over and over again. While pull ups are indeed effective in training your muscles, we all feel the need to do something else from time to time.
At the same time, we want to enjoy the same degree of effectiveness when it comes to our training sessions. So, substitutes for pull ups that will still target our muscles as desired are more than welcome.
Even if you opt for a pull up alternative, this doesn’t mean that you won’t succeed in achieving your goals. On the contrary, if you replace pull ups with exercises that have a similar effect on your muscles, you will not regret the choice you made.
But, first of all, you need to understand how pull ups work and what groups of muscles they target. Pulls ups are extremely effective in training your latissimus dorsi muscles, your triceps, biceps, and core muscles as well. So, if you find an alternative to regular pull up bars that can provide similar muscle training, then you are good to go.
Luckily, you have a wide range of similar exercises to choose from. As you are about to discover, there are more than enough pull up alternative exercises to enjoy during your training session.
5 Best Alternatives to Pull Ups
1. Wide-grip pull-downs
With this exercise, you can easily get the same results as when performing pull ups. For beginners, this pull up alternative workout is even more recommended. As a beginner, it may be trickier to perform pull ups right because you lack the strength necessary to pull the weight of your body up by just using your arms.
But if you train with the help of wide-grip pull-downs, you will be able to gain more strength in time, which will prepare your muscles for real pull ups without the struggle. So, it would be best to start training with this pull up replacement and move onto pull ups later on, when you will be readier from a physical point of view.
You will need a pull-down machine for this exercise, something you will easily find in any gym. Begin by holding into the machine’s bar with a wide grip. This means having your arms are spread apart as possible, while still having the possibility to perform the exercise right.
Extend the bar until it comes close to your chest, while you pull your shoulders back during the exercise. You should feel your lats working hard to meet the challenge. Once the bar is above your chest, hold the position for 2 to 3 seconds and then slowly return to the initial position. Repeat the exercise.
2. Wide-grip seated row
This is another great pull up substitute accessible for everyone. The exercise is similar to a seated row routine, except for the part that requires a wider grip to provide the desired results. Thus, in comparison to the standard row that targets the muscles of your middle back, the wide-grip row targets your lats, just what you need from this kind of exercise. So, if you’re looking for an effective alternative to chin ups, this is the way to go.
Grab onto the handle of the seated row machine. If it doesn’t have a wide handle, see if you can attach one to it for this type of exercise. Bend your needs just a little bit and make sure you maintain your spine straight during the exercise, by slightly leaning back as you pull. Perform the exercise by pulling the bar toward your stomach. Make sure to squeeze your shoulders as you go through with this movement. Hold this position for just one second and then return to your initial position. Repeat the exercise.
3. Inverted rows
A versatile pull ups alternative, the inverted rows exercise will target several groups of muscles at once. So, if your goal is to gain more muscle mass and physical strength in your upper back area, you can do so without the help of pull ups. This chin up alternative will train your biceps, triceps, and back, stabilizing them all at once, which makes this exercise a more than suitable choice.
It is accessible for beginners as it leads them to the level of strength they need for more complicated exercises. And for the advanced, this exercise allows room for progressions, giving you the chance to adjust its difficulty level as desired.
To perform this exercise, you will need to use a machine that allows you to rack a barbell at the height of your waist. Then lay down under the barbell and hold onto it, with the help of an overhand grip. Your hands should not be wider than your shoulders when you do this.
The soles of your feet should be entirely on the ground and your chest should be underneath the barbell. By using the force of your arms alone, try to bring your chest to the barbell by bending your elbows. Once at the top, hold this position for a second and then go back down to the initial position. Repeat the exercise.
Do you know how to increase the difficulty of this exercise? The more horizontal you will position your body, the more difficult these modified pull ups will become. So, if you feel like the exercise is too light, it means that your body is too inclined. Adopt a more horizontal position and you will feel the tension better.
4. Single-arm cable pull down
You can easily perform pull ups without bar if you give this exercise a chance. Ideal for beginners as well, the single-arm cable pull down will help you create balance between lats and biceps on both sides of your body.
Although it looks like a simple exercise, the pull-down involves a twist, which will make several muscles work at once for the performance of this movement. Also, they will be targeted from multiple angles, making the exercise even more effective. In fact, this is what makes this alternative unique, as you won’t get similar effects with other exercises.
You will train one arm at a time. The handle of the cable tower should be above your head. Your exercising position will be a half-kneeling one, with the front knee bent to form a 90-degree angle. By sitting this way throughout the exercise, you will enjoy an increased level of stability and you’ll be able to pull onto the cable right. As a tip, you should start the exercise with the arm you consider weakest.
Grab the handle with your palm facing the machine and not facing toward you. By engaging your lats, pull the cable toward you, aiming to take your hand as close as possible to your shoulder. As you pull, twist your hand to 90 degrees.
If you perform this exercise correctly, your arm should end up next to your shoulder and your palm should be facing your body. At the same time, your elbow should be nicely tucked in and the shoulder blade of the working hand fully retracted. As you allow your arm to go back to the initial position, make sure this movement takes place slowly. Perform all the necessary reps with the same hand before switching hands.
5. Hammer strength rows
If you’re not a beginner and would like an alternative that is more challenging, then you should consider hammer strength rows. Yes, it is a seated row exercise, but it will require the same level of strength from each of your arms. Thus, this exercise is far from being easy.
Also, the handle of this particular machine can rotate, offering at the same time a wide range of styles to choose from. So, it is rather easy to customize the difficulty level of this exercise. In other words, by simply adjusting the handle you can target lats and biceps in various ways.
To perform the exercise, take a sit in the hammer strength row machine. Before you start anything, check to see if the chest plate is set at the right level for you. How can you check? You will need to stretch to get a hold onto the handles. If they are in reach, it means that the chest place is not set right. This will ensure a full rowing movement when you perform the exercise, which is just what you need to enjoy the desired results.
Position the soles of your feet on the feet plates. Hold a handle in each of your hands and, as you perform, rotate your hands outward to a 45-degree angle. Of course, you need to see if the machine allows such a movement.
While not lifting your chest off the chest plate, pull on both handles trying to take them back for as much as you can. A piece of good advice would be to imagine how your elbows are touching your back. This is impossible, of course, but it is a good thing to have in mind to perform great at this exercise. Another tip would be to train one hand at a time, rather than both at once.