Training

Bored Of Pull Ups? Pull Up Alternatives

Pull-ups might be one of the toughest bodyweight moves around. It’s an exercise that gym-goers take seriously in their pursuit of size and strength gains — and for good reason!  

The resistance levels involved in the simple pull-up and the total upper body involvement make it a first-class choice for building pulling that defines an impressive athlete. Although, it can be easy to forget there are other ways to build our pull strength.  

It’s important to switch up your lifts to keep progressing. Performing the same exercises day-in and day-out will result in diminishing gains and quite frankly, boredom in the gym. Here are a few moves you can use to switch things up and inject new life back into your workouts.   

How to Pull Up 

The simple movements are so often the best.  

  1. Grip a sturdy overhead implement with palms facing away from you.  
  2. Hang with outstretched arms and feet off the floor.  
  3. Using your back and biceps, pull yourself up until your chin is higher than your hands.  
  4. Lower yourself in a controlled manner to complete the rep.   

Alternatives

Bent over barbell row 

How to: 

  1. Stand over a weighted barbell with feet shoulder-width and knees slightly bent.  
  2. Break at the hips to ‘bend over’ the bar – ensure you keep your back flat throughout.  
  3. Grip the bar at shoulder width with a pronated grip. This is the starting position.  
  4. ‘Dig’ your feet into the ground to stay steady, squeeze your shoulder blades together and puff your chest out as you pull the bar in towards your hips.  
  5. Lower the bar in a controlled manner to complete the rep – but do not touch the floor until you have completed your set.  

Recommend sets and reps: 

3 – 4 sets of 6 – 8 reps 

Lat pulldown 

How to: 

  1. Sit at the machine and grip the bar with a wide grip.  
  2. Keep your torso engaged and squeeze your shoulder blades together.  
  3. Use your lats and biceps to pull the bar down to your upper chest and contract hard at the bottom of the movement.  
  4. Return the bar to the top to complete the rep.  

Keep tension throughout to achieve a greater pump.  

Recommend sets and reps: 

3 sets of 10 – 12  

Dumbbell Pullover 

How to: 

  1. Lie back on a flat bench and use both hands to hold a single dumbbell straight out from your chest with outstretched arms.   
  2. Breathe deeply and – keeping your arms outstretched – bring the weight from in front of your chest to overhead.  
  3. Your arms should end up stretched out parallel to the ground. Bring your arms back to the starting position. 

Recommend sets and reps: 

4 sets of 8 is a good starting point –  6 sets of 10 if practising with lighter weights.   

 One Arm Dumbbell Row

How to: 

  1. Stand over a dumbbell, with feet shoulder-width and knees bent.  
  2. Break at the hips to bend over the weight and keep your back flat.  
  3. Position your non-exercising arm on a bench or other implement to keep your body steady. 
  4.  Using your exercising arm, grip the dumbbell and pull it into your hip. 
  5.  Contract hard at the top and slowly lower it to the starting position.  
  6. Only touch the weight to the floor when you have completed your set. 

Recommend sets and reps: 

4 sets of 8 each arm 

Seated Cable Row 

How to: 

  1. Sit at cable row and grip the handles. Keep your knees slightly bent and braced, retract your shoulder blades, and puff your chest out.  
  2. With your back flight and core braced, pull the handles in towards your torso, contracting your biceps and lats hard at the top of the movement.  
  3. Return the handles to the cable machine to complete the rep. 

Take care to keep your back upright and straight – do not lean backwards or forwards. This will bring your lower back into the movement and place it under unnecessary strain and injury risk.  

Recommend sets and reps: 

3 sets of 10 – 12  

Take-Home Message 

Your back workout doesn’t have to revolve around the pull-up. There are many ways to hit those same movements and tax those same muscles. With a combination of compound exercises, dumbbell, and machines at your disposal, you can have a much greater level of control over the intensity and rep-range of your exercises. You can find the desired combination that works for you and accelerates you towards your fitness goals.  

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.



Isaac Syred

Isaac Syred

Writer and expert

Isaac has a passion for all things fitness, he's always been interested in football, playing at a high youth level, and has also enjoyed 4 years of competitive kickboxing. Over recent years Isaac has dedicated himself to continually improving in the gym, enjoying both functional fitness and bodybuilding styles of workouts.

He strongly believes that you should always have balance and likes to spend his time at the weekends socialising with his friends.


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