How to Do Pull Ups Without a Bar to Strengthen Back Muscles

How to do pull-ups at home without a bar? Well, I’m going to show you a few options you can choose from that aren’t exactly the same as if you were using a pull-up bar, but still much better than nothing.

Actually, these are excellent progressive exercises that help to build strength. Therefore, perfect for beginners. On the other hand, if you do high reps, then these practices help to gain muscle and develop endurance.

Anyway, even if you don’t use real exercise equipment, these activities are very similar to what you can do with a bar.

Note: Keep in mind that you will need to use the things in your house. Hence, you may damage something. Also, you must be careful when performing these variations since they aren’t as safe as if you were using the workout equipment. This is particularly true if you are heavier than average.

Recommended: Check out the best pull up bars for home.

What can I do instead of pull-ups?

1. Table Bodyweight Row (Australian pull up alternative)

pulling exercises at home with table


Table inverted rows are almost the same as if you are using a bar (or barbell row). However, because of the grip, it’s harder to perform.

The best form is if you straighten your legs so that you can get more resistance. But, if you find it hard, you can bend your knees.

At the starting position, hang, then with a controlled technique, pull your upper body up until your chest touches the kitchen table, and you can look over it. Then slowly lower yourself backward until your arms are extended.

The lower you go, and the higher you pull yourself, the lengthier the range of motion is. And that is beneficial for strength development.

Note: Did you know that pull-up is called the king of the upper body exercises? This compound training makes your back, shoulders, and biceps really strong.

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2. Chair rows

chair rows

This is almost the same as the previous inverted rows, but you can grip more tightly so you can focus on your lats. For example, you can use a broomstick as a bar. Typical chairs will do since they are high enough to get the required range of motion. Grab the bar with shoulder width and pull your body till your chest touches the bar. With an underhand grip (your palms facing away from you), you can imitate the chin ups. People at a higher fitness level can try the single-hand variation.

3. Door pull-ups

pull up replacement exercise

Well, that is the one that may destroy your door, but if you are light, you may try it. The top of the door is an excellent alternative to a pull-up bar. This way, you can have a regular pull up. Place foam or a piece of clothes under your hands for more comfort.

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4. Door pulls in with a towel

pull-up alternative

Another not-so-door-friendly exercise, but really efficient. Wrap a towel or a band around the handle or the doorknob.

Grab the end of the towel in front of you. You can bend your knees so that you can focus on your lats. Now slowly lean back until your arms are straight. Then, pull yourself back to the starting position until your chest touches the door, and your shoulder blades are as close as possible. Keep your back straight and your elbows close to your torso during the whole movement.

You can increase the resistance by using a longer towel so that you can go further and deeper. With that, more power is required to get back to the starting position. Or, you can even do the single-arm version, which is pretty tough.

5. Pull forwards on the floor

alternative exercise for pull ups

What a creative pull up substitute! But it works only if the floor or the ground isn’t so smooth and slippy.

Place a towel under your ribs. Stretch your arms with such a width as if you were doing pull-ups. And, with the power of your back muscles, pull yourself forward. If you do this fun activity for a few meters, you will see it isn’t that easy. You can also put some weight on your back, such as your kid. 🙂

6. Pull up alternatives with dumbbells

If you have a pair of adjustable dumbbells that gives enough resistance to develop, then you are good to go. Single or double arm dumbbell rows are among the best back exercises without a pull-up bar.

From the following video, you can learn multiple back workouts at home with dumbbells.

7. Suspension training – My favorite pull-up bar alternative

A suspension trainer is a compact and easy to install exercise equipment that you can use to train your back muscles. The drills are mainly bodyweight rows, similar to the door pull-ins. However, you can adjust the straps as you want and use comfortable handles instead.

Watch the following video to learn bodyweight exercises.

8. Renegade Rows

The renegade row, also known as a plank row, is an exercise that is a combination of two classic movements, namely the dumbbell row and the plank. If you are a workout enthusiast then you are acquainted with these two workout routines.

This exercise is designed to target the upper back, and like a plank, it is designed to target the core. The beauty of this exercise is that in addition to targeting both groups of muscles that are hit during dumbbell row and the plank, it also develops anti-rotational core strength. This can help with balance and coordination.

While this exercise is accessible for many people, it requires a baseline level of core strength to be able to perform it correctly with good form. You have to be able to hold a plank for the full duration of the exercise while alternating a dumbbell row with either arm. This means that you must have the strength to hold your body in a plank position supported only by one arm at a time.

The plank part of this exercise requires the engagement of the deep stabilizing muscles of the abdominals, spine, shoulders, and hips. The rowing part of the exercise on the other hand targets the upper back and arms, including the larger muscles of the upper back. So in essence, the renegade rows work the following muscles: Traps, Lats, Obliques, Rectus abdominus, Biceps, Triceps, Forearms, Rhomboids, Anterior deltoids, Erector Spinae, Serratus.

To do this exercise, you’ll require dumbbells. The steps are:

  • Get into a press-up position with a dumbbell in each arm. Position your arms such that your shoulders are over your wrists. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart. Your body should be straight from heels to head. Tighten your core muscles and ensure your body doesn’t twist during the exercise.
  • Keeping the dumbbell close to your body, row the weight up your body towards your ribcage until your elbow is pointing upwards. As you row, keep your body still, and don’t twist your torso.
  • Return your arm to the ground. Repeat the movement with the opposite arm.

This workout is a great pull-up alternative because the act of holding yourself in a push-up position on the dumbbells strengthens your chest, triceps, and shoulders. While it doesn’t entirely replace pull-ups, it works with supporting muscles that are used during pull-ups and it helps you to learn how to stabilize your core.

You can check out how it’s done below:

9.   Barbell Bent-Over Row

Barbell bent-over rows are a great alternative for pull-ups. If you’d like to build a bigger, stronger back without having to do pull-ups, then this is the perfect work for you. This exercise is considered to be one of the original big muscle moves. This compound exercise requires you to pick the barbell off the floor while bending forward and lifting it towards your sternum. For this exercise, your knees should be bent, with your back staying straight, and your neck in line with the spine. Your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

It’s important to keep the form in this exercise because the bent-over position can potentially cause a little discomfort or even risk injury. Slow and controlled moves with the right amount of weight are recommended.

If you’d like to maximize muscle growth and increase pulling strength in the upper body and improve your physique, then this is one of the best exercises. The main muscles that are worked by this exercise are the Lats (Latissimus dorsi, which run down the sides of your upper back), Traps (Trapezius), Delts (Deltoids), and Rhomboids (upper middle back). The glutes and legs are also used to stabilize the body in this exercise.

When doing bent-over rows you can either have your hands in a supinated (palms facing up) or pronated (palms facing down) position.

A supinated grip incorporates more of your biceps into the movement. This means that you can hold the barbell at a narrower angle and lift slightly heavier. A pronated grip will work your rhomboids harder. It will also enable you to use a wider angle to place further emphasis on the lats and also help develop your back muscles. The grip you choose is entirely up to you. You should consider choosing a method that is comfortable and suitable for your goals.

You can check out how it’s done below:

10.   Lat Pulldowns

You’ve probably seen the lat pulldown machine at your gym but never really understood how it works. The lat pulldown is a compound movement that works the latissimus dorsi muscles, or lats for short, as well as your biceps which play an assisting role also. It sounds simple in theory but it’s actually a bit complicated. You keep your chest out and pull down to your upper chest while using a wide grip.

This exercise is done on a machine so you don’t have a lot of the risks associated with free weights. You still, however, need to make sure that it’s performed correctly in order to get the best results.

In this exercise, make sure to focus on squeezing your back muscles for maximum contraction. Your upper body should remain stationary throughout the workout. Your elbows should also point down towards the floor and you ought to use a thumb-less grip so that you take out some of the bicep work.

Some of the benefits of this exercise are:

  • Aesthetics- This exercise is deemed as the back builder. The lats take up the majority of your back so you can work these muscles out to achieve a V-taper look.
  • Strength- This exercise allows you to strengthen your back. The movement uses
  • Engages multiple muscles- This exercise engages other muscles like the posterior deltoids (rear delts), rhomboids, and trapezius. The biceps also play a part.

You can check out how it’s done below:


What muscles do pull-ups work on?

Well, it’s called the king of the upper body exercises, and for a good reason. It works out multiple muscle groups at once, improves strength and size drastically.

It’s the best exercise to target lats (latissimus dorsi), but also for biceps, upper back, shoulders, core, erector spinae, and forearm muscles. But, many other stabilizer muscle groups are also engaged, such as pecs, external oblique, traps, etc.

Any tips for DIY pull-up bar?

Well, I have to tell you that I’m bad at such things, so I do not want to give you any advice by myself. But, here is a good tutorial on how to make a chin-up bar for home.

How to do assisted pull up at home?

At the gym, you can find the assisted pull up machine, which helps to progress. You set the amount of support for your level, and it lifts you a little bit up.

An excellent at-home alternative is the exercise band. You fix the two ends to the bar and step on it. You can use weaker or stronger resistance bands depending on your needs.

More topics:

To conclude

As you see, there are many ways to do pull-ups without a bar. Of course, these strength training exercises can’t substitute doing regular pull-ups, but help to build muscle. I suggest you get a doorway pull up bar, which is easy to install and affordable but much more comfortable to work out with.

If you have more fitness ideas on how to do pull-ups without a bar, share with us below.

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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