7 Effective Chin-up Alternatives

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Chin-ups can be great but they are not for everyone. Discover some alternatives to chin-ups with similar positive effects.

By changing your grip compared to regular pull-ups, you focus slightly more on your bicep muscles. Besides that, chin-ups can also be a great bicep compound exercise to train your lats and rhomboids.

In turn, this means that chin-ups can help you build muscle mass, burn calories, and offer other typical exercise benefits.

If you are looking for a chin-up alternative because you don’t have a bar, keep in mind that there are doorway pull-up bars that are relatively inexpensive.

Whether you don’t enjoy chin-ups, you want more at-home-friendly options, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these alternatives to chin-ups can offer you some or all of the same benefits.

1. Underhanded lat pulldowns

The lat pulldown exercise often has its own cable machine setup in the gym. This is basically a seat with pads to brace your upper thighs against in front of a cable machine. The pads are there so you don’t pull yourself up during the exercise.

You may also be able to do this chin-up alternative with resistance bands at home or in the gym with a good anchor and potentially a straight bar attachment.

Take the following steps to do an underhanded lat pulldown:

  1. Take place the seat with your legs anchored behind the thigh pads. Select the desired weight.
  2. Grab the handle with an underhanded grip, this means hand palms facing backward, with your hands at about shoulder width or closer together. Lean back slightly with your upper body.
  3. Slowly pull down the bar by folding your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together until the bar reaches your chest.
  4. Lower the bar back into the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.

As the name implies the main version of this exercise mainly focuses on your latissimus dorsi also known as your lats.

Similar to pull-ups vs chin-ups, by changing your grip this exercise also engages your biceps a nice amount.

2. Inverted rows

For inverted rows, you can use a sturdy barbell rack with a bar, sturdy table, dip bars, gymnastic rings, or trx bands. To make it as close to a chin-up as possible, you preferably want something you can hold with an underhanded grip.

If you are more experienced with resistance training this chin-up alternative may not be enough to engage your muscles enough for a lot of muscle growth.

Take the following steps to do an inverted row with a barbell rack:

  1. Sit or lie down with your back on the ground under the barbell.
  2. Put your hand in an overhanded position on the barbell at about shoulder width.
  3. Move your body so your arms are stretched, your knees are at about a 90-degree angle, and the rest of your body is in a straight line.
  4. Raise your body by slightly bending your elbows until your body reaches the bar. The goal is to mainly make your back muscles support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your body in a straight line, and your feet in the same position during the movement.
  5. Slowly lower yourself again until you are back in the position of the third step.

Since you can use objects like a table for inverted rows, this is a great at-home-friendly alternative to chin-ups.

One potential downside is that will focus slightly more on your biceps and slightly less on your back muscles compared to chin-ups.

3. Assisted chin-ups

Chin-ups are a well-known exercise and for a good reason. They are a great way to work out a wide variety of muscles, including your bicep and back muscles.

An issue some people have is that regular bodyweight chin-ups are currently too challenging. An assisted chin-up/pull-up machine is a piece of gym equipment that is made to resolve this issue for beginners.

This machine allows you to take place on a platform with an adjustable counterweight that lifts you up.

The platform alleviates some of your body weight that would otherwise end up making the chin-up more challenging.

So assisted chin-ups basically offer you the same benefits as regular chin-ups but to a lesser extent. This alternative can help you work up to the regular variation to get more benefits.

4. Dumbbell pullovers

For the dumbbell pullover, you preferably want a dumbbell and a flat weight bench or similar objects. Once you have these, take the following steps to do a dumbbell pullover:

  1. Lie on a weight bench with your head on the end of the bench. Hold the dumbbell in your hands.
  2. Extend your arms upward until they are slightly less than stretched and point them up.
  3. Slowly move back your arms as far as comfortable. To engage your back muscles more instead of your lower chest bring your elbows slightly more away from your body. Your arms stay slightly less than stretched throughout the exercise.
  4. Move your arms back to the position in step 2 in a controlled motion.

If you feel your lower chest muscles working a lot harder in the dumbbell pullover than your latissimus dorsi, your technique may be off. In that case, you likely have to bring your elbows more outward.

One potential downside or upside, depending on your training goals, of dumbbell pullovers as a chin-up alternative is that they are more of a lat isolation exercise.

Other muscles like your biceps, core, shoulders, etc. will not have to do much.

5. Bicep curls

Take the following steps to do a standing bicep curl:

  1. Stand up straight with your arms hanging beside you. Each hand holds some form of weight with a supinated grip which means with your hand palms facing forward in starting position.
  2. Slowly fold your arms at the elbows as far as you can. Keep your upper arms in the same position throughout the exercise.
  3. Lower the weight back into starting position in a controlled motion.

Even if you have no traditional bicep workout equipment at all you can use everyday objects like a heavy backpack, grocery bags, or even a towel.

Resistance bands are a great low-investment option if you want to do this chin-up alternative at home.

Similar to dumbbell pullovers, bicep curls are more of a muscle isolation alternative. This time the option focuses on your bicep muscles.

6. Reverse-grip rows

The bent-over row is one of the best options if you want a pull-up exercise replacement to train your upper back.

Similar to many of the other exercises on this list, by changing your grip, you focus more on your bicep muscles. This makes the bent-over row more of a chin-up alternative.

The walkthrough is with a barbell but you can use most free weights, resistance bands, and gym machines like the cable machine and smith machine.

Take the following steps to do a reverse grip bent-over row with a barbell:

  1. Load the desired number of weight plates on the barbell and stand in front of it.
  2. Put your feet at about shoulder width, grab the barbell with an underhanded grip, and lift up the barbell with your legs until you stand up straight. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
  3. Slightly fold your knees and tilt your upper body forward until it is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground. Let your arms hang down to the ground for now but hold the barbell tightly.
  4. Bend your elbows until your hands reach your body. The goal is to mainly make your bicep and back muscles work together to support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your upper body in a straight line, and your feet in the same position during the movement.
  5. Lower your hands again to the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.

Similar to chin-ups, reverse-grip bent-over rows target a variety of muscles like your biceps, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius.

This exercise alternative is even better than chin-ups for training your leg and core muscles.

7. Endless rope machine

The endless rope pull machine is simply a machine that simulates pulling a very long rope. Some models come with a seat. Others require you to stand up.

Both types can be used as a machine alternative to chin-ups.

To make this machine resemble chin-ups as much as possible you preferably want the upper pulley to be as high as possible. If needed you can sit on your knees or tilt your upper body forward.

Once you are in a position like that, you simply start pulling the rope like you would do with a normal rope. This comes down to your hands alternately pulling the rope vertically toward you.

Pay attention to your posture when using the endless rope machine.

Something else you can do to make this exercise resemble chin-ups more is pulling the rope with your hands towards your body.

The endless rope machine will generally be more of a muscle endurance exercise. You can also often increase the resistance of the machine to make it more of a muscle strength training workout.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.