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10 Of The Top Pull-Up Bar Exercises

You may realize that pull-up bar workouts can offer you impressive benefits but what are some pull-up bar exercises you can do?

A pull-up bar is simply any horizontal bar that is suited for doing pull-ups, a popular bodyweight exercise. There are however many other exercises for different muscles you can do with this piece of equipment.

Before trying out these exercises make sure your pull-up bar is sturdy enough. For some of these examples a simple doorway pull-up bar is likely not enough.

That being said here are 10 pull-up bar exercises for everyone from beginners to people with a lot of resistance training experience. You can start with these examples and think of new ones yourself.

1. Standard pull-up

This first exercise is far from surprising but the classic pull-up is a great exercise for goals like building muscle and losing weight. To do a standard pull-up take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward.
  2. Pull your body up slowly until your shoulders are the height of the bar.
  3. Lower your body again into starting position in a controlled motion.

Among other muscles, the pull-up is great for working your back muscles. If this exercise is too challenging yet there are plenty of pull-up alternatives that can help you work up to your first successful pull-up.

If you are more experienced with resistance training you may have the opposite problem, that a regular bodyweight pull-up is not challenging enough. In that case, you can do weighted pull-ups where you carry extra external weights so that you can keep gaining muscle.

2. Chin-up

To the untrained eye, the chin-up may look exactly like the regular pull-up but due to a small difference, you train slightly different muscles. To do a chin-up take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing backward.
  2. Pull your body up slowly until your shoulders are the height of the bar.
  3. Lower your body again into starting position in a controlled motion.

By changing the position of your grip the chin-up focuses more on your bicep and chest muscles compared to a regular pull-up (1).

3. Negative pull-up

A negative pull-up is a great option if a regular pull-up is not yet within your capabilities. To do this exercise you will either need a step up like a plyo box, or a slightly lower pull-up bar. Once you have one of these to do a negative pull-up take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward and your shoulders already at bar height.
  2. Lower yourself very slowly into a regular hanging position.
  3. Drop yourself to the ground.

In simple words, you can describe the negative as half a regular pull-up. This exercise may not sound like much but it is a great option to work pull-up muscles in a less intense manner.

4. Knee and leg raises

The pull-up bar is not only useful for building back and arm muscles. With knee and leg raises you can also improve your core muscles. To do a knee or leg raise take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward.
  2. For the knee raise, start raising your knees held together upwards. Let gravity do its work on your lower legs throughout the exercise. For the leg raise, you keep your legs stretched but in this step, they just hang downwards.
  3. Slowly raise your knees to at least hip height for the knee raise or your feet to at least hip height for the leg raise. Once you are at the highest you can hold for a second or less.
  4. Lower your legs back into the position in step 2 in a controlled manner.

This exercise is one example of an ab exercise you can do with a pull-up bar. You can also do other captain’s chair ab exercises while hanging from the pull-up bar.

5. Dead hang

The dead hand does not look that impressive but for specific goals, this exercise can make sense to do. To do a dead hang take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward.
  2. Simply keep hanging for an extended period of time.

Partly because it is an isometric exercise the dead hang is not the greatest for building a lot of muscle mass. That being said just hanging from a pull-up bar can be good in the sense that it can help you improve grip strength.

6. Inverted row

To do an inverted row with the help of a pull-up bar you will also need something to hang over the bar like a strong towel or gymnastic rings. Make sure whatever you use is strong enough to hold your weight throughout the exercise. Once you have one of these to do an inverted row with gymnastic rings take the following steps:

  1. Attach the gymnastic rings to the pull-up bar. Make sure they can hold your weight.
  2. Stand under the pull-up bar and hold one ring in each hand.
  3. Lean back with your upper body. At the same time walk forward with your feet. Do this until your arms are stretched, your knees are at about a 90-degree angle, and the rest of your body is in a straight line with your face looking up.
  4. Raise your body by slightly bending your elbows until your body reaches the gymnastic rings. 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.

It may take some trial and error to find out what the perfect length for the gymnastic rings (or replacement) is to do this inverted row exercise.

7. Muscle-up

For the muscle-up exercise, you need a very sturdy pull-up bar. A budget doorway pull-up bar likely won’t be good enough. Once you have a pull-up bar like this to do a muscle-up take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward. You need to place your thumbs on top of the bar instead of around like with a regular pull-up grip.
  2. Pull your body up until your shoulders are the height of the bar. You want some momentum to be able to do the second part of the exercise.
  3. Instead of stopping when your shoulders are at the height of the bar, keep moving upwards until your arms are stretched. You will use both momentum and muscles like your triceps to be able to do this.
  4. Lower your body again into starting position in a controlled motion.

The muscle-up is generally considered to be an advanced exercise. You likely need to work on improving regular pull-ups for a while before you can go for muscle-ups.

8. Typewriter pull-up

In this next exercise, your body makes a movement similar to a typewriter. To do a typewriter pull-up take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward.
  2. Pull your body up slowly until your shoulders are the height of the bar.
  3. While keeping your hands in the same place horizontally move your body to one side until your body touches the arm of that side.
  4. Horizontally move your body to the other side until your body touches the arm of that side.
  5. Horizontally move your body back to the middle of your two hands.
  6. Lower your body again into starting position in a controlled motion.

The typewriter pull-up is a great way to make regular pull-ups more challenging.

9. Bicep curls

To do a bicep curl with the help of a pull-up bar you will need a similar set-up as one of the previous exercises, the inverted row. Once you have the required gear take the following steps to do a bicep curl:

  1. Attach the gymnastic rings to the pull-up bar. Make sure they can hold your weight.
  2. Stand under the pull-up bar and hold one ring in each hand.
  3. Lean back with your upper body. At the same time walk forward with your feet. Do this until your arms are stretched, your knees are at about a 90-degree angle, and the rest of your body is in a straight line with your face looking up.
  4. Raise your body by bending your elbows until your body reaches the bar. Compared to the inverted row your back will be stiffer and your elbows will fold more with the bicep curl. 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.

As the name implies this exercise will help you grow your bicep muscles.

10. Hanging shrug

The hanging shrug is another pull-up bar exercise that may not look that impressive but it can be helpful for certain goals. To do a hanging shrug take the following steps:

  1. Hang from the pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward.
  2. Slowly move up your body while keeping your arms extended. Your traps and shoulder muscles will cause this movement.
  3. Lower your body again into starting position in a controlled motion.

When doing this exercise it is normal that your body doesn’t make very big motions.