If there is one upper body exercise everyone should include in their workout program, it’s the pull-up. It’s one of the best exercises for building overall strength and stability. The pull-up engages multiple muscle groups while also developing a powerful grip. Plus, all you need is yourself and something to hang from.
Whether you have yet to complete your first pull-up or maybe you can squeeze out a few, these beginner pull-up variations will teach you good form while building the strength you need for any of these versions of the pull-up.
To perform an inverted row you need a bar. Set the bar to waist height to start. Get under the bar and lie down looking up at the bar. Reach up for the bar and grab it with an overhand grip. Your body should be suspended off the ground, with your heels being the only thing in contact with the floor. Contract your core muscles and glutes to brace the lower back and keep your body in a straight line from your torso to your feet. Pull your chest toward the bar, keeping your body straight and glutes and core tight. Get your chest as close to the bar as possible. Pause for a second and make sure you retract your shoulder blades before lowering yourself slowly back to the starting position and repeat. The more horizontal you are when you perform this exercise, the more challenging it will be.
The inverted row can also be done with resistance bands. Simply wrap the band around something sturdy, grab the end with both hands, lean back, and perform your rows.
As the dead hang gives you strength and comfort at the bottom position of the pull-up, the jumping pull-up will do the same for the position of the move.
Grab the bar with an overhand grip, but have your feet on the ground (grab a bench or a box to start on if needed). For each rep, you will want to jump up using the momentum to reach the top part of the pull-up.
Hold this position for a couple of seconds with your head above the bar. Try to control the descent as much as you can before you put your feet back on the ground and repeat with another jump. This will immensely develop your grip strength and back muscles.
When the beginner versions become a bit too easy, these mid-level pull-up variations will provide more of a challenge.
Using resistance bands are a great way to get in more reps and to work on your back hypertrophy.
Place the band over the bar and put your feet inside at the other end. Use the tension of the band to help with the movement. This replicates the resistance given on the machine to a certain extent and provides assistance with the pulling part of the pull-up.
Start with the band that has the most resistance and way it gets easy decrease the resistance.
Most gyms also have a machine for assisted pull-ups as seen in the picture.
Similar to pull-ups, chin-ups utilise more of your biceps muscles and are slightly easier than the traditional pull-up.
Using a supinated grip (your palms are facing you) with your arms shoulder-width apart, hang from the bar in the starting position.
Proceed to pull yourself up to the top of the bar, pausing for a moment, and then lower yourself back down.
If you’re experienced with chin-ups and can move through your reps relatively easy and quick, try slowing your pace on the way down, emphasizing a controlled descent every rep.
Take a firm grip on the bar with your palms facing away from you. Have a slightly wider grip than shoulder-width apart and hang with your arms extended. If your feet are touching the ground then cross them over behind you.
Keep your core tight to prevent swinging and retract your shoulder blades.
Drive your elbows down toward the ground and your upper chest towards the bar. Make sure your core is still tight to keep you stable and prevent swinging.
Pull yourself to the bar with your chin above the bar and your chest level with the bar. Then start to lower yourself slowly toward the starting position.
Once the traditional pull-up becomes relatively easy, there are many ways to make the pull-up more challenging.
The L-sit pull-ups are perfect if you want to blast your core. Hang from a bar with an overhand grip shoulder width apart. The move consist of lifting your legs and holding an L-sit position (lift your legs up and extend in front so your body makes a 90 degree angle) while simultaneously doing a pull-up. While keeping your legs straight and parallel to the ground, pull yourself up towards the bar, getting your chin up over the bar. Drop back down and repeat the movement, being sure to keep a tight core throughout the movement.
This will be quite difficult at first, if you are struggling, try holding L-sits in dead hangs. You can also bend your knees slightly to bring your legs closer to your body making it easier.
Instead of pulling yourself up and down like a regular pull-up, with the typewriter pull-up you will pull yourself up above the bar and then slide back and forth, like the moving part of a typewriter. This is a tough variation that will work your back, biceps, shoulders, and core.
Grab the bar with a wide grip (a bit wider than shoulder width).
Pull yourself up with your right arm while straightening your left. Pull yourself up and to the right with your right arm. At the end you should be on the right side of the bar with your chin over it and your left arm almost straight.
Slide yourself to your left side while holding your chin above the bar , straightening your right arm. Do this move slowly and controlled for a better workout, and try to keep your chin above the bar throughout the movement. Go back-and-forth as many times as you can. Don’t worry if you can only do this a few times as it is a very tough exercise. If your legs start swinging while you’re moving, you’re going too fast. Slow down and keep your core tight throughout the movement.
Using a wide, overhand grip, pull yourself up and to one side with the other arm extended straight, and being horizontal with the floor at the top of the pull-up. Lower yourself back down and repeat with the opposite arm. This primarily works your middle back and lats, while also working your traps, biceps, shoulders, and forearms.
This is a great exercise if you’re looking to achieve that one arm pull-up.
For an added challenge, add a typewriter before lowering yourself down.
One-arm pull-ups are perhaps the ultimate challenge of upper body strength. If you can add this to your workout, your upper body stability will grow tremendously. It takes a lot of core strength to maintain proper positioning throughout the movement but it’s achievable with dedication and consistency. You can use resistance bands if you need to get used to the movement and increase your volume.
You can do this one of two ways. You can hold the wrist of the arm that’s gripping the bar, then use both to pull yourself up, or you can use one arm without any assistance, the latter being more difficult.
Grab the bar with one hand using a neutral grip. While hanging, pull your hip on the same side up so it shortens the distance between your hip and shoulder, this will engage your lats and core muscles. Now pull yourself up to the bar using your lats and core rather than your arm. Lower yourself slowly to the starting position and repeat.
Check out our wide selection of workout programs. Take our survey to get the best program for you.