No Bar? No Problem! Check Out These 9 Pull-Up Alternatives for Home

5 (100%) 7 votes

What can you do to strengthen your back, lats and traps when you have NO pull up bar?

Being able to do a pull up is practical.

If you need to hop a fence or wall in a hurry like if there is an emergency, you need to be able to pull yourself up.

But if you don’t have a pull-up bar, what can you do?

Pull-ups are a staple of any bodyweight fitness routine, but if you are new to bodyweight fitness, have NO pull up bar, and need some pull up alternatives, I have got your back!

Check out these 9 pull up alternative at-home exercises you can do today!

Don’t put it off! Start strengthening those lats and biceps now.

No bar – No excuses!

What can I do instead of pull-ups?

9 Exercises That Can Replace Pull-ups!

Back Bridge Push-Ups

Equipment needed:

Just you! No equipment necessary.

Muscles worked:

Shoulders, Traps, Erector Spinae, glutes and hamstrings.

Why it’s a great Pull Up alternative:

The Back Bridge is harder than it looks! If you are new to bodyweight training, and you find this too challenging, you can use the progressions with start with a standard bridge and using the wall first to strengthen your shoulders.

I love the Back bridge push up as a pull-up alternative and as an added bonus the Back Bridge Push up greatly improves posture.

Australian Pull up, Inverted Bodyweight Row or Low Bar Pull

Equipment needed:

A low bar or very sturdy, stable table. (low bar preferred).

Muscles worked:

The same muscles a strict pull up works – the lats, traps, pecs, deltoids and biceps.

Why it’s a great Pull Up alternative:

This move is a progression into a strict pull-up, and my favorite thing about the low bar pull is that it uses the same muscles as a pull-up.

It can be done anywhere you can find a low bar or a really, really sturdy table if you must do pull-ups without bars. A strong railing might work for the low bar pull too.

Note: A higher bar makes this exercise easier. Also, bending your knees makes it easier too. Use a low bar and a plant position for the most challenge.

Barbell Bent-Over Row

Equipment needed:

Barbell with weights.

Muscles worked:

Lats, Rhomboids, Traps, delts.

Why it’s a great Pull Up alternative:

The barbell row strongly engages the Lats, a critical muscle used in pull-ups. It also uses the other muscles used in pull-ups, namely the traps, rhomboids and delts.

All you need is a barbell, but if you don’t have a barbell, check out the dumbbell row coming up next, it works the same muscles.

Dumbbell Rows

Equipment needed:

One dumbbell and a flat bench.

Muscles worked:

Lats, Read delts, rhomboids, biceps and forearm.

Why it’s a great Pull Up alternative:

It is a move that you can use a lot of weight with and make good progress towards a pull-up, or use as a pull-up alternative to keep the lats strong when a pull-up bar is not available.

The Dumbbell Row is a great pull up alternative with dumbbells.

Renegade Rows

Equipment needed:

Pair of hex dumbells.

Muscles worked:

Core, chest, triceps, and shoulders.

Why it’s a great Pull Up alternative:

You have to hold your hands on the dumbbells as you row, and you must keep your spine straight, no twisting!

The act of holding yourself in push up position on the hex dumbbell handles really strengthens your chest, triceps and shoulders.

While this move does not completely replace pull-ups, it works with supporting muscles used during pull-ups and helps you learn to stabilize your core.

Kneeling Lat Band Pull Down

Equipment needed:

Resistance band and anchor point. The anchor point can be a bar, rail, door or any other stable sturdy point that is high enough, and that you can loop the resistance band around.

Muscles worked:

Lats and biceps.

Why it’s a great Pull Up alternative:

It works the lats in a similar range of motion as real pull-ups. I also love that resistance bands allow you to customize and progress easily based on your fitness level.

Of course, you need a great set of resistance bands, and I have just what you need. The best resistance bands reviewed, right here.

Single Arm Pull Down

Equipment needed:

One resistance band.

Muscles worked:

Primarily the Lats. Secondary muscles used are the rhomboids, pecs, oblique’s and traps.

Why it’s a great Pull Up alternative:

The one arm pull-down can be scaled to your fitness level. Resistance bands make it easy to raise or lower the challenge allowing you to strengthen the lats and traps like a pull up would.

Door Band Pull Down

Equipment needed:

Sturdy open door and a resistance band.

Muscles worked:

Lats, Traps and Rhomboids

Why it’s a great Pull Up alternative:

This door band pull-down keeps you is a vertical position, which most closely follows the range of motion of a pull-up, working the muscles in a similar fashion.

The key to this exercise is staying as close to the door edge as possible to maintain the vertical position. Do not lean back while doing door band pull-downs.

Pull Up with a Suspension Trainer or TRX Pull Up

Equipment needed:

TRX trainer or similar suspension style trainer.

Muscles worked:

Lats and traps.

Why it’s a great Pull Up alternative:

This is one of the best alternatives to pull-ups without bars. It is the same movement and works the same muscles as a pull-up.

The main difference is it is scaled down because some of your weight is still on the floor since your feet touch the floor during this exercise.

The TRX pull up, since your hands can move and swing a bit, forces you to work stabilizer muscles too, which is always a good thing.

Need a TRX suspension trainer? I have reviewed the best suspension trainers too.

blonde girl doing pull ups

What Muscles are Involved in Pull-ups?

Pull-ups target the Lats, more so than any other exercise. They also heavily involve the biceps.

Secondary muscles worked when you do a pull-up are the delts, upper back muscles, forearms and abs.

With all these upper body muscles used, you can see why the pull-up is so central to bodyweight fitness.

What to do if You Can’t do Pull-ups?

If you simply can not do pull-ups, you are not alone. Many people cannot do even one pull up.

But do not give up hope! With training, you can!

If you do not have a pull-up bar to practice with, you can start using the 9 exercises I outlined above.

If you do have access to a pull-up bar there are a few ways you can scale the pull up to your fitness level until you are able to do a strict pull-up.

Resistance bands, looped around a pull-up bar are a great way to scale down a pull up so it’s do-able.

Check out the video below to learn how to use resistance bands for pull up progression.

If you need to pick up a set of resistance bands, we have reviewed the best pull up assist bands. Take a look!

I Am Ready to Get a Pull-up Bar. What are My Options?

When it comes to garage gym pull up bars, there are many options. Here are a few of the many styles available.

In-Door

The in-door pull-up bar is the cheapest option available in most cases.

Pros

  • It is cheap.
  • Can be installed in most doorways.
  • Portable, movable can put it away.

Cons

  • It can damage paint or the frame.
  • Can fail or fall – not cool.

Wall Mount

Wall mount pull-up bars, like this one here, are mounted to the wall. Provided they are installed correctly, they are secure and don’t take up much space.

Pros

  • Do not take up a lot of space.
  • Are sturdy if installed correctly.

Cons

  • Cause some minor damage to the wall, where the screws are installed.
  • Are more or less a permanent fixture.

man doing pull ups

Stand Alone Pull Up Bars or Power Towers

A standalone pull-up bar, like these I reviewed here, are a good option if you absolutely cannot have any property damage, holes in the wall, etc.

Pros

  • The cause no structural damage.

Cons

  • They can wobble, unlike fixed pull-up bars.

Trying to decide what pull up bar to get? We did the work for you! We have reviewed the best pull up bars so you can find yours.

To Wrap it Up

Finding a pull-up alternative is a must if you have no pull-up bar and you want to progress in your bodyweight fitness regime.

Consider adding these 9 exercises in, and really consider getting a pull-up bar soon – you won’t regret it!

Do you love garage gym gear?

So do we!

Sign up for the Garage Gym Power newsletter and always get notified when new gear reviews and fitness news are available!