October 11

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Pull-up Alternatives to Try in the Comfort of Your Home


The recent surge in Covid and resulting shutdown of gyms has taken a toll on most of our fitness goals. Especially for people who have a more complex workout routine. For example, you can substitute a treadmill for actual running.

Contrarily exercises such as calisthenics can be difficult and a little technical to substitute. This may be due to the specific muscle groups and the combination of muscle groups that you target. When we talk about pull-ups, a good pull-up alternative should target the back muscles, the laterals as well as the trapezoids.

 In addition to this, another challenge is to achieve all these without the aid of a pull-up bar. That’s when it will be considered an actual pull-up alternative.

How do Pull-Ups Help?

So what’s the hype all about when it comes to this specific exercise? Why are people looking for home alternatives to the pull-up bar so desperately? 

Well, it’s all about the strength it builds.

The pull-up targets muscles that will aid in enhancing your upper body strength, and not just that, but they also increase grip strength. It helps build your back muscles and keeps you toned. 

If you plan on doing other exercises such as tire flips and bench presses, it will do wonders for your arms. The most important reason why pull-ups have such a great fan base is that they are the best compound exercise to build functional strength.

Muscles Groups That Pull-Ups are Meant to Target

To be able to find a good pull-up alternative, you must first understand the technicalities of the exercise. This basically involves looking into the specific muscle groups that are targeted by it.

If you know which muscles you will be working on, you can break them down into alternative exercises to individually target these muscles. Alternatively, you could look up some other compound exercise that targets the same muscles and use it as a pull-up alternative. 

Here is a list of the muscles you need to be looking into for an alternative workout routine.

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    Infraspinatus 

    The Infraspinatus is a rather smaller-sized muscle among the targeted muscles in a pull-up. But don’t get mistaken about its significance with respect to its size. This muscle is one of the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff of your body.

    Its significance can be assessed by the extent of its involvement in mobility. The mobility of the humerus bone owes to the infraspinatus muscle. 

    The humerus bone is present beneath the ice. It extends from your shoulder to the elbow. 

    An important function it has is the stabilization and support of the shoulder joint. This particular function will help prevent joint injury if the muscle is strengthened and has increased endurance.

    You might also observe less pain due to strong infraspinatus muscles.

    Latissimus Dorsi 

    The Latissimus Dorsi is a large muscle. It also has functions in aiding upper-body mobility. Its main job is supporting shoulder mobility. When you raise your hands over your head, this muscle will be responsible for pulling your trunk in the upwards direction.

    This muscle also helps in spinal movement. This applies to the lumbar or lower region of the spine. The lumbar region is present right above the tailbone.

    The latissimus muscles are overall required for stability in the body, but this isn’t their only benefit. These muscles also activate the deltoid as well as the tricep muscles (the long head).

    Thoracic Erector Spinae 

    As the name might give a brief idea, the erector spinae muscles have a lot to do with your spine. They are present along the length of the spine and aid in its mobility. 

    The longest part of the spine is covered by the thoracic section of the erector spinae muscle. The reason behind this is that it connects the neck’s cervical part to the lumbar region of the spine, also known as the lower back.

    The greatest benefit of strengthening and working on this muscle is good posture development and aid in avoiding injury.

    Trapezius 

    The traps are a well-known muscle group and should be prioritized when searching for a pull-up alternative. 

    These muscles cover the back of your neck, and they spread towards the shoulders.

    These muscles play an important role in shoulder blade stabilization. It is divided into two parts based on their role in mobility and support. 

    The upper part of the muscle is involved in supporting the weight of your arms and hands. On the other hand, the lower part of the muscles is essentially significant for mobility. This mobility support is provided to the shoulder blades.

    Is it Even Possible to Do Pull-Ups Without a Pull-Up Bar? 

    powerful attractive muscular man at gym

    The good news is yes, it is possible to pull off a pull-up alternative without using the pull-up bar. But it does require an actual alternative.

    If you are someone that’s busy, avoiding gym due to Covid, or generally don’t have access to a pull-up bar, this is for you. The point is to find anything that you can hang to and pull your weight on.

    One thing that you need to look out for when finding said pull-up alternative is to make sure it can bear your weight. The alternative bar or surface should be strong and sturdy to withstand the intense workout you need to perform.

    Another technicality you must look into is the height of the pull-up alternative. You need to make sure that your feet are not touching the ground when you hang from the surface. 

    A few examples of alternatives include trees and doors. You might also want to look at public parks in your neighborhood. These parks commonly have monkey bars in them. These will serve as the perfect pull-up alternative.

    How to Perform a Proper Pull-Up: Steps & Form Tips 

    Pull-ups are as simple and straightforward as an exercise could be. But they can be much less effective if not performed properly. People tend to make some common mistakes while conducting a pull-up. Following these steps will help you avoid them.

    1. Stand right under the pull up bar. Now extend your hands towards it. Now take hold of the bar and make sure that your grip is an overhead one. An overhead grip means that the hands are facing outward.
    2. Make sure your hands are at a shoulder-width distance from each other. For those of you who want to turn the workout up a notch should change the distance of your hands.

    This can be done by either bringing them close together or farther apart. 

    1. By doing so, you will be limiting the range of your mobility. This limiting step will help strengthen your Latissimus Dorsi muscles even more.
    2. The next step involves a hanging motion called the dead hang. This is achieved when you lift your feet from the floor. This is where the proper formation part comes to play.

    Make sure that your shoulders are pulled all the way back, and don’t forget to engage the muscles of your core to make the exercise effective. You have successfully achieved the starting position for your pull-up.  

    1. Now comes the part where you actually pull. This step will have you engaging your lats. The proper way to pull is to utilize your lats as well as the shoulder blades. This helps pull your body in the upward direction.
    2. A tip to enhance your balance is to fold one of your legs over the other one. Once you are able to pull your body above the bar, you have achieved half of your pull-up.
    3. Now comes the lowering down part. This is the second half of your workout. The most important thing while lowering yourself from the bar is to maintain muscle engagement.

    If you let your muscles loose, you will experience a sudden drop. 

    This is harmful in more than one way; sudden drops damage the joints and muscles as well.

    1. Once you start lowering, you can either go all the way down, or you can opt for the dead hang if you wanna go up again.

    Modifications to Turn the Traditional Pull-Ups Up a Notch

    Young muscular man doing pull ups

    Now that we have looked into the details of a proper traditional pull-up let’s see the different ways we can modify it

    There are a variety of ways to modify a pull-up. The most common and everyone’s go-to version is the isometric pause. This isometric pause is introduced once the first half, that is, the upward pull is achieved. Once a person achieves the upward pull, they tend to pause before lowering themselves back to their initial position.

    You can also alter the way you grip the pull-up alternative. This can involve an underhand grip, which is mostly used in chin-ups. The third option is a mixed hand grip. This will have one of your hands facing away from your body and the other towards it.

    For those of you who are really up for a challenge with the modifications should try weighted pull-ups. These are done by tying a weight to the legs while performing pull-ups.

    Another phenomenon that is famous in the calisthenics world is the plyometric pull-up. This one is a real challenge since it requires alternating overhand and underhand grips mid rep.

    This particular modification is not for the faint of heart. It is advised for those of you who have a higher pull-up count and can manage it once or twice a week.

    If you are on beginner level, it is advised you stick to the more basic modifications.

    Pull-Up Alternatives You Can’t Say No to 

    Towel Row 

    towel row exercise

    Equipment

    For the towel row, you’ll obviously need a towel. The second thing you’ll need is a rigid object or pole.

    Muscle Groups it Targets

    • Arms
    • Biceps
    • Laterals

    How to Do it:

    1.  Wrap your towel around the pole or other appropriate object of choice
    2. Now grab both ends of the towel with each one hand.
    3. Put your feet at the base of the object and lean back such that your arms are straight and you are comfortable.
    4. Now pull yourself towards the object. Keep your posture straight. You should particularly make sure that the shoulder blades are together.
    5. Once your hands reach your chest, it’s time to stop and move back slowly.

    Table Bodyweight Row

    A man doing Table Inverted Bodyweight Row Exercise

    Equipment:

    A rigid and strong table or desk would be a good pull-up alternative for this type of pull-up modification.

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Laterals
    • Forearms 
    • Biceps

    How to Do it:

    1. First of all, you should lay down on your back beneath the table
    2. Take note that your face should be on the table
    3. Now grip the table properly and firmly
    4. Start pulling yourself upward toward the bottom side of the table 
    5. While you are pulling yourself, make sure your shoulders are squeezed as tight as possible for maximum engagement
    6. You will keep pulling upwards to the point that your chest touches the table
    7. Now start pulling yourself in the downward direction just a little bit, only till you have completed the set

    Resistance Band Pull Apart

    Female bodybuilder stretching with a resistance band

    Equipment:

    A pull-up assistance elastic band

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Shoulders
    • Mid of the back 

    How to Do it:

    1. Grab a resistance band at both of its ends
    2. Keeping your arms straight and right in front of you, hold the band exactly at chest level
    3. Now extend your arms to the sides. Make sure that your target muscle groups the shoulder blades are fully engaged and taut.
    4. An additional option to make this variation more challenging is to stay in the extended position for 20 seconds.
    5. Now bring your arms back and do another rep.

    Overhead Dumbbell Press 

    A man trains shoulder muscles doing overhead dumbbell press

    An easily available pull-up alternative is a pair of dumbbells

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Lateral muscles 
    • Shoulders
    • Biceps

    How to Do it:

    1. Take each dumbbell in each of your hands
    2. Slowly and carefully raise the dumbbells above your head
    3. Now start bringing the dumbbells downwards towards your shoulders. Do this at a faster pace and stop at shoulder level
    4. Repeat the process for any number of reps you want to do
    5. Do as many reps as you need

    Kneeling Resistance Lat Band Pulldown

    A guy doing Kneeling Resistance Lat Band Pulldown exercise

    Equipment:

    You will need a resistance band and an anchored source that will hold its place as an appropriate pull-up alternative.

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Lateral muscles 
    • Biceps

    How to Do it:

    1. Take hold of both of the ends of your resistance band, which is attached to the anchoring object.
    2. While you reach for the resistance band, make sure your palms are in the upward direction.
    3. While still holding, the resistance band moves downwards to get on your knees. Your hands should stay above your head throughout the movement.
    4. Move your hands down to your shoulders.
    5. Now move your hands back up above your head.
    6. Repeat for the number of reps you need to do

    Kettlebell Swings

    A lady doing Kettlebell Swings exercise

    Equipment:

    All you really need is what the name of this exercise suggests, a kettlebell.

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Hips 
    • Glutes
    • Hamstring
    • Shoulders 
    • Lats

    How to Do it:

    1. Stand with the kettlebell firmly in your hands.
    2. Tighten your back muscles and engage your core. You can keep your arms loose.
    3. Focus your weight onto your heels and lower your behind to a wall on your back
    4. Using the force from your heels through your hips and into your quads, start swinging the kettlebell.
    5. Make sure the kettlebell is at chest level by using your glutes and hips.
    6. Now the kettlebell is coming back. Hence, you must shift weight to the heels and engage the hamstrings in addition to the glutes.
    7. Let the kettlebell put weight and allow it to swing between your legs. 
    8. Now repeat the motion for multiple reps.

    Inverted Row 

    A guy in jeans doing inverted rows exercise

    Equipment:

    The pull-up alternative you will be using is a bar set that is at chest height.

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Trapezoids
    • Lats
    • Biceps
    • Abdominal muscles
    • Arms

    How to Do it:

    1. Lie down under the bar on your backside
    2. Now firmly grip the bar with both of your hands
    3. Straighten your body and pull yourself up in the direction of the bar
    4. You should aim to touch your chest to the bar, and your elbows need to be pulled back
    5. Slowly lower yourself on your back
    6. Repeat for the required number of reps

    Dumbbell Row 

    A guy doing dumbbell row exercise

    Equipment:

    You will need a flat bench and a dumbbell.

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Rhomboids
    • Laterals
    • Trapezoids
    • Biceps

    How to Do it:

    1. Put your non-lifting hand and the knee from the same side onto the bench
    2. With your palm facing yourself and your back straight, start lifting the dumbbell with your other hand
    3. Make sure you are exhaling while you lift the dumbbell and your elbow makes a right angle
    4. Lower the dumbbell on an inhale and keep lowering until only a small angle remains in your elbow
    5. Keep repeating until your reps aren’t completed

    Dumbbell Lat Pulldown

    A fitness lady doing Dumbbell Lat Pulldown exercise.

    Equipment:

    A pair of dumbbells to use as a pull-up alternative

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Biceps
    • Shoulders 
    • Lateral muscles

    How to Do it:

    1. Pick up both the dumbbells
    2. Now raise them over your head slowly and steadily
    3. Bring the dumbbells down to the height of your shoulders
    4. Repeat this process but a little faster this time
    5. Repeat till all reps are completed

    Door Band Pulldown

    A lady in pink doing a standing narrow lat pull down with a resistance band

    Equipment:

    Two pieces of equipment required here include a door and a resistance band.

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Lateral muscles

    How to Do it:

    1. First, open the chosen door
    2. Now place the band over it and do leave some spare inches to prevent slipping
    3. Now grab on to the resistance band as high as possible 
    4. Pull the band in the downward direction and bring it back up 
    5. Repeat for multiple reps

    Bodyweight Rows

    A guy in black and yellow doing Bodyweight Rows exercise

    Equipment:

    A bar would do the job of an appropriate pull-up alternative

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Lateral muscles
    • Forearms
    • Biceps

    How to Do it:

    1. Keep the bar somewhere around your waist area
    2. Lay down under the bar with your face in the upward direction
    3. Using the overhand grip, hold the bar. Keep your hands at a distance wider than your shoulders
    4. Squeeze your abs and butt and pull upwards to touch your chest to the bar
    5. Lower down slowly and repeat for the required number of reps

    Back Bridge Push-Ups

    A flexible lady doing Back Bridge Push-Ups exercise

    Equipment:

    No equipment at all

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Side and front Shoulders
    •  Rear Shoulders, 
    • Lower Back

    How to Do it:

    1. First, you must lay down on your back
    2. Keep your hands with your head, and your fingers should point towards your hips
    3. Now try to push with the arms
    4. Hold in the upward position for a few seconds
    5. Now lower yourself to lay down on the floor again

    Back Bridge Pull-Ups

    A lady doing Back Bridge Pull-Ups exercise

    Equipment:

    No equipment required

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Erector spinae
    • Glutes 
    • Trapezoids
    • Hamstrings

    How to Do it:

    1. Lay down on the ground
    2. Keep your feet in a flat position and curl up your palms so that they also touch the ground
    3. Lift your body while your head stays put
    4. Now lift your body but keep the feet and palms on the floor
    5. Now repeat from the first step for the required number of reps

    Assisted Pull-Ups 

    A lady in yellow doing Assisted Pull-Ups exercise

    Equipment:

    You will require two simple pull-up alternative equipment that includes a pull-up bar and a resistance band.

    Muscle Groups it Targets:

    • Laterals 
    • Trapezoids
    • Biceps
    • Triceps 
    • Rhomboids
    • Abdominal muscles
    • Forearms

    How to Do it:

    1. Wrap the resistance band on the bar in a way that it is wrapped around itself
    2. This will create a loop for you to fit your feet into
    3. Place your feet in and grab the bar
    4. Pull yourself up so that your chin reaches the bar 
    5. Now lower yourself and repeat for multiple reps

    Planning a Home Workout Routine

    Planning a home workout routine isn’t rocket science. You just need to figure your goals out and select the right amount of time and exercise to go with them.

    If you have a home gym, you are in luck; this will aid in a variety of workouts to fit your requirements.

    To Wrap it All Up 

    Working out is more of a lifestyle than a miserable necessity. It keeps you healthy and in good shape. This guide has made it accessible to everyone due to its straightforwardness and lack of expensive equipment.

    If you closely follow the instructions provided, you are sure to see gym-like results right from the comfort of your home. Good luck on your fitness journey!