3 Alternative Exercises to Pull Ups

We constantly see videos of professional trainers explaining how to do certain exercises with gym equipment that costs thousands of dollars. Sure, this type of equipment is a great way to make sure we improve our body strength and not get hurt in the process. However, you don’t always need every single piece of expensive equipment to be able to work out and become stronger.

Doing pull-ups may not require a lot of expensive equipment but sometimes finding a place to put a strong enough bar for this type of exercise isn’t possible. If that’s not the problem, maybe you just aren’t strong enough to do full-body pull-ups. In any case, I’m here today to talk about a few amazing alternative exercises for pull-ups. Stick around and discover some amazing ways to start gathering enough strength and be on your way to doing proper pull-ups with your entire body-weight.

But first, let’s see which muscles do pull-ups affect so that we know how and which exercises will have the same effect and target the same muscles. Keep in mind to put safety first and take advantage of something like hand or wrist wraps while working out.

Which Muscles Do Pull-Ups Target?

man doing pull ups

From the second we start doing a pull-up until the very end of the exercise, there is more than one muscle group and even more muscles that are put to use. I’m sure that most of us don’t want to go into Latin names of the muscles and all that, so I’ll tell you exactly what you need to know when it comes to this exercise.

The main muscle groups and muscles that get affected and that you will see strengthening and growing while doing this include the back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and even the chest. Having said all that, there are definitely easier, and harder, alternative ways that we can do pull-ups. It may not seem like it, but doing an entire wide-grip pull-up properly is no easy task, especially for beginners. So, let’s see a few other ways we can do the pull-up while still making sure we work the same muscles and muscle groups.

1: Supine Row (Inverted Row)

how to do a supine row.png

Image Source: LiveStrong

The supine row is an exercise that may be better known as the Australian pull-up or even as inverted rows. This exercise practices similar movements as the standard pull-up with a few crucial differences. For instance, you aren’t standing upright. Instead, you have to lay down on your back and pull yourself up using only your hands. In order to do this, you must have a bar in front of you in order to grab onto it and pull.

This exercise focuses on the same upper back muscles, including the trapezius and latissimus dorsi. It’s a much easier exercise to start off with than a full pull-up. This way, you don’t have to lift your entire body up. It’s basically a standard pull-up but with less weight. You can easily do it at the gym by simply using one of the bars and setting it lower for you to be able to reach it while laying down.

How to Do a Supine Row at Home?

For anyone who doesn’t have access to a gym or can’t go for any other reason, fear not. There are extremely easy ways to do this one at home, as is the case with many other exercises. Here’s how to do it:

All you need is a sturdy metal or wooden bar and two chairs. Place the bar on top of the two chairs and set the appropriate distance for you to be able to lay down in between them. After that, simply grab the bar and start pulling yourself up. That’s it!

2: Band Pulldown

how to do a band pull down

With this next amazing alternative to pull-ups, instead of pulling yourself up, you will be pulling something down. You can easily do this exercise with your desired weight at the gym on the lat machine. This is another great exercise to do at home, as all you will be needing is a strong enough elastic band and something to cling it on. Let’s see how this works.

With this exercise, you will basically be doing the same movements as with a standard pull-up. The only difference is that the weight you’re pulling is less. This makes it perfect for someone who is just starting out and is looking to build their strength towards being able to do standard pull-ups. The important thing to remember here is that the muscle movements you are doing here are the same as a pull-up.

How to Do Band Pulldowns at Home?

This is yet another simple pull-ups alternative exercise that you can easily do at home. As I said, all you need is a strong and durable elastic band and something strong to cling it on. One option would be an open door. Simply hold the band on both sides and cling the middle part on top of the door.

After that, get down on your knees and start pulling down similar to how you would move your arms when doing pull-ups. Ideally, you would want to find something sturdier to cling the elastic band on simply for safety purposes. In any way, this another great way to build up strength in the mentioned muscle groups.

3: Towel Row

how to do a towel row.png

Image Source: Strong ‘N’ Sexy Fitness

Lastly, a towel row may feel a bit more different than doing pull-ups but it still focuses on almost all of the same muscles. One of the best things about this one is that you can also do it at home. The towel row is going to make sure you go slowly and build up your strength until you’re ready to move on to real pull-ups. This great alternative for pull-ups is also quite easy to get the hand of. All you need is a towel or a strong piece of rope and a pole or anything similar to wrap the towel around.

How to Do the Towel Row at Home?

This exercise might take a bit of getting used to in terms of getting the right body positioning. You need to bend your knees slightly and straighten your back. Then, throw the towel around the pole and grab it on both ends. After you’ve locked the position tightly, start pulling towards the pole. Keep in mind to maintain a firm body position with this one if you want the similar effects as a real pull-up. Making sure to maintain great posture is crucial with the towel row.


The pull-up is one of the most powerful bodyweight exercises that you can do. It focuses on several muscles and is a great way to get a wider and stronger back. If you still aren’t ready and strong enough to do a full pull-up, then there are amazing alternatives such as these three that will definitely set you on the right path. Make sure to follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be there in no time.

About The Author

AthletePath Staff

We are a team of enthusiasts and professional athletes thriving to provide you with helpful advice on buying everything you may ever need to become a better athlete.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments