If you have recently invested in a pull-up bar, you may have stuck to just performing pull-ups and chin-ups.
There are actually many more exercises you could perform.
This piece of apparatus can build muscle and strength in your back, biceps, and triceps, while also helping to turn your shoulders into boulders.
Here are some of the best pull-up bar exercises you should perform to build a strong upper back. I would highly recommend adding some of these to your next training session.
Top Pull Up Bar Exercises
1. Assisted Pull-Ups
When you first get your pull-up bar, you may not have enough upper body strength or technique to even perform one repetition.
The assisted pull-up can help with this and is perfect for beginners or for those wishing to work out till failure.
Like the standard pull-up, this variation will build the muscles in your back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps.
To perform this exercise, you will need a resistance band that you will hook around your knee or foot while performing a pull-up using the regular technique.
When you first start off with assisted pull-ups, you may want to use a stronger resistance band, but as your strength and technique improve you will need to use a band that offers less and less resistance.
Before long, you won’t require a band at all and will be able to perform a standard pull-up unassisted.
To begin building pulling strength, you can do bent over barbell or dumbbell rows. Both are effective at building pulling strength and require less mobility to perform correctly.
- Jeff Kuhland, Certification Team Instructor, MovNat
2. Negative Pull-Ups
Another method you can use to progress to a full pull-up is the negative variety.
When you perform negative pull-ups, you are only performing the downward half of the movement.
The part where you are lowering yourself down from the bar.
It teaches you the technique needed to perform a pull-up while also building strength in your upper body and improving your grip strength -- all important aspects needed to perform a standard pull-up.
To perform negative pull-ups, you will need a bench or something tall enough so that you can get to the top of the bar without having to pull yourself up. If this is not an option, you can also jump to the top of the bar (be safe, okay!).
Once you are at the top of the bar with your grip shoulder-width apart, keep control as you slowly lower your legs to the floor.
The standard pull-up is a popular compound exercise, which means it works multiple muscles.
It is something you should be doing on a regular basis if you want to build your back muscles.
To perform a pull-up, you will need to grip the bar with your palms facing away from your body.
Your shoulders should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Hang from the bar by bending your knees, your arms should be extended straight at the stage.
Next, pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. You should pull your elbows down towards the ground while keeping them close to your body, keeping your legs bent throughout.
Once you have reached the top, you will then slowly lower yourself down to the starting position so that your elbows are straight. This is one repetition.
If you want to beef up your biceps then you need to be performing chin-ups on a regular basis.
This bodyweight exercise is another popular choice and will give your biceps an intense workout that will be greater than any exercise performed using free weights.
Your grip should be shoulder-width apart or perhaps a little closer together depending on your own preference.
To perform this biceps workout, you will need to hold the bar using an underhand (supinated) grip.
This means that you are holding the bar with your palms facing towards your body. Next, straighten your arms and bend and cross your legs. You will not be hanging from the bar.
Retract your shoulder blades and pull yourself up to the top of the bar until your chin is level with it. It is important that you keep your body stable and your core engaged while performing this workout.
At the top of the bar, you should hold for a second or two to engage your biceps before slowly lowering yourself down to complete one repetition. Repeat as many reps as you can.
5. Hanging Knee Raises
For those looking to strengthen their core and build a six-pack, you may focus on exercises such as the sit-up or crunch.
While both of these exercises work your abdominals, they mostly focus on your upper abs.
This means that you may neglect your lower abs, so you may not achieve that six-pack.
Exercises like hanging knee raises can work your lower abs and are well worth adding to your workout regime.
Performing a hanging knee raise involves you hanging from a pull-up bar with your body straight. Using an overhand grip with palms facing away from your body, bend your knees, and raise your legs until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
To complete a repetition, you will slowly control lowering your legs back to the start.
You can progress knee raises by doing bilateral hanging leg raises. To perform hanging leg raises, you will need to perform the raise while keeping your legs straight throughout the entirety of the movement.
Complete a few reps and feel your lower abs burn.
6. Knees To Elbows
This is another movement that will blast your abdominal muscles. To perform knees to elbows, you will need to hang from the bar with your palms facing away from your body.
Draw your shoulder blades down and back as you tuck your knees up towards your elbows before slowly lowering back down to the starting position.
You should try to engage your lats while performing this movement.
7. Muscle Ups
Muscle-ups are a staple of CrossFit and are a progression of the standard pull-up.
Once you have become adept at knocking out repetition after repetition of pull-ups, you may want to move onto this movement.
It will need to be performed at a quicker pace, so it will boost your fitness levels as well as your strength and power.
To start this movement, you will need to hang from the bar with your palms facing away from your body.
You will then squeeze down your lats and shoulders. From this start position, you will need to initiate a kip swing, which is achieved by tensing your glutes, abs, and core.
With your legs in front (what is known as the hollow position), pull yourself up explosively using your back and shoulders until your head and chest are above the bar.
You should aim to lift your hips towards your hands and to drive your head forward as this will give you the momentum to carry you up and over the bar.
Once you have completed that part, you will need to push your body up from on top of the bar until your arms are straight again.
To complete the repetition, lower yourself with control to the starting position.
8. Windscreen Wipers
Exercises like the windscreen wiper are definitely not for beginners, but it is certainly one that you can work towards and one that is well worth adding to your arsenal.
It predominantly works your obliques but is also good for your overall fitness, too.
To perform windscreen wipers, you will need to hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart.
At this stage, your arms will be extended so that you are hanging from the bar. The next step is to pull your legs toward the bar, keeping them straight. Your back should be parallel to the floor, with your arms at a right angle to them.
While keeping your back and arms in this position, you will be rotating your torso from 90 degrees on the left to 90 degrees on the right. This is a single rep.
9. Burpee Pull-Up
What could be harder than a burpee? Well, try adding a pull-up into the mix.
The burpee is primarily a cardiovascular exercise and is one of the best ways to improve your overall fitness. When you add a pull-up, you are taking it into another dimension.
To perform the burpee pull-up, you will need to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with the pull-up bar overhead.
Next, drop into a squat position, placing your hands beside your feet. Jump your feet back into a press-up position.
Perform a push-up before then jumping back into the squat position. This is the burpee section completed.
You will then stand up, grab the bar, and perform a classic pull-up.
10. Lat Pulldowns
You may think that you won’t be able to perform an exercise like lat pulldowns in the comfort of your own home without a cable machine, but it is certainly possible.
To perform this movement using a pull-up bar, you will need to tie a resistance band around the pull-up bar.
Next, either sit or kneel on the floor or sit on a bench while you hold onto the band.
Keeping your chest elevated throughout the exercise, pull the band down and towards your lower chest.
Check out the best lat pulldown machines out on the market.
You should aim to squeeze your shoulders together as your hands reach your chest.
This exercise specifically works your latissimus dorsi, which is a broad muscle that covers the back of your torso, below the arms and across the ribs.
As the lat pulldown is a compound exercise, this movement also works your biceps and triceps, as well as the muscles found in your rotator cuff and chest.
Can You Build Muscle Using A Pull Up Bar?
Yes, you can undoubtedly build muscle using a pull-up bar.
There are numerous pull up bar exercises you could perform, some of them have been listed above, but there are countless others you may want to add to your training regime.
If you want to work your back muscles, chest, and core then you shouldn’t neglect the suggestions above.
One of the biggest benefits of them is that they can be performed in the comfort of your own home, so there really is very little excuse why you cannot perform them on a regular basis. So make sure you work on those muscles right.
Make sure you get the correct pull-up bar:
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