Friday, 14 September 2012

How to do pull ups without a pull up bar

door frame pull ups
Pull ups, chin ups, and all their variations should be one of the core exercises of any good training program. As a multi-joint, compound movement, they work a wide variety of muscles, and they provide an excellent benchmark and target.
However, they can be hard to incorporate in a home training routine, unless you have a pull up bar.

This article will describe a few pull up variations you can easily do at home to build up the strength to do a full pull-up or chin-up, as well as ways to perform pull ups using your everyday environment.

If your aim is to achieve a full pull up, or if you wish to keep improving though, make sure to check out this pull up progression.

A few pull up variations:

let me ins
Door pulls: also, known as 'let me ins', these are probably the the easiest pull up variation to start with. They are performed with a door, by holding on to the handles, with your feet on each side of the door, and a straight body.

let me ins
Door towel pulls: wrap a towel around the door handles. This increases the leverage, and makes the exercise slightly harder.

with broom
Inverted rows between two chairs: place a broom (or any other implement with a long solid handle) between two chairs, and lie underneath to perform inverted rows. Here, I am seen using a land paddle.

Inverted rows can also be performed between two worktops or tables...

inverted rows
Table pulls: essentially the same exercise as inverted rows. Lie underneath the table, and grab the table edge with both hands.

Pull ups and chin ups:

Door pull ups: place a towel on top of a door, and perform pull ups by sliding your body up and down the door. This is an effective way to do pull ups, but be aware that it places a lot of stress on door hinges and -in the long term- could leave you with costly repairs.

Door frame pull ups: again, you will need a sturdy door frame if you want to perform these, and not all are suitable. Typically also, door frames are quite narrow, which will mean increased demand on finger strength.

Stairs pull ups: if you have a suitable stair case, this is a great way to perform your pull ups. The only inconvenient is that your range of movement may be slightly reduced due to limited headroom (see picture).

Tree pull ups: go outside, and you can find a wide variety of things to hang from, such as tree branches. Not necessarily ideal if you're just starting with the exercise, but the unevenness and awkward grip of tree branches will really test your grip strength and allow your muscles to work at different angles and ranges of motion. A great way to start preparing for one arm pull ups.

Make sure to also check this article on how to make your own pull up bar.


  1. The post mentioned here has great tips regarding exercises which work a wide variety of muscles. We can easily do at home for all exercises which have been mentioned.

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  2. What an awesome post. Great tips, great exercises with pull up variations. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I hope to know how did you install your bar in your home. Nice pictures though :P, and thank you for sharing!

    1. I don't have a bar in my home... I just use the staircase. For muscle ups, I just use the gym, or hang a bar between two trees outside (see

  4. Great stuff here!

    For the past year now I've been doing pull ups and chin ups IN MY CLOSET!! I use the bar in my closet that I hang my clothes on. It's sturdy enough and hasn't given in on me at all. I just take the clothes out of the closet and hang them back up when I'm done.

    If there is a downside to this, the bar sits about 5 1/2 feet high. I'm 5'11 so I have to fold my knees when performing my chins and pull ups. Check all of your closets in your homes guys and see if this would work for you.

  5. These variations work the same back muscles? I mean, if I do one of them is enough?

    Thank you.

  6. Anon, the chin ups on stairs, door etc would do the same muscles, just less efficiently since you wouldn't get proper form.
    The door handle with towel would be similar to a seated row.

    See the "targetted muscle group" graphics here for the difference....

  7. Inspiratinal... But is the stair pull up bad for the fingers? After performing them I have slightly strange feeling in my fingers...