Pull-ups are one of the most effective upper body exercises, building strength in your arms, shoulders, and back.
But if you’re injured or can’t perform them because of limited space. You might be looking for some alternatives to pull-ups until you can do them again.
However, there are great substitutes for pull-ups that offer the same benefits, even without taking up as much space or being quite as strenuous on your joints.
1. Towel Row
A towel row is a great way to work your back if you can’t do pull-ups. All you need is a towel and something to anchor it around. I like to use a door knob, but you could also use a table leg or something similar.
Nonetheless, make sure it’s sturdy! Place the towel on the ground and then put one foot on each side of the towel.
So that your toes are touching the floor, grip both ends of the towel with your hands, and lean forward as far as you can without letting go of either end.
Then, try to pull yourself up until your chest touches the towels. You’ll have to hold onto the towel with one hand for balance.
Repeat this exercise for about 20-30 seconds, and then switch sides. You should feel your back getting worked out as you use this as a pull-up substitute.
2. Kroc Row With Bands
The Kroc row is a great exercise to help build back and shoulder strength. It also provides an excellent substitute for pull-ups if you can’t do them. To do the Kroc row, all you need is a band and a place to anchor it.
Start by sitting on the ground with your legs and the band around your ankles. Place your hands on the floor next to you, palms down. Anchor the band around something sturdy, like a pole or a piece of furniture.
Next, lean back and press your palms into the ground as you lift your legs off the ground. And also, extend them out in front of you. Use your back and shoulder muscles for rowing the band up to your chest, keeping your core engaged throughout the movement.
3. Dumbbell Kroc Row
Dumbbell Kroc rows are an excellent exercise for targeting the back muscles. They can be done with a dumbbell in each hand. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and Bend your knees slightly.
From here, hinge at the hips to lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the ground. Keep your back straight and your core engaged as you row the weights up to your sides, leading with your elbows.
Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the row before lowering the weights back down to the starting position. Enjoy your exercise with these great substitutes for pull-ups.
4. Seated Cable Row
The seated cable row is also an excellent substitute for pull-ups because it works the same muscles, including the lats, traps, and rhomboids. Plus, it’s a compound exercise that also hits the biceps and forearms.
On the other hand, to do the seated cable row, sit with your back straight and your feet planted on the ground. Grab the handle with an overhand grip, keeping your palms facing down. Pull the handle towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the movement’s top.
5. Renegade Row
Renegade rows are a great way to work your back muscles. When you can’t do pull-ups and are looking for substitutes for pull-ups, they also target your core and arm muscles, making them a great all-around exercise.
To do a renegade row, start in a push-up position with your hands on two dumbbells. Row one dumbbell up to your chest, then lower it back down. Repeat with the other dumbbell.
6. Cable Crossover Lat Pulldown
The cable crossover lat pulldown is an excellent substitute for pull-ups to target your lat, which are the muscles that make up the width of your back.
This movement also allows you to work each side of your back independently, which is essential for developing balanced strength.
However, to perform the cable crossover lat pulldown, start by attaching a D-handle to each low pulley of a cable machine.
Then, position yourself in between the two pulleys with one handle in each hand. Lean forward slightly and begin pulling the handles toward your sides, maintaining a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
Continue until your hands are at shoulder level, then slowly return to the starting position.
7. Close Grip V Bar Pulldown
The v bar pulldown is a great exercise to target the lats, and the primary muscles work in pull-ups. This exercise can be done with a variety of grip widths. But a close grip will more closely mimic the movement of a pull-up.
Moreover, to perform the v bar pulldown, substitutes for pull-ups start by sitting down and grabbing the bar with an overhand grip. Pull the bar down to your chest and slowly return it to the starting position.
8. Assisted Pull-ups
Assisted pull-ups are a great way to continue working on your upper body strength when you can’t do traditional pull-ups. Using a band or machine to help support some of your weight can still get a great workout in.
Nevertheless, some other benefits of assisted pull-ups: They’re perfect for beginners who want substitutes for pull-ups. If you’re starting, an assisted machine can help you get used to the motion.
Also, it can perfect your form before attempting unassisted reps. They work different muscles, unlike traditional pull-ups, which focus mainly on the latissimus dorsi (or lats).
Assisted pull-ups recruit more stabilizer muscles like the biceps and triceps, and you can adjust the difficulty.
9. Close Grip Chin-up
Close grip chin-up is a great exercise to target your latissimus dorsi; the primary muscle worked during pull-ups. It also works your biceps and forearm muscles. To do a close grip chin-up substitute for pull-ups, grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
Also, pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. If you can’t do a chin-up, try doing negatives by jumping up to the top. Then slowly lowering yourself down, you can also use resistance bands to assist you in doing chin-ups.
10. Pull-up Assisted With Bands
Assisted pull-ups with bands are a great way to get the benefits of a pull-up without having to go through the full range of motion.
You can take some weight off your arms and shoulders by attaching a crew to the bar. You are making it easier to perform the exercise.
Notably, If you’re new to assisted pull-ups, start with a light band and gradually increase the resistance as you get stronger. These methods are great substitutes for pull-ups for getting started, but eventually, you’ll want to be able to do them unassisted.
11. Dumbbell Pullover
The dumbbell pullover is an excellent exercise for targeting the lats, the muscles responsible for the width of the back. This movement also indirectly works the pecs and shoulders.
However, to perform the dumbbell pullover as a substitute for pull-ups. Start by lying on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
Extend your straight arms overhead, then lower the weights behind your head. From here, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Then row the weights up to your chest, reverse the motion, and repeat.
12. Single Dim Lat Pulldown
The single dim lat pulldown is an excellent substitutes for pull-ups. Because it works the same muscles and requires the same level of strength plus, it’s an excellent exercise for beginners who can’t yet do a full pull-up and want substitutes for pull-ups.
To do the single dim lat pulldown, sit at a lat pulldown machine and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Pull the bar down to your chest and slowly release it to the starting position.
13. Inverted Row
Inverted rows are a great way to work your back muscles without strain. Yet, they can be done with various equipment, making them a versatile exercise.
So, if you’re looking for substitutes for pull-ups, inverted rows are a great option.
Here are some inverted row variations to try: Barbell Inverted, Row Resistance, Band Inverted Row, Swiss Ball Inverted Row, and Kettlebell Inverted Row
14. Pull-up Assist Machine
The most obvious substitute for pull-ups is the lat pulldown machine. Depending on your strength, you can adjust the weight to make it easier or more complex.
A pull-up assist machine is a good option, which works similarly and as a substitute for pull-ups.
Therefore, try this if you’re looking for a bodyweight exercise to replace pull-ups. These are great ways to work your back muscles without using the equipment.
15. Wide Grip Lat Pull Down
The wide-grip lat pulldown is excellent for targeting the same muscles as pull-ups. It’s also a great exercise for those who can’t do pull-ups yet or for those who need substitutes for pull-ups. Check out how to do it: Sit down at a lat pulldown machine.
So, adjust the seat so that your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Pull the bar down your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position.
16. Bent Over Row
Bent-over rows work the same muscles as pull-ups but without the added weight of your body. This makes them great substitutes for pull-ups when you can’t do pull-ups. To do a bent-over row, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hinge at your hips.
Until your torso is parallel to the floor, then grab a dumbbell in each hand and row the weights up to your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body. Lower the weights back down and repeat.
17. Smith Machine Bent Over Row
The smith machine bent over a row is an excellent exercise for working the back muscles engaged in pull-ups. You’ll need a smith machine at your gym, or you can purchase one for home use.
Moreover, this exercise is performed by holding the bar with an overhand grip. And then bend at the waist until your torso is parallel to the floor. From this position, row the bar up to your chest and then lower it back down to the starting position.
18. Partner Assisted pull-ups
Pull-ups are one of the most challenging upper body exercises. They work your lats, biceps, and core and can be challenging if you don’t have the proper strength or technique.
Regardless, don’t worry. Plenty of other exercises can give you a great upper body workout. Partner-assisted pull-ups are the best substitutes for pull-ups.
19. Lat Bush Down
If you’re looking for a back and lat workout but can’t do pull-ups, try the lat pulldown machine at your gym. And finally, if you want to work your lats but don’t have any equipment, try doing bodyweight flyes or planks.
If you’re looking for a challenging workout to help you build strength and tone your upper body. Try one of these best substitutes for pull-ups.
These exercises work your back, shoulders, and arms and can be done with or without equipment. In addition, plenty of options are still available if you don’t have access to a gym or weights.
No matter your fitness level, there’s a substitute for pull-ups that will work for you. So don’t let being unable to do pull-ups hold you back from getting a great workout!