The humble pull-up has been described as the perfect exercise and, given the sheer number of muscles groups it engages, it’s hard to argue with that assessment. If you’re looking for a way to create a more stable core for your squats and deadlifts or just achieve a higher degree of overall fitness you can do no better than to say hello to the pull-up bar.
Below are 10 pull-up variations that will have you loving the basic old-school utility of pull-ups.
1) Standard Chin-up – Newcomers often confuse chin-ups with pull-ups but with chin-ups you’ll have your palms facing you and with pull-ups your palms will be facing away.
- Grab the bar with your hands inside your shoulders.
- Pull yourself upward until your chin is above the bar.
- Lower yourself slowly until your arms are almost fully extended then repeat.
2) L-Sit (Hanging Version) – Chances are you’re familiar with the floor version of L-sit. The hanging version is an intense variation on the traditional L-Sit that will rock your core muscles.
- Grab the bar with your hands at shoulder width.
- Slowly lift your legs until they’re parallel to the floor.
- Hold as long as possible before slowly lowering your legs. Repeat.
3) Behind the Neck Pull-up – Injuries related to the behind the neck pull-up stem from people diving into the deep end (and make no mistake these are the pull-up deep end) before they can swim. If you’re not able to do at least a dozen standard pull-ups take a pass on this until you can.
- Take hold of the bar with a wide grip.
- Lift yourself slowly until your traps touch the bar.
- Return yourself slowly to near full extension and repeat.
4) Jumping Pull-up – This hybrid exercise combines elements of squats, jumps and pull-ups. You’ll want to have some level of comfort with the bar before attempting this variation.
- Squat below the bar until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Explode upward grabbing the bar and transitioning into a pull-up.
- Release the bar, falling back into the squat position and repeat.
5) Negative Pull-up – With a negative pull-up you only perform the lowering portion of the standard pull-up down to the dead hang position.
- Grip the bar with palms facing away, hands shoulder wide.
- Assume the uppermost position of a standard pull-up with chin above the bar.
- Lower yourself slowly into a dead hang with arms fully extended. Repeat.
6) Windscreen Wiper – This exercise will really engage your abs and oblique muscles and requires tons of arm strength. The windscreen wiper is known as a torture chamber for the torso.
- Grab the bar wider than shoulder width, palms out.
- Keep your arms at 90 degrees, lean back and raise the torso until it’s parallel to the floor.
- Keep your feet together, pointed skyward and swing them back and forth.
7) Bat-wing Chin-up – The bat-wing chin up is so named for the ergonomically designed bar some liken to a bat’s wing.
- Grab the bar with hands close together.
- Slowly pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar.
- Lower yourself slowly and repeat.
8) Hanging Leg Raise – Many die hard pull-up fanatics will swear that just a handful of hanging leg raises are more effective than hundreds of crunches.
- Grab the bar with hands wide and assume a dead hang position.
- Lift both legs in a controlled fashion until they’re parallel with the ground.
- Lower your legs to the start position and repeat.
9) Hanging Reverse Shoulder Shrug – This is a subtle exercise that focuses on building stronger shoulders through working the trapezius.
- Grab the bar with palms facing outward, hands wide.
- Lift your torso by making a ‘shrugging’ motion with your shoulders.
- Return to the starting position in a controlled fashion. Repeat without delay.
10) Hanging Knee Raise – Hanging knee raises work your abs without putting stress on your back. It also helps build stronger hip flexors. Avoid letting your body swing if at all possible.
- Grab the bar with hands wide and assume a dead hang.
- Raise your knees as high as possible toward your chest.
- Hold for a few seconds, drop your legs back down slowly and repeat.
Work your way through this list of exercises and find a few that work for you. Then work them into your regular routine. Not having a pull-up bar is really not an excuse since they’re very affordable and widely available. Go get one and put it to work helping to sculpt a body you can be proud of.