Chin Up Alternatives And Pull Up Alternatives (Video’s Included)
Chin Ups! Can you feel these two words strike fear into your muscle fibers? Most people know the value of chin ups and know they should be doing them but there is only one problem…they’re so damn hard to do. This is why many people search for chin up alternatives and pull up alternatives. The other reason why people search for alternatives is because they don’t have a chin up bar at their disposal.
But I am here to tell you to never back down from doing chin ups and pull ups even if your gym doesn’t have a chin up station. Chin ups and pull ups are one of the most powerful upper body exercises of all time and in this post I’m going to show you 6 alternative ways to do them so that you never have to miss out on the power that these exercises offer.
But before I get into that, why chin ups anyway? What’s so damn good about them? Like I already mentioned, chin ups are one of the most powerful upper body exercises that exist in building both strength and muscle mass. The muscles of the back (latissimus dorsi and trapezius) are the primary targets. Your abs will also get a solid workout because they will be used to stabilize the movement. And as an additional bonus, chin ups also hit your forearms, biceps, and even work your pecs at certain angles. Chin ups really are the cream of the crop when it comes to upper body exercises.
Chin Ups & Pull Ups For The Confused
Now, if you are scratching your head wondering what the difference is between chin ups and pulls ups I will keep the definition real basic, the movement is the same all that needs to be changed is the grip:
- Chin Ups – Palms facing towards you (supinated grip) or palms facing each other (semi-supinated grip).
- Pull Ups – Palms facing away from you (pronated grip).
Now that we have the definitions out of the way, lets get on to the alternative exercises.
If you work out at home or a gym that does not have a bar, then you may have struggled to find an alternative exercise to replace chin ups or find a pull up substitute. You will often hear that pull-downs are a good substitute but in my opinion they are not in the same league as full blown chin ups. So I would not even call them an alternative for chin ups. If your stuck at a gym without a chin up bar, I would change gyms, I’m not kidding either. I say the same thing about gyms that don’t have a squat rack.
If you don’t want to change gyms or you workout at home then you just need to get a little creative. I have been traveling extensively over the past years and moved residence quite a bit so I do not always have the luxury of a nice regular gym or being able to cart around a chin up station so I had to look through new eyes at my environment to come up with alternative ways to do chin ups.
Chin Up Alternatives/Pull Up Alternatives No Bar! – 6 Creative Solutions Exposed
1. Hanging From Roof Rafters.
This is perhaps the easiest way to do chin ups if you don’t have a bar. If you have a porch, carport, or any type of roof covering outside you should be able to hang from the wooden rafters and use them to do chin ups. The trick is to find wooden beams that are strong enough to take your weight. Depending on the size of the rafters it will usually be easier to do pull ups rather than chin ups but experiment with both.
Towels can be your best friend when it comes to doing chin ups and pull ups in unusual places. They will protect your hands from splinters and give you a tighter grip. You can also throw two towels over the wooden beam in a loop and grip one in each hand which can make the movement easier, and increase hand strength.
The video below shows a guy using a pinch grip to do roof rafter pull ups. This is seriously tough and you will need to have some amazing grip strength to do this. If you are a beginner then I would suggest holding the top of the rafters to do this exercise.
2. Two Ladders And A Barbell
I have used this alternative before a few times and it works a treat. If you have two ladders lying around, prop them up and space them about a meter apart from each other. Lay down two towels on the second to last step (not the very top step as it can be dangerous) and then slide a barbell through so it balances horizontal to the ground.
To do chin ups and pull ups using this method you will probably have to bend your knees and stick out your legs as you will be pretty close to the ground. The towel will stop the barbell from wobbling around and lock you in to the movement.
3. Pull Ups On A Staircase
This is a good alternative for pull ups but it will not work for chin ups because of the hand position. The way to do this is to find a high enough ledge that will support your weight, ideally a staircase ledge.
The position may be a bit weird but it is possible to do pull ups by facing the wall and hold onto the ledge and use it to do the movement. It is not a perfect way of doing pull ups since it is quite uncomfortable and you will get a bit of leverage from your forearms so it will not be as powerful as regular pull ups but I have successfully used this exercise many times while backpacking through Asia.
Alternatively, if you find a staircase like the one in the video below, you can do regular pull ups. Maybe skip the stair jumping though…unless you feel like a challenge!
If you have a thick and strong rope lying around or you want to buy one for a few dollars then you can tie a rope around two objects to make a horizontal chin up and pull up bar alternative. I have made this work before by tying the rope between branches on a tree. If you put on your thinking hat, I am sure there are many ways to turn a rope into a bar. You could also use some type of strong metal pipe in combination with the rope and loop it over a support to create a chin up bar.
5. Pull Ups On A Bookshelf Or Door
This is similar to doing pull ups on a staircase ledge. If you have a strong bookshelf you can use the side of it to do pull ups. The same can be done using a solid door frame or you can actually use the door itself. Just wedge something under the door like a few books or magazines to close the space under it and make it strong so the hinges don’t bust and presto instant pull up station!
The video below was the only one I could find of someone demonstrating how to do these type of pull ups. Try to sqeeze out more than one rep though!
6. Chin Up And Pull Up Alternative At The Playground.
Too many people complain that they cannot do chin ups because their gym or home gym doesn’t have a bar. But how often do people drive past playgrounds on their way home from the gym, without the thought of parking and jumping out of the car to squeeze out a few sets on the play equipment? Far too often.
The playground can help transform you into this guy who is nicknamed “The Chin-Up Master”. Watch the video below to see this freak in action…
Now you are armed with 6 alternative exercises for chin ups and pull ups. I discovered these exercises out of necessity because I knew the value of chin ups and pull ups, and I refused to abandon them because I didn’t have a bar available at certain times during my life. If you move houses a lot, backpack, or travel frequently then some of these alternatives exercises will be a god send to you. I hope you enjoyed this post and you have found some creative ways to do chin ups and pull ups. Now you can never have the excuse of not doing them again!
If anyone has any other chin up alternatives and pull up alternative exercises I would love to hear about them below in the comment section.
All the best,