6 Chin Up Alternatives – No Bar? We Got You Covered!

6 Chin Up Alternatives – No Bar? We Got You Covered!

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.

 Click Here To Quadruple Your Number Of Pull Ups In Under 30 Days 

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.

Check Out The Ultimate Pull Up Domination Program

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!


4. Ropes

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!

Click Here To Double, Tripple, Even Quadruple The Number Of Chin Ups/Pull Ups You Can Pump Out

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,

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34 Responses to “6 Chin Up Alternatives – No Bar? We Got You Covered!”

  1. Louis August 28, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    I agree with you on the use of towels and how they “can be your best friend. I’ve been doing a one hand variation of this towel pull-up technique.
    Are one hand towel pull-ups in your book?
    Let me explain: You grip the bar itself with one hand and wrap a towel around the other side of the bar and grip the towel with your other hand and switch every two or three repetitions. This technique helps to isolate one side of your lat muscle which is why you alternate. Towels makes the grip easier, but not the exercise. But it’s so effective!

    • Admin September 5, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Louis! One hand towel pull-ups are definitely ambitious. The towel does definitely help with the grip.

  2. John August 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    I must try this one, been trying to find real articles like this.

    • Admin September 5, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

      Find you favorite out of the 6 and go for it!

  3. Stephanie September 2, 2011 at 4:37 am #

    Chin ups are a very difficult exercise to do, but I agree they are a good way to develop upper body strength. These alternatives look like a great way to do these exercises I’ll have to try them and see what happens.

    • Admin September 5, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

      Chin-ups should always make an appearance in your workout routine that’s for sure.

  4. Harrison September 2, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    You certainly have packed a lot of useful info in this article. I nevr thought there were so many ways to do chin ups until I saw this post. At the moment I can’t really do them because I hurt my right shoulder doing some shoulder presses but I will give them a try when it gets better.

  5. bob September 4, 2011 at 4:23 am #

    I’m not sure but how about the wooden pole of a walk in closet where u hang your clothes in?
    My pole is reinforced so it can support my weight

    • Admin September 5, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

      I didn’t think about that one! Nice tip, as long as it’s strong and sturdy enough it would most certainly work.

  6. Michele September 15, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    This is great information for everyone, Admin. It’s hard enough to stay disciplined and consistent with a workout schedule. It helps to have the information available so we don’t have to spend time with guesswork. Great videos! One thing those just getting started should keep in mind is that no matter how hard an exercise may seem, there is a trick to everything – Even pull-ups. I am weak with pull-ups, but I was taught to use a chair underneath which you can put one foot on to assist yourself by pushing upward. This works well until you build up your strength and if you do not have a spotter or the anti-gravity platform machine you see at fancy gyms.

  7. Quinton September 15, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    Chin ups are hard they take so much upper body strength to do them. Do you have any alternatives for people who have no upper body strength and they are trying to build up to being able to do chin ups?

    • nachiketa November 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

      hi,i think i have something to say i have checkered grills on my house windows.like #.so i grab 2 roperly placed boxes and do chinups.advantage being,your whole forarm lie flat against grill.it gives support to forearm and helps to work on arm.

      • Alex Siddy November 29, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

        Awesome, thanks for the unique method!

  8. Rose October 4, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    I hate chin ups and pull ups because it takes so much upper body strength to do them. Wouldn’t Pull downs work the same muscles? If you have a weight machine that has a lat pull down can’t it work in to the same effect? Or how about those resistance bands wrapped around something and you pull down on that, wouldn’t that work as well? I was just asking because that is another form that Tony Horton uses in his P90X program. Please advice what you think.

  9. Debra October 6, 2011 at 3:38 am #

    Thank you for the video examples. Chin ups may seem like something so simple that you only need an explanation of the exercise, but there are several visual clues one can pick up from watching a videos of several variations of each grip and technique. Videos are even more useful when you start getting into special alternatives like doing them on pipes or parallel beams or some of the ways you can spot yourself (assist yourself), like using a chair, for instance, then video is very helpful.

    • Alex Siddy October 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

      Video demonstrations for training techniques are always useful. Glad they helped you out.

  10. Maureen October 8, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Thank you for this wonderful resource. This may seem a bit of a unique scenario, but I thought I would share it anyway. I am vacationing at a home in a rural area, far from the city and any gym. This property has lots of vegetation and some bamboo crops. I found a strong bamboo stick and put it between to tree branches and it makes for a good pull up bar. I finally got a chance to work out my back lats and my biceps by doing reverse grip chin ups.

    • Alex Siddy October 21, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

      Awesome, nice going Maureen. Once you train yourself to see things differently, it’s possible to get a solid workout in any environment, wherever you find yourself.

  11. minhaaj January 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    Man this is brutal. I am in Asia at the moment and living in a house i couldn’t just find a bar and i am really getting out of shape and i just can’t stand it. I have worked so hard to put me into shape and now i am growing a tummy. I am going definitely find a bar for me. You are write about it being the mother of all exercises. Pull ups and chin ups rock! Thanks for the wonderful post.

    • Alex Siddy February 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

      Thanks Minhaaj, best of luck with your training program. Test drive some of the ideas on this page and get rid of that tummy :)

  12. Alex Siddy February 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    I have used bamboo sticks before to do pull ups and chin ups on my adventures when I backpacked through south east asia in 2007. Works a treat!

  13. rocky March 3, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    i have a question i live in a trailor really no place to hang from i’m 6′ 2 the celing isen’t that far away and it’s winter outside is there a substite work out i can do untill it warms up there isen’t any gym near by i’m starting p90x but alot of the workouts refer to pull ups idk what to do…

  14. wayne March 12, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    Brilliant techniques there but just wanted to ask you a question, if there is a radiant machine in a gym, would it not be possible to set up and make a pull up/chin up station that way

    • Alex Siddy March 18, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      I am not too familiar with the radiant machine. I almost exclusively use free weights, depending on what type of workout phase I am doing. Anything that’s horizontal to the floor, which you can grip onto can be used to do chin ups/pulls ups. Be careful using gym machines in ways that they are not “supposed” to be used, as sometimes this can get you some angry looks from the staff. So keep that in mind.

  15. James March 15, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Where i live there are lots of trees, hence i go tree-climbing every day. i do pull ups on the lower branches as part of my workout. it works great, i dont have any kind of gym membership and i only now just got the Insanity workout by Shoun T. it works great but dosent realy get the pull up muscles. Oh and i also started Parkour a year ago and i am finding all kinds of cool spots for new and better workouts. Im only 16 and im trying to lose body fat. although i can do more sit ups then a guy with a six pack :) any advice on this would be very helpful, and any opinions on the effectiveness of the Insanity workout.

    • Alex Siddy March 18, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

      Hi James thanks for visiting my blog. I have obviously heard about Insanity Workout but not tried it. I am more focused on resistance training and building mass. But at 16 and if you’re goal is to lose body fat, then Insanity looks great.

      Best of luck.

  16. Milli Paige March 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    Thanks soooo much! I am doing P90X and the first video uses weights and PULL UPS! I did pushups (as many as I could do, which was about 5…. I’m still a beginner) and I knew it wouldn’t have the same effect if I didn’t do pull-ups… I’ll go buy a proper pull up bar, but fore now, the door is a great alternitive! Thanks!

    • Alex Siddy March 18, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      Glad I could help you out Milli. Best of luck with your training and achieving your goals!

  17. Mark Lorie Fitness April 6, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Always great to see some creativeness for such a great exercise! Pull ups can and should be done anywhere possible!

    • Alex Siddy April 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by Mark!

      • Mark Lorie Fitness April 8, 2012 at 3:59 am #

        A little late for the pull up alternative, and I suppose it’s more of a variety thing, but doing pull ups from two fat ropes hanging vertically and shoulder width apart will give you a burn unlike anything else. Also great for grip training!

        • Alex Siddy April 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

          Thanks for dropping by Mark and giving your alternative!

  18. g June 1, 2012 at 5:43 am #

    just to share alternative to using a towel, I use karate belts tied to a bar and do chin ups using the belts. The grip is holding the belt vertically which makes it very very hard but the results are impressive.
    The other useful exercise is to hold a chin up position and push the legs out and retract, works the abs, etc.

    I am 56!

    • Alex Siddy June 3, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

      Awesome G, thanks for dropping by and leaving your chin up/pull up alternative. And at 56, I take my hat off to you :)

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