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Alternatives to a Pull-up Bar

Pullups are a fundamental upper-body exercise that targets your back and biceps muscles. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a pullup bar. If this is the case, you can still do pullups, you just have to use your imagination and a few items from around your house or neighborhood.


Inverted body-weight rows are modified pullups done on a low bar, usually about waist-high. These bars are easier to come by than a pullup bar. Railing around a deck or patio is typically about the right height. Businesses and schools sometimes have railing along the walkways. Slide under the bar and take an overhand, shoulder-width grip on it. Extend your legs out in front of you so your weight is on your heels. Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar.

Barbell and Ladders

With a couple of ladders, you can make your own pullup bar. Set two sturdy, A-frame ladders about 3 to 5 feet apart. Lay two folded towels over the second-highest step on each ladder and set a barbell across the steps. Don't use the top step because the bar could roll off. The towels will keep the bar from rolling around. Since you aren't very high off the ground, you will need to tuck your legs, but you can do regular pullups in this manner.

Door Frame

Even without a pullup bar, you can do pullups in your doorway as long as the frame has trim around it and the doorway is sturdy enough to hold your weight. The thicker the trim, the better grip you will have. But even doorways with thin trim will work and you will build your hand strength, too. Stand in the doorway and grab the edge of the trim with your fingertips. Pull yourself up as high as you can. Make sure you don't hit your head on the top of the door frame.

Free Weights

Bent-over barbell or dumbbell rows work the same muscle groups that pullups work, and all you need is a bar and weight plates or a couple of dumbbells. Push your hips back to lean your torso forward. Keep your back straight and your weight on your heels. Start with your arms fully extended, hanging down toward the floor. Pull the weights into your upper ab area, squeezing your back.

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About the Author

Based in Austin, Texas, Jolie Johnson has been in the fitness industry for over 12 years and has been writing fitness-related articles since 2008 for various websites. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Illinois.

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