Pull up bars can be used for more than just doing pull ups which is why I put together this list of every possible exercise you can do with a pull up bar at home.
You can use pull ups bars to work out your back, arms, and even core using this complete list.
For each exercise I’ve included a brief description of what muscles the exercise works as well as how to do it correctly. I’ve also included a video to help you get the form down and see the movements being performed in real time.
I’ve started with some of the easier moves first and steadily progressed to more advanced workouts farther down the list.
If you’re new to calisthenics you should probable start near the top to build up your strength and then move on to more challenging moves.
Active hanging is very important to build up your strength for doing good pull ups and it’s a step that many people forget.
You see, pull ups are really a back exercise more than an arm exercise.
That means that in order to do them correctly you have to be able to actively move your shoulder blades and shoulders using your upper back and lats.
This will allow you to pull your shoulders down and back as you pull yourself up which will give you much more strength and build the strong V-tapered shape that looks so good in a suit.
In order to do them you just want find a sturdy surface, such as a pull up bar, that you can hang from.
Then, while hanging from the bar with your elbows locked straight, you want to practice bringing your shoulders down and back.
Make sure that you are keeping your arms straight the whole time. Only use the muscles in your back to pull your shoulders down and back.
Practicing this move will carry over into just about any pulling movement you do so it’s important to teach your body how to do this correctly even if you’re already strong in other ways.
Negative Pull Ups
Negative pull ups are a good way to build up strength if you can’t quite get in your first pull up yet.
They’re done by using a box or chair to get into position at the top portion of doing a pull up where your head is positioned above the bar and your arms are bent with your hands gripping the bar securely.
Once you have a firm grip you want to gently step off of the box and lower yourself as slowly as you can back to the floor.
This is called an eccentric movement and is actually a great way to build muscle.
In this instance we’re using it as a kind of “cheat” to build up the strength to actually pull yourself up.
You’ll still activating the same muscles you use during a pull up but it’ll be a little easier because you’ll be slowly letting go from the contracted state instead of the reverse.
Go ahead and give it a try if you’re having trouble doing your first pull up.
Chin ups are done by standing under a pull up bar and grasping it with your palms facing towards you.
Then lift yourself up until your chin is over the bar.
This will work your biceps and back but will focus more on your biceps than a pull up will.
Pull ups are the king of building a strong and muscular back.
Though you do use the biceps in your arms most of the work when doing a pull up will be done by your lats and upper back.
That’s why it’s so important that you practice the active hanging I started this article with to make sure that you can properly use your back muscles the way they were intended.
In order to do a pull up you want to stand under the bar and grasp it with your palms facing away from you.
Then lift yourself up until your chin is above the bar.
Make sure that as you perform the movement you’re not turtling. Pull your shoulders down and back using your back muscles as you lift yourself up to the bar.
Archer Pull Ups
Archer pull ups are a great way to add some more difficulty to regular pull ups and progress towards the one-handed pull up.
They also work your upper back and biceps with the majority of the work being done by the lats in your back.
To start you want to begin with your hands in a slightly wider grip than normal on the bar.
Then, lift yourself up as you would with a regular pull up but at the top you want to move your body over to one side so that most of your weight is being supported by one arm while the other arm is almost parallel with the ground.
Alternate arms with each pull up to get a complete workout.
One-Handed Pull Ups
One-handed pull ups are an awesome exercise that will really give your back and biceps a serious workout.
They’re done by assuming the form of a regular pull up but then using only one hand to lift your chin up and over the bar.
If you can do these with each hand then you have really made it to a new level of strength.
Muscle ups are awesome because they combine both a pulling exercise and a pushing exercise in a way that truly works out every muscle in your upper body.
To begin you want to get under the bar and do a full pull up.
Next, you want to move your chest up above the bar, from the top of your pull up, and do a straight arm dip to press yourself above the bar.
Then lower yourself down and repeat.
The hard part about this exercise is not the pull up or the dip; it’s the transition at the top of the pull up to get your chest above the bar to push yourself up.
The video above has some awesome tips on how to do this and he explains it much better than I can.
The front lever is one of the best static hold exercises to work your core.
In order to maintain the position you’ll have to fire just about every muscle in your body but your stomach will be doing the majority of the work to keep you stationary.
It’s done by hanging under a bar but instead of your body being perpendicular to the floor it will be lying parallel along it but suspended in the air with your hands gripping the bar.
Take your time in building up to this exercise as it really takes some strength.
Hanging Leg Lifts
Hanging leg lifts are another stomach exercise where you start out by hanging from a bar.
Next, you want to raise your legs straight out in front of you so that they’re parallel with the floor and your body is assuming an “L” shape.
If you find this too difficult you can build up your strength slowly by just raising your knees at first until you get stronger.
Toes to Bar
Toes to bar is just a harder version of the exercise above.
It also works your core muscles and is started by hanging from a pull up bar.
Then you want to raise your legs out in front of you and then all the way up until your feet touch the bar.
This is a great exercise, which also requires a lot of flexibility, but it can be difficult to keep your body from swinging when you do it.
To avoid this you want to make sure you’re in an active hanging posture with your shoulders pulled down and back.
Also, make sure your starting posture has your legs pointing slightly forward so that your core is engaged at all times.
This will help to minimize the swing and make sure that you can really target your stomach muscles during the exercise.
Windshield wipers are an awesome way to target your obliques; the side muscles in your core.
They’re done by assuming the top portion of the toes to bar exercise where your feet are already up near the top of the pull up bar.
Next, you want to start moving your legs from side to side but still keeping them straight and together.
This will give your stomach muscles a serious workout but is not an exercise for beginners. Make sure you’ve already mastered the other exercises above before attempting this one.
L-sits are a classic gymnast move that targets many muscles throughout your body but really blasts your abs.
It’s done by assuming an “L” position with your body where your legs are stretched out in front of you and are parallel with the floor.
They can be done either with your palms flat on the floor or with a pair of suspended bars you can get between. They can even be done with a pair of gymnastic rings once you build up the strength for it.
L-sits are a static hold exercise and are a great way to get in some serious conditioning no matter where you are.
Using these twelve exercises and a pull up bar you can work out every muscle in your upper body.
Take it slow and start with the easier exercises first until you can do each one with control and good form. Then move on to the next and more difficult one.
If you think I missed any good ones be sure to tell me in the comments below and I’ll add it in.