Tired of the Simple Pull-up? Try These Variations

by Jackie on April 7, 2015

Pull-ups are considered by many to be the best exercise for developing muscle on the upper back and biceps while creating that wide “V” look everyone wants.

Wide Pull upUnfortunately, performing pull-ups requires good relative strength (your ability to move your own body, or your strength level according to your own bodyweight) to be able to perform multiple full-range repetitions.

Pull-ups work your shoulders, arms, abs, and back working just about every muscle in the upper body. They can be done almost everywhere that you can find something to cling from. We all know about the normal pull-up. If you cannot perform at least 12 common pull-ups consecutively then it is best to not to try any of these advanced pull-up versions until you can. Try these different variations to get a little more from that simplified exercise:

  • The One Arm Pull-up. Performing a one armed pull-up is incredibly challenging and takes superhero strength to perform. This exercise is pretty straightforward to perform, as you simply hang from the bar with one hand and pull. If you need to cheat a little bit at first, you may grab the forearm of your pulling hand with your non pulling hand.
  • Weighted Pull-ups. This pull-up variation is the exercise that will give you great strength increases. The best way to add weight to your pull-ups is invest in a weighted vest, but if you want a cheaper way to execute the weighted pull-up you have a few options. First, if you have dumbbells, you can stand a dumbbell on its end directly under your feet when hanging from the pull-up bar. Wrap your feet around the handle of the dumbbell, just under the weight on the top side and start performing weighted pull-ups.
  • “L” Sit Pull-ups. No other bodyweight exercise can tone your midsection like the L-sit pull-up. The major focus of this exercise is your form. While hanging from the bar in a starting pull-up position, raise your feet up so that your legs are directly out and parallel to the ground. Proceed to do as many pull-ups as you can while holding your legs in place and preserving the “L” position.
  • Wide Grip Side Pull-ups. Start out with your hands gripping the bar as wide as possible but still comfy enough to do a pull-up. For this exercise, pick one of your gripping hands, either your left of your right, and pull your chin directly over that hand. Lower yourself back to the starting position and keep going, switching which hand you pull to on each rep. This exercise will put a higher percentage of the load on one pulling arm causing your strength to skyrocket. This pull-up variation is also an excellent way to build up sufficient strength to do a one armed pull-up.

So next time you are looking to add a little variation at the gym on the classic pull-up, try a few of these challenging maneuvers, and you will find that your strength will increase the more you practice!



Health Contributor at Creative Bioscience
I'm a fitness nut. I know what you're thinking, one of these people who has never been fat a day in her life, and can eat whatever she wants. The truth is I struggled with my weight growing up and lived in a household where everything seemed to be fried. Once I got away from home I realized I had the choice to eat and exercise how I wanted. I've gained a lot of insight into working as a personal trainer, and feel I can relate to others that were in my situation. I think if I can do it then you can to, and if you want to start kicking butt then hop on board and lets get started.

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