One of the greatest advantages (or disadvantage) of bodyweight training has, is the shear amount of choice when it comes to the exercises you can do. You may refer to this pull up bar exercises guide as a library of knowledge on the best bodyweight exercises you can perform with as little as this one piece of equipment.
A pull up bar is very adaptive and will work your muscles in a way that is hard to replicate with the standard machines and weights one can find in a gym.
In fact, you can work out almost your entire body on a pull up station, or a good home pull up bar. Among some of the things you can do are many different variations of pulling, pushing, static & isometric exercises. Take your pick.
Just the way in which you grab the bar will have a drastic effect on which muscle is worked, and to what degree. Whenever you are doing pull ups or another close variant, your forearms are being trained and tested to improve your overall grip strength.
The amount of freedom and choice is significant.
To save you some time, we have narrowed down the exercises to the most essential and efficient ones, as well as their respective variations which can be performed on a pull up bar.
Chin Ups/Pull Ups And Other Variants
Pull ups/chin ups are probably the most commonly performed movements on the pull up bar. They will work all of the main upper and mid back muscles and can be scaled almost infinitely to your level. They are usually the main component of one’s pulling routine and an essential basic movement to keep working on over the years, even for elite bodyweight athletes.
- Sternum pull ups
- Behind the neck pull ups
- Typewriter pull ups
- Archer pull ups
- Pull overs
Rows And Other Variants
The king of horizontal pulling exercises. The row also comes in many forms but is guaranteed to assist you in gaining both considerable muscle, and strength. Here are some of the most popular variations of the row.
- Standard bar row (you will need a low placed pull up bar for this)
- L row or, upside down deadlift row
- Tuck row (can later be progressed all the way to a front lever row)
- Archer row
- Single arm row
Muscle ups are a hybrid between a pulling and pushing exercise, however slightly more focused towards the pulling, which is for most people usually the hardest part of the movement. They take some training to unlock, but are absolutely worth the time and effort when you get that first, bar muscle up. At first you will probably only get one arm up after the other, but you will gradually be able to clean it up and progress towards a clean, strict muscle up.
Low Bar Bicep Curls
One of the best bodyweight bicep isolation movements you can do, with the pelican curls, featured below. Be sure to initiate the movement at the elbow and to avoid any raising of the shoulders or “rowing” like motion. Basically a barbell bicep curl, but with your own bodyweight.
Low Bar Pelican Eccentrics
These are another fantastic yet underrated bodyweight bicep isolation exercise. They will strengthen your biceps through their entire range of motion and should be done towards the end of your routine for maximum growth effect.
Ice Cream Makers
A great exercise to improve on your front lever and overall core strength whilst targeting the upper, mid back, and rear deltoids. Be sure to have constant control over the movement and prevent your body from any temptation to start swinging or using kip. If you are unable to do a full lever ice cream maker, you can train in the tuck or 1 legged tuck position and eventually progress up to the full front lever position.
Other common variations include:
- Tuck ice cream makers
- Single legged ice cream maker
A more unconventional bicep isolation exercise that involves grabbing the pull up bar and curling it to chin level whilst maintaining a 90° angle.
A pulling exercise that involves pulling your body up and over the bar, starting with your feet and then proceeding to roll backwards slightly, finishing in the top of a dip position above the bar. It works all of the main pulling muscles of your upper body and is an exercise that can be progressed too rather quickly.
Skin the cat
The Skin the cat is a rotational 360 pull from the hanging position. You will often see gymnasts perform this exercise, yet, it can still be utilized to benefit you in your own bodyweight training and is usually quite accessible to everyone in terms of difficulty.
Front Lever Pulls
Similar to the ice cream makers, the front lever pulls involve pulling the body from a hanging position to a “parallel to the ground” position in a front lever position. The main difference here however is that the pull is initiated in the shoulders and the arms remain completely locked out throughout the entire movement, in the contrary to ice cream makers where you bend at the elbows to initiate the pull.
Other common variations include:
- Tuck front lever pull
- Half legged front lever pull
The standard straight bar dip. One of the best exercises for chest and tricep development. try to lower yourself to the bottom portion of your sternum, before pushing back up and locking your arms out fully for a complete range of motion.
Korean dips are a great upper body exercise to develop strength and mobility in the shoulder girdle. Korean dips are related to movements such as dips and the second half of a muscle up. These can be quite hard at first so you will need to build an initial level of strength before being able to successfully attempt them.
You will need a low bar for this. Tricep extensions are the best bodyweight tricep isolation exercise you can do, and will do wonders in strength and muscle development, but also as a prehab exercise to strengthen and protect your elbow tendons.
On some pull up stations, you can effectively perform push ups. Like the pull ups, they are a bodyweight basic that must be mastered and worked on in your training always, as they have a significant strength and conditioning carry-over to many other movements.
A static L-sit hold from a hanging position that involves pulling your legs up to a 90Â° angle and holding them for time. It can also be done above the bar like you would on a pair of parallettes but it’s not recommended as it can be unsafe, especially if your pull up bar is fixed a in high position.
Windshield wipers are a great exercise to develop your obliques. Your body is first set in an “L” position with your back parallel to the floor, where you can then proceed to slowly twist from one side to another with full control.
Hands down the most effective lower ab exercise, leg raises will blast your core in ways you have never felt before. From a hanging position, raise your legs to touch the bar with your toes, or to the point where you feel your lats engaging. Full control and a slow movement is preferred.
The front lever is a static hold where your body forms a horizontal, straight line, with your arms fully locked out. This is an advanced move that requires a good amount of training to achieve.
The is pretty much the opposite of your front lever. It’s slightly easier to do, too, and usually requires less training to unlock. Both are phenomenal core exercises and something you can be proud to have achieved.
A planche is a skill in gymnastics in which the body is held parallel to the ground, and the only point of contact is your hands. This is a very difficult movement that requires significant strength and balance.
As you can see, owning a pull up bar or pull up/dip station already offers a world of possibilities. They are extremely versatile, and some can even be placed in your luggage making them an ideal travel companion. You can however improve your accessibility to all sorts of different exercises even further, and at the same time improve your strength and muscle gains by using gymnastics rings.
You can anchor them to your home pull up bar or pretty much anywhere else for that matter. A tree branch, a balcony, a beam… You decide.
Resistance bands are also a piece of equipment that can help if you don’t yet have the strength to do pull ups, or they can even applied as extra resistance.
Pull up bars give you access to a very wide range of movements from Pulling exercises like the row, skin the cat, muscle up, and typewriter pull up, to the Korean dips, tricep extensions and more. You can also do even more exercises with the use of gymnastics rings.
Now you have some of the best pull up bar exercises, which ones will you use?