10 Best Pull Up Alternatives (with Pictures)

Pull-ups acquire a prominent position among all the vertical pulling exercises targeted toward back development.

Along with working towards building your v-tapered torso, pull-ups also enhance the muscularity of your back. Performing them has a plethora of benefits some of which include enhanced grip and core strength.

But not all of us have the foundational strength to just hang on the bar and bang some perfect pull-ups. For those of us who prefer to train at home, performing pull-ups becomes quite challenging in absence of a pull-up bar.

To counter those issues, here in this post we will be throwing light on the exercises that can serve as a substitute for pullups.

10 Best Pull Up Alternatives

Pull Up Alternatives

Performing strict pull-ups is not as simple as it looks. You need to have a decent level of upper body pulling strength for that purpose.

The exercises mentioned in this post will enable you to build on that foundational strength that will escalate your pull-up game.

Let’s have a look at them.

Lat Pulldowns

Lat pulldowns are one such exercise that serves as a perfect pull-up alternative.

This exercise has always been in the back training routine of numerous lifters who intend to enhance their back width.

Being compound in nature, lat pulldowns target multiple muscle groups including lats, upper back, lower traps, forearms, and biceps.

Why is it important?

Performing lat pulldowns works on building back width by training the latissimus dorsi in its full range of motion.

It also provides a decent workout to your upper back muscles. Lat pulldowns act as the perfect practice exercise that provides your body with adequate strength to perform a proper pull-up.


  • Get to a lat pulldown station and set its knee pads at a height that can keep your legs locked throughout the exercise.
  • Choose a challenging weight to perform the exercise with.
  • Position yourself comfortably on the sitting pad of the lat pulldown station tucking your knees under the knee pads.
  • Hold the bar with an overhand grip positioning your hands slightly wider than your shoulder width.
  • Now retract your shoulders and pull the bar towards your clavicle. Keep your chest up throughout the exercise.
  • Flex your lats at this position and for around 1-2 seconds.
  • Now flare your lats as you lower the weight. Make sure to stretch your lats fully.
  • Perform the desired number of sets and reps.

Bent-Over Rows

Bent-over rows train your back in a horizontal range of motion. This in turn not only works on increasing the width of your back muscles but also enhances their thickness.

So if you are willing to build a wide and three-dimensional back, you must include bent-over rows in your workout routine.

Why is it important?

Acting as a pull-up substitute, barbell rows are a great mass builder movement for the back.

To perform them all you need is a barbell that is loaded with weights and a strong desire to build a barn door back. Performing bent-over rows also provides your traps and rear delts with a decent workout.


  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Grab a barbell loaded with your desired weight with a pronated grip.
  • Retract your shoulders back and push your chest out.
  • Now slightly bend your knees and lean your torso forward by pushing your hips back. Keep leaning your torso until it is almost parallel to the floor.
  • From this point, pull your elbows up, lifting the barbell in a rowing motion. Row your elbows and upper arms beside your torso.
  • Flex your back muscles at this point for a second.
  • Then slowly extend your elbows and stretch your lats to get back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of sets and reps.

Inverted Rows

If you want to build a wide and muscular back, you must never underestimate the effectiveness of back exercises that use one’s body weight for resistance. Inverted rows fall in the category of those exercises. You can even make this exercise difficult or easy based on your levels of strength by just changing your foot position with respect to the bar.

Why is it important?

The execution of an inverted row primarily hits your lats, mid-back, and rear delts. If you are someone who can’t perform even a single pull-up, performing inverted rows can assist you in getting rid of that issue.

Inverted rows give your back muscles a decent workout but also condition your body to bang on some high numbers on pull-ups.


  • Place a barbell at a height that slightly exceeds the length of your arms from the floor.
  • Now position yourself under the bar and hold the bar with an overhand grip.
  • Extend your elbows fully and make sure that only your heels are in touch with the floor. Your body must be completely straight.
  • Now roll your shoulder blades back and push out your chest.
  • Tighten your core and glutes.
  • Now pull yourself up, trying to touch the barbell with your chest.
  • Flex your back muscles at this point for a second and slowly lower yourself down. Extend your elbows completely.
  • Repeat for the desired number of sets and reps.

Lat Pushdowns

Lat pushdowns can be considered as a single-joint exercise for your lats. It enables you to establish a strong mind-muscle connection with your lats. This exercise is quite common in the back training routine of lifters who are known for sporting a cobra back.

Why is it important?

Performing lat pushdowns enable your lats to get flared out. This in turn works on enhancing their width that gives your back a v-tapered appearance.

So if you are looking for a substitute for pull-ups that can enhance your back width, you must surely incorporate lat pushdowns in your back training routine.

Apart from training the latissimus dorsi, lat pushdowns also train your teres major and rear delts.


  • Start the exercise by setting a straight-bar handle to the cable attachment and position it at a height that is slightly above your head.
  • Hold the bar with an overhand grip positioning your arms shoulder-width apart.
  • Move away from the cable machine until your elbows are fully extended.
  • Now maintain a slight bend in your elbows and knees, keep your chest out and your back arched. Flare your lats at this point.
  • Push the bar down in an arc towards your hips. Pause the movement when the bar touches your thighs.
  • Get back to the starting position feeling a decent stretch in your lats.
  • Repeat for the desired number of sets and reps.

Barbell Pullover

Barbell pullover is another great exercise that can work as an alternative to pull-ups. When you perform a barbell pullover, you train your lats in a manner that stretches them to their fullest capacity. Hence, performing barbell pullovers works on enhancing your back width just like pull-ups.

Why is it important?

Barbell pullovers primarily hit the lower area of your lats. Well-developed lower lats give your back an aesthetic appearance.

Along with that, barbell pullovers also work on training your serratus anterior and expanding your rib cage.


  • Lie down on your back along a flat bench. Place your feet firmly on the floor.
  • Load a barbell with your desired weight and position it on the floor behind your head.
  • Grab the barbell keeping your elbows slightly bent and bring it just above your chest.
  • Inhale deeply and slowly lower the barbell feeling a full stretch in your lats. Don’t make the barbell touch the floor. If you are using pretty heavyweight on this exercise make sure to stabilize your legs by asking someone to sit on your knees.
  • Now return to the starting position and exhale.
  • Repeat the steps for the desired number of sets and reps.

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Seated Cable Rows

The best part about cable exercises is that they subject your muscles to continuous stress. When you perform seated cable rows your back muscles tend to work in a horizontal range of motion. This exercise places little to no stress on your lower back.

Why is it important?

Performing seated cable rows enable you to train your lats and mid-back. The strength and conditioning of these muscles contribute positively towards improving your pull-up performance. So if you are unable to perform pull-ups, try to get stronger on seated cable rows.

It will surely have a significant strength carryover that will enable you to hit impressive numbers on the pull-ups.


  • Start the exercise in a seated position in front of a low pulley cable. Attach a v-bar handle to it.
  • Grab the v-bar handle and sit away from the pulley at a distance that can get your lats stretched.
  • Place your feet comfortably on a stable surface.
  • Roll your shoulder blades back, keep your chest out and straighten your spine.
  • Now flex your elbows back and move your upper arms in a rowing motion until the v-bar handle gets in contact with your lower abdomen.
  • Flex your back for a second. Contract your lats firmly at this point.
  • Now slowly extend your elbows and get back to the position from where you started. Ensure to stretch your lats completely.
  • Repeat for the desired number of sets and reps.

Renegade Rows

Renegade rows serve as an alternative exercise for pull-ups that you can even perform at home. You just need two dumbbells to perform and your bodyweight to perform them.

Why is it important?

Renegade rows are a great pull-up replacement exercise that trains your lats effectively. Along with that, renegade rows also train your rhomboids, rear delts, and obliques. The best thing about performing renegade rows is that it works on enhancing your core strength and stability as well, which improves your performance on various other lifts.


  • Position two dumbbells on the floor. Place them at a distance that equals your shoulder width.
  • Now get into a pushup position placing your toes firmly on the floor and your hands wrapped around the dumbbells. Your palms will be facing each other at this point.
  • Your hands should be positioned just beneath your shoulders. Your body will be in a standard plank position at this point.
  • Now flex your core, inhale and shift your body weight to your left arm. Ensure to not twist your upper body.
  • Squeezing your right shoulder blade firmly, row the dumbbell towards your chest. Make sure to keep your elbows by your side. Keep lifting the weight until your right elbow is slightly above your torso. Exhale at this point.
  • Now slowly extend your right elbow to get back to the starting position. Inhale at this point.
  • Repeat the same steps for the left side.
  • Repeat for the desired number of sets and reps.

Dumbbell Kroc Row

This exercise is named after Mathew Kroczaleski. Being a compound exercise in nature, along with hitting your lats, this exercise also targets your rear delts and mid-back to some extent. If you use heavy dumbbells for this exercise, it will enhance your grip strength as well.

Why is it important?

The dumbbell kroc row is a unilateral back exercise that trains your lats in a full range of motion.

Dumbbell kroc rows put excessive stress on your lats that enables them to grow both wider and thicker. This exercise also enables you to establish a better mind-muscle connection with your lats. When you perform a dumbbell kroc row, it requires your body to stay stabilized. This in turn works on enhancing your core stability.


  • Start the exercise by standing in a staggered stance (one foot forward and one foot backward) beside a flat bench or a power rack. Hold a heavy dumbbell in one hand.
  • Place your other hand firmly on the bench or the power rack and lean forward. Your body will form an angle of around 15-degree with the floor.
  • Roll your shoulder blades back and brace your core.
  • Now lift the dumbbell by rowing your upper arms in an upward motion. Use your leg and hip drive to move the weight up as it will generate momentum.
  • Keep lifting the weight until your upper arms are slightly above your torso.
  • Now extend your elbows and lower your arms. You will feel a decent stretch in your lats once you reach the bottom phase of this movement.
  • Perform the desired number of sets and reps.

Chest Supported Rows/Batwing Rows (with dumbbells)

If you are unable to feel your lats while performing any back exercises, you must incorporate batwing rows into your back training regime to experience its effectiveness. This exercise eliminates the element of momentum and hence trains your lats specifically.

Why is it important?

Chest supported rows aka batwing rows not only train your back muscles effectively but also work on your grip strength especially when you perform this exercise with heavyweights.

Owing to this factor, batwing rows can be used as a pull-up replacement exercise. This exercise stretches your lats fully which gives them a wider and well-developed appearance.


  • Set up an incline bench at an angle of around 45-60 degrees.
  • Lie down on the incline bench with your chest supported by it and grab a dumbbell in each hand. At this point, your hands must be hanging down.
  • Stretch your lats completely. Now flex your elbows and raise the weight until your elbows are slightly above your torso. Flex your lats firmly at this position.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells and get back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of sets and reps.

Towel Rows

Training your back at home and that too with limited training equipment can be a bit tricky. But if you incorporate an exercise like towel rows into your home workout routine, you would be able to subject your back muscles to a decent workout.

Why is it important?

If you are looking for an exercise that can act as a pull-up alternative at home, you must surely give towel rows a shot.

This exercise only requires a towel and a sturdy point on which you can anchor it. We would recommend you to use a longer towel for executing this exercise. The execution of this exercise targets your lats, upper back, rear delts, and mid-traps.


  • Get a towel and wrap it around a steady pole.
  • Now grab each end of the towel with your hands.
  • Position your feet on the base of the pole and lean your upper body back until your arms are fully extended. Straighten your upper body and keep a slight bend in your knees.
  • Retract your shoulder blades and pull your upper body towards the pole feeling a contraction in your lats. Flex your back firmly at the point where your chest is in full contact with your palms. Hold this position for a second.
  • Now slowly extend your elbows and get back to the starting position. Stretch your lats completely at this point.
  • Repeat for the desired number of sets and reps.

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The Bottom Line

Performing 3-4 exercises from the above-mentioned list will surely take your back development to newer heights. So if you are unable to perform some strict pull-ups, you can rely on the above-mentioned alternative exercises for pull-ups.

The exercises that we have mentioned in this post, will not only act as a substitute for pull-ups in promoting the muscular development of your back. They will also work on building up the foundational strength that will enable you to perform some strict pull-ups over time. So go and give them a shot.