8 Badass Exercises You Can Do With Nothing But a Pull Up Bar
It’s no secret by now that pull up bars are one of my very favorite pieces of workout equipment, ever.
Currently, I have three in my house: a doorway one outside of my home office, a ceiling one in my garage gym, and I recently built the pull up bar of my dreams in my backyard (see photo below).
And no, you definitely don’t need access to three pull up bars in order to get strong and fit. But coming from a place where I never thought I’d be able to do a pull up in my life, I probably went a little crazy once I actually had the space to put them. But hey, whatever makes you happy, right?
Pull up bars are an incredibly efficient, old school piece of equipment that no matter how you use them, can’t help but make you feel a bit like a badass. Yet unsurprisingly — and mainly since they don’t even exist in most gyms — many people have no idea what to do with a pull up bar.
So to help inspire you, here are 8 of the most badass exercises you can do with nothing but a pull up bar:
Big surprise: one of the best exercises you can do with a pull up bar is the basic pull up.
Pull ups are an amazing upper body exercise and mainly work your back muscles, but also help to strengthen your arms and core muscles, especially as you get better at them and your form improves.
To do one, start from a dead hang with straight elbows, palms facing away from you. Keeping your chest up and your shoulders back, tighten your core, then pull yourself up so that your chest touches the bar.
Of course, there are all sorts of variations you can do if you can’t yet do a pull up, including flex hangs, jumping pull ups, and more. And if you can’t do one yet and want to work your way up to doing one or more pull ups in a row, make sure to check out the 12 Minute Athlete Pull Up Mastery course.
Burpee pull ups
Burpee pull ups are a fairly advanced exercise (and also one of my very favorites) that work on your pull up strength and get your heart rate up fast.
To do one, stand in front of a pull up bar, then drop down into a squat position with your hands on the floor, kick your feet back into a push up position and lower your body to the floor. Bow up or do a full push up, then jump your feet back to the squat position, jump up into the air and do a pull up.
The higher the pull up bar you’re using, the harder these are — trust me!
Chin ups mainly work your biceps and your latissimus dorsi muscles (a.k.a. your back), but also force your entire body to work together in order to pull yourself up to the bar — making them a fantastic all around exercise.
Start from a dead hang with straight elbows, palms facing towards you. While keeping your chest up and your shoulders back, tighten your core, then pull yourself up so that your chest hits the bar before lowering back down.
Just like pull ups, you can practice modifications like flex hangs, negatives, and jumping chin ups if you’re still working on getting your first one.
Hanging knee raises
Hanging knee raises will strengthen your core and prepare you for more difficult exercises like hanging leg raises and L-sits.
Jump up and grab a pull up bar with your palms facing away from you, making sure that your hands are about shoulder-width apart. Ideally, the bar will be high enough that your feet clear the ground, but you can still do these if you have a low bar or a doorway bar — they’ll just feel a little bit more awkward.
Pull your shoulders back and down while you tighten the rest of your body into a straight line. Keeping your legs tight together, tuck your knees up toward your chest. Squeeze towards your chest, then lower your legs back down into a straight line. If you’re using a low bar, simply keep your legs bent the entire time.
Knees to elbows
Start by gripping the pull up bar with your palms facing away from you, arms shoulder-width apart. Gently swing your legs back, then bring your knees up to your chest, touching your elbows if possible. Lower down and repeat.
Hanging leg raises
Another great core strengthening exercise, Hanging leg raises force you to work on control, and challenge your grip as well.
To do them, grab on to a pull up bar with your palms facing away from you, tighten your abs and pull your shoulders back and down. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, lift them up so that they’re parallel to the floor. Hold for a second, then lower down with control.
To further increase the difficulty of hanging leg raises, try bringing your toes all the way up to the bar. Focus on keeping your knees straight and try not to use too much momentum to get you there!
Although most people think of l-sits as a floor or parallete bar exercise, they can also be done hanging from a pull up bar to help increase your core strength.
To do a hanging l-sit, grab onto a pull up bar with both hands and raise your legs up until they’re parallel to the floor. Rather than lowering down as you would in a hanging leg raise, hold that static position for as long as you can.
Feel the burn!
Without a doubt, muscle ups are one of the most badass exercises you can do with a pull up bar. I’m admittedly still working on mine — I’ve got the chicken wing muscle up down, but doing a clean bar muscle up is another story. I’ll get there!
To do a muscle up, start by doing a pull up so that your chest hits the bar, then pull yourself up so that you’re in the top of a dip position. Lower down with control.
If you want to see some of my recent muscle up progress, check out this tutorial I did with gymnast Sean Mapoles on getting your first strict muscle up. We happen to be using rings, but you can apply the same principles to a pull up bar.
Work hard, and don’t give up!