How To Do Pull Ups At Home Without A Bar, 4 Wonderful Tips

Lee 14

I thought I would put something together to help people with how to do pull ups at home without a bar, as quite a few people don’t have them to hand when the gym is closed.

Another month another lock down, gyms are closed and were all scampering around trying to figure out once again how we can maintain our fitness levels when were having to put that soiled gym bag in the cupboard for four weeks (fingers and toes crossed its only four).

Brain Storming The Range Of Motion

Why are pull ups such a big deal for people? well, they work various muscles at once and its very important to have a strong back to help support the vertebrae and spine, plus the rest of the body in the day to day operation of movement.

When we do a pull up we are working a few muscle groups at a time and its knowing what they are as a way to unlocking the door to doing a similar type of movement, which will act as an adequate substitute to a good old pull up…without the bar.

When doing a pull up we are working not just the back but our arms, shoulders, traps and Let’s not forget grip strength with our hands too. So, what back muscles are we working when we do a pull up?

Here’s where it gets a tad technical with the names:

Latissimus dorsi – this is the largest upper back muscle which runs from halfway down the back, up to the armpit and shoulder blade.

Trapezius – the muscles which run the base of your skull to your shoulders.

Infraspinatus – this assists with shoulder extension and is located under the shoulder blade.

Thoracic erector spinae – these are the three main muscles which run along the thoracic spine.

Now we know what muscles are used, we can begin to work out what we need to do in order to work the parts required. All the exercises below are intended for beginners and intermediate people in mind, if you are advanced you can do these, but your more than likely already using bars at parks and have pull up bars already to have got to that level.

Also, if you are a heavier person, these should also work for you no problem.

Please click on the image below to watch the exercises and follow along to.


How To Do Pull Ups At Home Without A Bar
Click above to watch how exercises are done.

Exercise 1 – Australian Pull Up

This one is a staple for me when I haven’t been able to get out the house and need to work my back. Simply lay under a table or put two chairs next to each other and put a brush over the top (I prefer the table option every time, as the other has disaster written all over it).

Lay on the floor under the table up to the chest part of your body and place your hands on the table-top around elbow width apart.

Make sure you hold the body rigid, take a deep breath and then exhale as you pull yourself up so only your heels are on the floor and lift your chest till it touches the under side of the table, hold for a second and then exhale and slowly lower yourself back to the ground, keeping the tension on your arms at all times, then repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps.

This works well with you being able to change the grip width to tweak different muscles on your back too.

Exercise 2 – Towel or Sheet Door Pull Up – Warning!!

You can do this one either by hanging – if your more advanced – or by squatting if your a beginner. Get a towel or bed sheet and tie a knot in the middle, then put the knot part of the sheet behind the top of a door and close it. this now acts as your pull up bar. Simply hold on to the sheet so its pulled tight and then lower yourself down to a squat position.

From here inhale, get ready and exhale as you pull yourself up till you are standing only using your back to pull yourself up (your legs should be a dead weight as such), exhale and lower yourself back to the squat. As mentioned, if you are more advanced you can hang off the door (if the door is stable ONLY) and do a regular pull up. The thing with this is that its not exactly comfortable as you’re rubbing against the door.

How to do a pull up without a bar

Exercise 3 – Towel Tension Lat Pulldown

This works great for all levels and doesn’t involve you potentially ripping a door off its hinges…so that’s a bonus.

Lay on the floor on your chest, with your legs straight and touching, with your arms stretched out in front of you in a “V” shape. Take deep breath and hold towel or a resistance band (if you have one) then lift your chest off the floor, exhale and pull the towel towards your chest, as you would with a regular lat pulldown at the gym. Always making sure you keep a good tension on the towel at all times. Then inhale as you push the towel back to the starting position above your head. Repeat exercise again with desired reps.

Exercise 4 – Elbow Pull Up

Finally, this exercise is a great way for people to begin lifting their body weight and it is a great workout for your back too. With this one you want to make sure you are on a carpet or you have something under your elbows for padding, then you are ready to begin.

Lay on the floor, legs together and arms slightly lower than shoulder width with your fists facing the ceiling as if you were going to do a bench press.

Take a deep breath and push off the floor with your elbows till you can’t lift anymore, hold for a second and then exhale and lower yourself to the floor and then repeat with desired reps.

With all the exercises here, its very important to control your breathing when pushing and pulling.

How To Do Pull Ups At Home Without A Bar  – Conclusion

Hopefully the four exercises above will help you to keep a good level of fitness when working out at home. With exercises 2 and 3 you can use resistance bands if you have them and would work as an alternative to your body weight.

Hopefully this post on “how to do pull ups at home without a bar” will help keep people busy and active with these alternatives, especially during lockdown and while gyms across the globe are closed.

If you have tried the exercises and found them useful, then please comment below and let me know your thoughts as I would love to hear them.

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14 thoughts on “How To Do Pull Ups At Home Without A Bar, 4 Wonderful Tips

  1. It’s kind of funny when I think about it now, but I actually tried the door pull up a couple of months ago and ended up pulling the door off the hinges.

    I forgot to place a book underneath it, and now I’m sitting here staring at this funny looking door of mine. (If we can still call it that).

    I’m stuck with the towel version until I fix my door, so hopefully, that lasts me longer than the door did.

    Thanks for the post, bud. I had a blast reading it.

    1. HAHA did you really?

      the thing with the door pull up is you have to make sure the door can take it, plus the weight of your body hanging off the door. As I mention in the video… to be careful if you attempt it as it is potentially dangerous.

      glad you liked reading the post pal. The other exercises will do a good job for you, should you have no doors to hang from having pulled them all off their hinges. LOL!

      drop by again soon.

  2. I have a pull-up bar and I am a HUGE work in progress when it comes to doing a full pull up. The options you have given are GREAT! I love the table option (Australian Pull Up). The towel door pull up is a great alternative to resistance bands!!
    These are all great exercises for beginners and intermediate “pull-up-ers”
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Anna,

      I hope you are well? Glad you liked the post and found it of use. The exercises here all do the job without the need for a pull up bar. I do them all regularly if im not able to get outside on my bar. Theres always options around the house. Make sure you check out our other posts and youtube videos on health and fitness, plus other workouts etc.

      thanks for stopping by.

  3. Hi Lee,

    Firstly, I have to say that if this lockdown only lasts 4 weeks I’ll be esctatic, although I can’t see it happening.

    But as you say, fingers and toes crossed that we’re all allowed back in the gym by early-December.

    I actucally have a pull up bar at home, and I don’t know where I’d be without it,

    I’ll openly admit I occasionally “show off” in the gym with my range of pull ups, but it’s been one of my favourite exercises for as long as I can remember.

    I typically do hundreds of pull up variations on a daily basis (basically 15-20 reps every time I go upstairs, which is quite often).

    With that said, you’ve certainly listed some fantastic alternatives here for those who don’t have a bar at home, and I can attest to the fact that they definitely work.

    I’m not adverse to doing towel pull ups every so often (just like your bedsheet pull ups), as they typically improve grip strength (something that we could all do with).

    Absolutely loved the video Lee, you did a great job, really easy to understand and follow.

    I know for a fact that most people are worried about losing lat and trap strength and muscularity when they haven’t got access to a gym.

    I’m going a little differently about things for this second lockdown (no pull ups for 30 days, how will I cope?)

    I like setting myself 30-day challenges (and I have written about my current one) and I’m focusing on kettlebell work and conditioning for the next 30 days.

    I’m on day 5 at the moment and things are going well, although let’s see how I feel in about 25 days time, LOL (It works out to a total of 16,500 reps completed in 30 days, but I’m quite well-known for my ridiculous workouts, Haha).

    A fantastic read Lee and keep up the great work.


    1. Hi Partha,

      thanks for the comments. I do agree with you that the lockdown may last longer than the four weeks that have been suggested. At least with this post people have an alternative option if they don’t have that pull up bar.

      Its great how you are able to do that many pull ups daily…its a massive help being able to use your stairs and that’s funny to think of you showing off with your bar skills at the gym…you show off! haha.

      Having a strong back is so important for the vertebrae and your posture to name a couple, so knowing how to do pull ups at home without a bar should be beneficial for many.

      I hope the kettlebell challenge is going well and you’ll have to let me know how you get on at the end of the month.

      thanks again for kind words…always a pleasure pal.

  4. I own a pull-up bar at home and quite frankly, it’s the life saviour while this crazy lockdown is happening. However, before I got myself a bar, I was doing some of these exercises using towel. It was something that I learned from a callisthenics pro. Just like you did here, he was recommending these exercises if you are just getting started with this kind of exercise or just want to do your workout at home. In any case, awesome article! I like how you explained each exercise. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Ivan,

      I hope you are well? people do tend to forget that body weight exercises or calisthenics workouts if you will can do a good enough job for you, when gyms are closed or you are starting to exercise/workout.

      These exercises work brilliantly for the beginner and intermediate individual alike. With all the crazy workouts some people do these days, I think its important to remember the basics as a foundation to build on.

      I thought a “how to do pull ups at home without a bar” post and YouTube video to help people during these cold dark days and nights locked in their homes would be of use.

      thanks for stopping by.

    2. Hi Ivan,

      having a bar really does make things a lot easier and they are a great piece of kit. Lots of people aren’t as lucky and knowing how to do pull ups at home without a bar is well worth knowing. All these exercises can be done by anyone, whether your starting out or even a little more advanced.
      Glad you enjoyed the post.

      Take care mate.

  5. These are great exercises, I am wondering if I should try them to strenghten my back. I have some back problems (my spine), and so while I read your article I was asking myself if it would be a good idea to strengthen the back muscles? Is it recommended when the spine is slightly bent?

    1. Hi Christine,

      I hope you are well? I think these exercises are a good way to strengthen your back gradually. they are all low impact exercises and you can do as little or as many as you liked. These are perfect for someone with a weaker back to help rehabilitate it and increase strength.

      I would absolutely seek the advice from your doctor before you try any of these, but ad a way to start building strength in the back… these are great.

      hope this helped, speak soon.

  6. Great alternative workouts. Thanks for a great video too. I really love these. I will be trying these for sure. Just not sure if my door is not going to come down with me haha!

    1. Hi Angee,

      I would only attempt the door pull up if your door is secure and your grip strength is up to it. It would be best for most people to stick to the variation where both feet are firmly on the ground. How to do pull ups without a bar at home is well worth knowing especially under the current circumstances and not being able to get down to the gym, even if you don’t use the hanging from the sheet exercise.

  7. Hi Lee

    These are such creative alternatives! No excuses now. My upper-body strength is infinitely better than it was a year ago. I’ve never tried pull ups but these would actually be a great place to start.



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