Ultimate Pull Up Bar Workout

So. It's post leg day and you've done more squats this week than the Hoff has had spray tans.

What next?

pull ups.

Compound exercises? Tick. Muscle building? Tick. Some sort of bar involved? ...erm...tick.

But if you're really going to get a grip on your pull up bar training, you need to more than just a few chin-ups.

There are always going to be weak points, imbalances and individual idiosyncrasies which you'll want to address – mainly to build strength as well as improve.

So doing a variety of pull up styles, targeting the smaller muscles as well as the different stages and movements involved and training for a precise technique is the best way forward.

And for the amount of benefits available to you from doing just this one style of exercise, it's really worth putting in the time and effort.

Muscle gains, upper body strength and greater grip strength – to name just a few – are all up for grabs.

So, to maximise your workouts and take your pull up training to new heights, we've put together the ultimate pull up workout to help you improve your technique, form and strength.

Starting out:

Pull ups

Perfecting your pull up takes more than just doing them repeatedly. It's about training each element in turn so that you can improve your form. This means doing a variety of shoulder and back strengthening exercises where you isolate each side, on top of core strengthening to help you maintain the slight angle as you lift yourself up.

Get used to targeting each part of the pull up as well. This isn't about doing full pull ups. It's about breaking it down and targeting each link in the chain. Include things like jumping pull ups, negative pull ups and practise going from dead to active hangs. Isometric training is also really important here so pausing in a state of active hang in-between each pull up as well as trying to lift a barbell that is too heavy for you to lift. Pushing against a wall is also a good one to do. Just remember to maintain the tension in your muscles as you work.

Add in some variety:

Once you're happy with your traditional-style pull up, it's time to add in some variety. And even though it may seem daunting to get an entire workout done with nothing but a pull up bar, it is completely possible and you don’t need to be insanely strong to do it.

The most important thing to remember here is that you shouldn't keep trying to do pull ups when you're too tired to lift your own bodyweight up. Maintaining that explosive energy as well as a correct form is what you're looking for. As soon as you start to lose that, take a break from doing any upper body work and then head back to the bar once you've recovered.

Pull up workout

To get a full body workout while just using a pull up bar, it's important to superset your bar work with a range of cardio exercises. We've listed some below to help get you started:

Pull up variations


Variation: Chin up

Targets: Biceps and back

How to do them: Keep your elbows pointing downwards with a narrow grip and bring your chin to the bar while keeping your body straight and looking upwards.

Why they're great: these are great for anyone still working on perfecting their pull up technique as they don't require as much engagement from your legs and core.

Variation: Hanging knee raises

Targets: Core, shoulders and grip strength

How to do them: Raise yourself up into an active hang so that your shoulders are back and down. Then bring your knees into your chest and back down again while maintaining a straight posture.

Why they're great: Not only will you be able to develop a good amount of upper body strength as you stay in active hang, you will also be able to strengthen your lower core. This is really important for developing your pull up so that you can do more advanced moves like muscle ups.

Variation: Around the world

Targets: Biceps and back, one arm at a time

How to do them: Start in your active hang position with a wide grip. Then pull your body up towards your right hand, move across to your left while still in a raised position and then drop back down to your starting position. Changed direction halfway through.

Why they're great: One step away from one-armed pull ups, these are great for building strength on each side as you place nearly all your body weight onto one side.

Variation: Clapping pull ups

Targets: Explosivity and grip

How to do them: Pull yourself up to the bar quickly and with power. Then, while you're up, momentarily take your hands off the bar and clap them together, before catching the bar and lowering yourself back down in a controlled manner.

Why they're great: By doing explosive pull ups, you're training your nervous system as well as your muscles so that you can really fire up your movements and develop a quicker, more powerful pull up.

Variation: Negative pull ups

Targets: Biceps and back

How to do them: Raise yourself up into a pull up and then lower yourself down as slowly as possible. You can try counting down to 10 as you descend to help maintain consistent reps.

Why they're great: Negative pull ups are really beneficial because they tax your muscles to a greater degree than normal pull ups. By moving back down in a controlled way, you're resisting the lengthening of your muscles so you are tearing more fibres. And this equals greater strength.

Variation: Towel pull ups

Targets: Grip strength

How to do them: Hang a towel over the pull up bar so it's even at both ends. Then grab each end with each hand and pull yourself up. Make sure you use a towel that is thick enough to handle the exercise.

Why they're great: Unlike the pull up bar, towels not only move around so it's more difficult to remain stable (working your core), but it's really hard to maintain your grip so holding on really helps you to develop this. Grip strength will help you in all sorts of other exercises as well – on the pull up bar, with a barbell, dumbbell and when you're doing dips, bench presses and squats too.

Variation: L-sits

Targets: Lower core, quads, arms, back and shoulders, as well as hip flexors

How to do them: Bring yourself up into an active hang and then raise your legs up so that they're at a right angle to your body. Keep your spine straight and pause. Then lower back down in a controlled manner.

Why they're great: Pull up bars aren't just about working your upper body. They're a great excuse to get in some lower core work too. L-sits allow you to train your abs, quads and hips, while maintaining an active hang.

Cardio exercises for in-between sets:

Intersperse your pull up workout with these cardio intense exercises for optimum fitness:

  • High knees
  • Jumping jacks
  • Mountain climbers
  • Toe taps
  • Step ups
  • Wall runs
  • Kick backs
  • Jumping squats
  • Alternate jump lunges

The best thing about doing variations around this workout is that it really helps you to perfect your pull up technique. By trying out different styles and just used to be being at the bar, you'll train your nervous system, your grip, your muscles, as well as improve your explosivity.

Show us how it's done – find us on Instagram and Facebook @MirafitOfficial.