There are different pull-up variations—not many people are aware of that. Instead, they think that it’s just “old reliable,” being your standard pull up.
Well, there’s a way to diversify the pull-up portion of your training regimen, and you absolutely should mix it up a little.
Take advantage of these different ways to put a spin on the traditional pull-up, and you’ll work out more muscle groups, and get an all-around better full-body workout.
#1 Muscle Ups
Get ready to find out just how to fit you really are.
Muscle-ups are no laughing matter. They take a ton of willpower and some serious muscle before you can even really attempt them.
If you’re doing pull-ups for weight loss, this isn’t the pull-up variant that you should start with.
You’re going to basically do a dip, and then pull your entire body up until your arms are fully extended, and your torso is leaning over the main bar.
It’s like taking moves that are already difficult—like dips and normal pull-ups—and setting them on fire. The good thing is though, it’s going to work your muscles like they never have been before.
You don’t want to do crazy reps of these. Just enough to get that light biot of helpful burning in your abdomen, and then you can proceed from there.
#2 Spinny Ups
Okay, so this is what I admittedly called them when I first started out.
I’ve since learned that they’re often called Around The World’s, but I like spinny ups far better.
This is when you put your power into one side of your back over another.
If you can pull up on your left side and lower with your right, most of the resistance is going to that left side. Those are your lower and upper back muscles, as well as your shoulders.
Do that for as long as possible, then switch it up. Go up from the right, down from the left. You’re kind of putting your body in a very light and calculated spinning motion.
This is something that shouldn’t overtake your current standard pull-ups.
They’re a good variant to throw in the mix when things get boring, and when you want to test how strong your back muscles are as well.
#3 Parallel Pull Up
Do you know those door frames pull up bars?
You might even have one at home. Well, the reason that they have those pegs sticking out is for this type of pull up.
It might not seem like this changes things, but it messes with everything you know about pull-ups.
When you grab onto those instead, it shifts your center of gravity and throws your weight off like you wouldn’t believe.
But that’s a good thing. It’s good to get out of your normal routine and mix it up a little bit.
The parallel push up is going to target upper back muscles a bit more since you’ll be relying on them for stabilization and support throughout this.
#4 Wide Range Pull-Ups
Let’s go slow and activate an absolute ton of back muscle groups, shall we?
This one is pretty self-explanatory.
You stretch your arms to the ends of the pull-up bar (while also leaving a bit of a margin for yourself), grab on, and with this wide stance, you start to pull yourself up.
Talk about a workout.
You’re not only engaging your upper back muscles, but your core is going to go into overdrive here.
What you’re doing is essentially putting enough strain on your arms and pecs that your core wakes up and says, “Don’t worry guys, I’ll help.”
If you have the option to go across the room and do one right now, go do it. I’ll wait.
Did you feel that burn in your upper abdomen? It’s not going to target the whole thing, but it’s a nice added boost, you know?
#5 Wide Underhand
Picture everything I just said, but also do it like a chin up.
Have your hands spun around the other way.
So what’s this going to do? It’s going to test you.
You’re adding that gap to engage more muscles and take more out of you with each pull, but you’re also flipping the script.
Start out at a narrow to medium span. Work your way outward to a wider stance. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself for listening to this later.
Since your muscles are used to being pulled a certain way, the wide underhand is going to confuse them a bit.
Starting out slow like this is a good way to work into it without pulling a muscle or causing yourself an injury right off the bat.
#6 Weighted Pull Up
It’s not an easy one, but it shows you just what you’re made of.
The weighted pull up does a lot for you. It adds resistance, which is the core of a lot of bodybuilding exercises and works your muscles just a little bit harder than they’re used to.
Once you’re used to doing 30-50 normal pull-ups in a single set, you need to switch it up to prevent boredom and to actually improve instead of just maintain.
You can achieve this in a few different ways.
- Use a weighted vest. These add tons of resistance without pulling on one specific area of your body.
- Use a chain and belt to attach a weight plate. This dangles off the front of you, and while it does put some extra strain on your lower back, it adds plenty of heavyweight resistance for a better workout.
- Place a dumbbell in between your ankles and pin them together to hold it in place. This one’s not the most practical, but it gets the job done.
Whichever way you want to do it, you absolutely should add weight to your pull-ups for the best possible effect.
If all you have at your disposal is a pull-up bar, you’re not alone.
Plenty of us gets stuck with just this piece of equipment.
So let’s put it to good use. Grab onto the bar with your right hand, then put your left hand over it.
You’re going to pick yourself straight up, with your left hand (the hand over your contact hand) you will pull that shoulder underneath it, with your other shoulder protruding slightly.
Think of it like a 75/25 mix: most of your weight is on the outside, some of it is on the inside and just aiding in pulling you up.
They kind of work like single-arm assisted pull-ups, which we’re going to roll right into.
8. Single Arm Assisted Pull-Ups
Much like the single-arm pull up we talked about earlier when referring to calisthenics, this single-arm pull up is assisted to help stabilize you during the pull.
Use your dominant arm (to start with) and grab onto the pull-up bar, or whatever you’re doing your pull upon. Use your other hand and grasp onto your forearm. Squeeze tight.
Now, pull yourself up. Because you’ve connected your non-dominant hand to your dominant hand, you’re pulling from both sides.
Unassisted single-arm pull-ups require you to have enough strength on one side of your body to carry this out, but here, you end up using a little bit of strength that’s borrowed from your other side.
Switch your arms, give it another go, and let us know how it goes in the end. This is more used as a measurement of how strong you currently are.
Check-in every now and again by doing some of these to see if you’ve improved.
#9 Mixed Grips
One hand under, one hand over.
What’s that going to do? Test your muscles. That’s what all of these exercises are determined to do.
Switch off after every five or ten pull-ups by placing your hands in inverted positions. This is going to tell you a lot about your dominant side, and where you tend to lean while doing pull-ups.
Think of it as an analytical pull-up. It could either target weak points and highlight them for you, or you could surprise yourself with how much strength and power are in your muscles.
Besides that, they’re fun.
#10 Clapping Pull-Ups
Alright, I saved this one for last because it’s kind of a doozy. You have to pull yourself up with extreme force and momentum, and when you reach the apex of your pull, you let go.
Clap. Grab back onto the bar, and try to ease yourself down to complete a normal pull up.
It is. It’s not easy to do, and in the gym, it can be a little show-offer, but at home, this is a seriously powerful exercise.
See how many you can do (spoiler: it’s not going to be as many as you think).
It’s a fun one to toss into the mix, but don’t get bent out of shape if you can’t do a set of these. They take a lot out of you.
11. Calisthenic Tuck Ups
I love calisthenics, and we love it here on Body Weight Heaven.
When you go to do a pull-up, freeze at the apex of your pull.
Hold it there for a second while you bring your legs up (which should be dangling at about a 20° angle), and pull them into an ab crunch. Tuck your knees up to your chest.
Slowly release the recoil, and then lower yourself. You basically just froze a pull up at its peak for like twenty seconds, and you’re going to do it again.
Endurance is the name of the game with this one. Time to see what you’re made of.
Get Ripped Arms and a Shredded Core
Pull-ups are one of the core exercises that should absolutely be in your workout regiment.
If you want to get closer to that shredded core of your dreams and fantastic arms with rounded shoulders, this is what you need to do.
But it isn’t enough to do pull-ups. Incorporate these exercises into your calisthenics program to see maximum benefits.
If you’re not familiar with the core nature of calisthenics, check out our full guide for more information, and work it into your daily life alongside these pull-up exercises.