T Nation

Alternatives to Pull-Ups

Hey guys,

I’m new to T-Nation and to working out, so I have a question.

I can only do about 5 pull-ups. Are there any other exercises that work the same muscles as a pull up that I can do instead to kind of work up to being able to do more pull ups. Right now for my back (besides the few pull ups I can do), I do rows, dead lifts and lat-pull downs. Any help with some good back exercises would be great.


Lat pulldowns.

some say not to do pull ups until you can do a certain amount of reps with heavy pulldowns but i’m not sure.

if you deadlift you’re doing serious work already (assuming you are doing it seriously).

when it comes to pullups why not set a target, say 12 pullups. then do the 5 you can, rest a minute, do another few then rest and so on until you hit 12 then stop. A couple of sessions later shoot for 15 and so on. Soon you’ll build strength, just keep form, no wriggling!

Look for pavel tsatsouline’s Grease the groove method. It’s good. In essence you would be doing 2-3 pullups whenever you pass your bar and then retest every once in a while and your max reps would have gone up. Note i did this for chins, my pullups are admittedly still shit.

Another exercise for you to check out (youtube) is ‘rack chins’, basically you do pullups with feet elevated and resting on a chair/whatever and so it’s less bodyweight, so you can do more reps without reaching ultra-failure. Should help you until you can do more, at which time you can just do regular pullups again.

This is the second pullup article posted in 2 days.


How about doing slow negatives? A change in training stimulus (ie. the way you do pullups) will get you out of that plateau. You can also try swtiching your grip.