Can’t Do a Pull-Up? Try These Upper Body Exercises Instead.

by Chris Miquel December 28, 2015

Can’t Do a Pull-Up? Try These Upper Body Exercises Instead.


  • Pull-ups are a very difficult move because it completely relies on relative strength, or how strong you are compared to your body weight.
  • You can get the same exact muscle recruitment from other upper body moves that you would get from pull-ups.
  • If your goal is to eventually do one pull-up, follow this guide.

Pull-ups are one of the true tests of strength. They completely rely on how well you can move your own body weight and require you to use a very large muscle group. The major muscles involved include the large back muscles (your latissimus dorsi and rhomboids), posterior deltoids, and biceps. Your will also have to engage your core to maintain proper shoulder alignment. With everything that goes into complete just one pull-up, it is very understandable that some may not be able complete them. But don’t fret! There are many exercises you can do instead that yield the same muscle recruitment.

So if you’re looking for a substitute exercise or progression plan towards a perfect pull-up, give these upper body moves a try.

  1. Dumbbell Holds This one targets your grip strength. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart and arms at your sides, hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  2. Scap-ups
    Hang from a pull-up bar with hands facing away from body and feet off the ground. Press down shoulders and gently squeeze shoulder blades together. Release back to a normal hang with shoulder blades level and apart. Repeat 15 times.
  3. Plank
    Place hands on floor, directly under shoulders, and legs straight behind you with feet hip-width apart (at the top of a push-up position). Hold for 60 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  4. Supine Cable Pull-Down
    Lie faceup on an incline bench with legs away from a cable machine, knees relaxed and feet resting on the floor. Grab hold of cable overhead. Keeping arms straight (but not locked), squeeze shoulder blades together and pull the cable overhead and down toward your chest. Repeat 15 times.
  5. Inverted Rows
    Stand facing an empty barbell racked at about chest height. Hold the bar with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart and elbows bent. Walk feet underneath the bar, so your body is angled, and you are facing the ceiling. Keeping legs straight and elbows close to body, extend arms to lower away from the bar, then squeeze shoulder blades together as you pull up and bring your chest toward the bar.
  6. Empty Bar 100s
    Hold an empty barbell with an underhand grip (palms facing up). Keeping elbows close to your body, curl the bar 100 times as fast as you safely can while maintaining good form.

Original Article: The Best Upper Body Exercises When You Can’t Do a Pull-Up (Yet!),, 12/22/15

Chris Miquel
Chris Miquel


Chris is a serial entrepreneur, internet marketer, and founder of Get Your Fit Together who was an out of shape father who is finally Getting His Fit Together. He started the publication in hopes of empowering a Fitter, Healthier, and Happier You!

He has put together a few eBooks you can download directly through facebook messenger:

8 Fat Burning HIIT Workouts You Can Do Anywhere | The 8 Best Yoga Poses For Aching, Sore Muscles | 11 Top Secret Recipes That Rev Your Metabolism | 12 Easy Muscle Building Recipes Anyone Can Make | 14 Incredible Whole Food Meals The Whole Family Will Love | Turbocharge Your Muscle-Building Results With 14 Exercise Upgrades

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