Pullups are one of the most effective exercises for developing the upper body. Because they require a great deal of strength, many people find them difficult or even impossible. If you find yourself in this predicament but still want to reap the benefits of pullups, opt for pullup replacement exercises. While they may not be as effective as the classic pullup, these exercises can still go a long way to develop your upper body.
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Horizontal pullups are a toned-down version of the vertical pullup and are appropriate for nearly every fitness level. Stand in front of a a fixed horizontal bar that is at about chest level. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip and straighten your arms. Keep your body in a straight plane from heels to shoulder. Pull up to the bar until your chest almost touches the bar. To make the exercise more challenging, lower the bar to waist height. Sit on the floor underneath the bar. Reach up and grasp the bar. Plant your feet on the floor and bend your knees. Pull yourself up until your chest almost touches the bar. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position and repeat the exercise..
This exercise mimics the movement of a pullup but allows you to use much lighter resistance than your own body weight. Sit at a lat pulldown machine and position your knees beneath the pads. Grasp the bar with a wide overhand grip. Straighten your back, stabilize your abdomen, and pull the bar down to your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the end of the movement. Slowly return the bar to the starting position.
Because you must move your own body weight, rope climbing is a replacement for pullups. However, with rope climbing you can use your legs and feet to assist in your ascent. Pull yourself up the rope a foot or two, using your upper body, then lift your knees upward and clamp the rope between your feet to give your muscles a short rest before climbing further. Begin with climbing short distances and progressively increase the distance as you get stronger.
Combination Strength Training
Pullups primarily target the lats and biceps, which can also be worked with dumbbell rows and bicep curls. To perform a dumbbell row, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Tighten your core, straighten your back, and bend over at the waist while slightly bending your knees. Begin with your arms straight and the weights hanging toward the floor. Pull the weights toward your chest while lifting your elbows as high as you can. Slowly lower back to the starting position.
Bicep curls can also be performed with dumbbells. Stand holding a weight in each hand with your arms straight at your sides. Keeping your elbows tucked close to your body, bend your arms and bring the dumbbells toward your chest and shoulders. Slowly lower back to the starting position.