Pull-ups are a compound exercise that work every muscle in your upper body. They are a hard exercise to replace, but if you don't have access to a pull-up bar or a lat pull-down machine, you can do a workout with dumbbells that trains all the muscles you use to do pull-ups.
If you don't have a pull-up bar, you can work the same muscle groups with similar exercises, using dumbbells.
1. Bent Over Rows
Bent over rows are the dumbbell exercise that simulates pull-ups the most. They work your trapezius, latissimus dorsi, teres major and minor, rhomboid major, posterior deltoid and biceps.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your knees slightly and bend forward at the waist 45 degrees. Inhale and pull the dumbbells up to your chest. Exhale and lower the, back to the starting position.
Dumbbell pullovers work your triceps, lats, serratus anterior and pecs. You need a bench or an exercise ball to do this exercise.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back on a weight bench with your feet flat on the floor. Hold one dumbbell with both of your hands, gripping the handle with your palms like you're holding a bat. Inhale and lower the dumbbell behind your head, keeping your elbows straight. Exhale and bring the dumbbell back over your head, returning to the starting position.
3. Biceps Curls
Biceps curls strengthen your biceps, which are the primary muscles you use when you do chin-ups — pull-ups with an underhand grip.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing out. Inhale, then curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders, exhaling at the end of the motion. Inhale and lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. You can curl both dumbbells at the same time or alternate between arms.
Perform eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise, working up to three sets in a row before increasing your weight.
4. Reverse Curls
Reverse curls strengthen your biceps but place more emphasis on your forearms. This is important because pull-ups require a lot of forearm strength to maintain your grip on the bar.
HOW TO DO IT: Reverse curls are performed the same way as biceps curls, except instead of holding the dumbbells with your palms facing out, rotate your hands 180 degrees so your palms are facing behind you.
5. Reverse Fly
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your chest on a bench or stand and bend forward at your hips, keeping your back flat. Hold one dumbbell in each hand and bend your elbows slightly. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift the dumbbells until your elbows reach shoulder-height. Slowly lower back down.