Pull up alternative?

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by Street Warrior, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. Street Warrior

    Street Warrior New Member

    I travel lots so I have a fitness regime that I can do without any equipment. The only thing is pull-ups. Its usually pretty easy to find something to pull up on but occasionally I am at a loss.

    Any suggestions on an alternative that I can do without equipment. The closest thing I can think of are handstand pushups.

  2. CrowZer0

    CrowZer0 Assume formlessness.

  3. Injurytime

    Injurytime New Member

    Hi Streetwarrior,

    try door pullups. Hang from the top of a door and pull. It puts the elbows in a flared-out position so it might aggravate your shoulders, and if it's not your door be extra careful not to do it while wearing a belt because the buckle will plough a big scrape up the door. It's far from a perfect replacement but better than nothing.

    Other alternatives include 'let-me-ups' (inverse rows). Most tables and desks are of a good height to do pronated or neutral grip inverse rows, just test them for stability first. You can also use a broom handle and two sturdy chairs, because your hands are at the part of the broom handle right next to the chair so there isn't enough leverage to break it. Handstand pushups are ace but they're harder than pullups by a long way (can you do them? congrats if you can!). I don;t know how you're travelling around but maybe scoping out kiddie's playparks would be a good idea, if you're going by car? Stopping off as you hit town to do your pullups off the swings might make you look crazy but...

    Could you transport a 'hook' style pullup outfit with you? Unlike a normal doorway pullup bar these things hook over the lintel above the doorway so they shouldn't leave marks or require any permanent fixtures. In the UK, they seem to be about £20-50.

    Maybe you could use a doorway pullup bar and two circles of plywood with dense foam, polystyrene or baize/felt glued to them, so you can set the bar up in doorways without marking the wood. It's less secure than doing it the proper way but if you're doing pullups you can feel if the bar's about to give and just stand on the floor.

    If you travel by car, maybe you could take a nice big kettlebell with you. Swings are basically a pulling exercise for the upper body - think of them as ballistic deadlifts - and a basic kettlebell workout is actually good, despite them being in fashion. Plus you can do 1-arm rows with your kettlebell and then when you get back to the pullup bar your pull will surprise you!

    Finally, what about exercise bands? If you get a couple of high-tension ones and double them there's some serious resistance to them, and you could put them over the top of a door or around a (checked for sturdiness!) door handle with the door open, kneel (or squat if hardcore) and do straight-arm pulling work. Again, not as good as pullups, again better than nothing.

    As an afterthought if you have the cash there are several portable suspension systems on the market, basically a crap version of gymnastic rings and a kind of trellis thing to rig them up on that collapses to suitcase size. Not too great if you travel by train or bus, but very car-able.

    And as another, possibly more useful afterthought, getting a set of gymnastic rings might be the best £30 you ever spend. And you can hang them off a tree branch or the b-ball hoop at the park, off beams, off anything really, very portable and a great way to get scary strong.

    I sympathise with your plight, and I hope I've been helpful.
  4. Kuniku

    Kuniku The Hairy Jujutsuka

    Handstand push ups are the opposite exercise to pull ups no?
  5. Injurytime

    Injurytime New Member

    Ian, the movement is more or less exactly opposite but most of the same muscles are involved.
  6. Kuma

    Kuma Lurking about

    I would second the door pull-ups. I have the Iron Gym door pull-up bar which hooks over the lintel which technically is supposed to be supported by the accompanied bracket. However after moving I lost the bracket and never felt the need to replace it as it still works the same as before. I have brought mine travelling many times and it easily hooks over most doors without much trouble.
  7. Street Warrior

    Street Warrior New Member

    Thanks guys

    alto of great ideas. I am currently in malaysia and am using the local park. Ive also used the door frame a few times. Its not great but as you say, its better than nothing.

    I came across a DIY doorwar pull up handle so i think ill build it and see how it goes. It looks quite promising and lightweight enough that I could carry in my back pack

    thanks again for the suggestions.. very useful
  8. zombiekicker

    zombiekicker bagpuss

    would those inverse rows be a good place to start , i cant do pullups, still too heavy/not strong enough to pull up my bodyweight
  9. inthespirit

    inthespirit ignant

    OP, you could just take something like this along with you when you travel, it’s pretty light and probably not too difficult to fit in a large sports bag or suitcase, etc..

    [ame="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Powerbar-Pull-Up-chinning-bar/dp/B00140TJ0M"]Powerbar 2 Pull Up chinning bar: Amazon.co.uk: Kitchen & Home[/ame]
  10. Frodocious

    Frodocious She who MUST be obeyed! Moderator Supporter

    Yes. Make sure your using you back (retracting the shoulder blades) whilst doing them, rather than turning them into a glorified bicep curl.
  11. Bozza Bostik

    Bozza Bostik Antichrist on Button Moon

    I can't do them either....well, I can do like 3 and a few sets. It doesn't help that I have nearly no place to practice them. I think it's a technique thing with me....that's my excuse anyway.
  12. Late for dinner

    Late for dinner Valued Member


    Just out of interest, what makes you think this? I would have thought that a hand stand push up would work the muscles that were usually worked in an overhead press. The pull up is somewhat similar to doing a curl which seems the opposite of the overhead press. Any chance you can give a source that pull ups and hand stand push ups work similar muscle groups?

    If you are saying that any exercise that works the shoulder will work the rotator cuff or stabilizing muscles around the shoulder blade then... maybe

    If you are thinking that exercises that work the triceps are the same as those that work biceps/brachialis (muscles that work in opposite directions) then I will have to disagree with what you are saying.

    Where is Slip or one of the other PT guys on here when you want a biased opinion ;' ) :evil:

  13. Frodocious

    Frodocious She who MUST be obeyed! Moderator Supporter

    I think that for many people the suspension systems are a better option than the rings, because they offer more varied exercise choices. Rings are more difficult to use for leg and certain core exercises and can be more of a hassle to set up and adjust in certain circumstances.

    If I was travelling a lot I would go for the TRX (or something similar) rather than the rings.

  14. Injurytime

    Injurytime New Member

    Hi Latefordinner,

    in both cases you're using the support muscles, the rotator cuff and the whole mess of stuff that keeps your shoulderblades in place, that's certainly true. But if you go do a couple of each you'll see that a true pullup involves the tricep to some degree and handstand pushups involve the whole upper back just as pullups do. There's pretty much equal bicep contributions once you get into the hole in the hsp, which is one reason I often don't get back out of it. I doubt the muscles used are exactly the same to exactly the same degree: for one thing, the thing that makes untrained people fall off the pullup bar is usually grip strength while first-time handstand failures seem to be due to the muscles on top of your shoulderblades - traps superior etc - failing, or to balance issues.

    In short, hsp= more trap superior, more tricep, pu= more trap inferior, slightly more bicep, but there's massive crossover. Not identical muscles used but most of the same ones. I think, anyway - I have no studies, only experience (anecdotal evidence = always suspect).
  15. Frozen Ghost

    Frozen Ghost Valued Member

    I have had a TRX for some time and find it very useful in the gym and out.
  16. Nojon

    Nojon Tha mo bhàta-foluaimein

    I started off with some of these

    Looped over a pullup bar with my foot in one end. And gradually weened myself off of them to strict pullups.

    The guy in the video puts his knee through, I have a really tall bar so I put my foot in and extend fully.
    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TindOf7zyXM"]Assisted Band Pull Up (www.trainatp.com) - YouTube[/ame]
  17. Late for dinner

    Late for dinner Valued Member


    I guess my only question is couldn't you find a better exercise to mimic/replace the pull up? Things often feel like they are doing something and it's not until you measure/check your feelings that people figure out what really works. I worked on a study years ago where we compared voluntary versus electrically produced muscle contractions. Participants consistently thought that the electrically produced contractions were stronger but on testing they weren't. They felt stronger because they were an unusual way for the muscle to work but there was less forced produced which led to the conclusion that electrical stimulation is not a good substitute for normal exercise. The exceptions might be in the super weak or super fit where the marginal gains might be advantageous. For most of us it's better just to do the exercise we were trying to substitute. I will have to think on some other exercises that might work better for performing a similar contraction to a pull up. If you are doing a pull up the triceps are shortening as the elbow and shoulder angles are decreasing. In the OHP the reverse is happening so it won't affect the arm/shoulder muscles quite the way I would like. One might think that perhaps something could be worked out with bands and a door frame.

    Still, you are correct that there will be some stabilisation activity of both the rotator cuff and the scapular stabilizers. I , personally, would prefer to have something that was closer to the actual exercise I was substituting for.

    Just sayin'

    Last edited: Jan 29, 2013
  18. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    lateral pulldown?
  19. Princess Haru

    Princess Haru Valued Member

    I think my door frames would fall to bits if I put anything on them that was effectively pulling my bodyweight, not that I'm heavy or anything. At home I hook a light/medium band over the top of the door and do tricep pulldowns. I suppose I could use my hanbo as a bar with a heavier band to do lat pulldowns
  20. Injurytime

    Injurytime New Member


    I'm impressed by your knowledge of the subject and the impulse/voluntary thing is interesting. I wasn't arguing that the handstand pushup was a good replacement for the pullup - I don't think it is, though it is a great exercise and gives a few of the marginal benefits. Having a good hsp will help you have a good pullup and vice versa, but pulling motor patterns aren't trained by pushing, and one of the big advantages of training by using simplified, abstracted versions of the motor patterns you actually want to use is that you get to train motor patterns and muscles at the same time. Squats are a good example - not only does squatting make your legs stronger but it makes you better at squatting, which is a basic, vital human movement involved in getting out of a chair as wella s numerous athletic applications. Pushups use a lot of the same muscles as inverse rows but they aren't a good replacement. I think pulling movements are better for you than pushing ones and since pull is what most people neglect I'd argue in favour of a 2:1 pull:push ratio in training for a lot of folks, certainly I wouldn't suggest replacing a pull move with a push. I've taken up enough space in this thread already, just didn't want you to think I was talking about push being the same as pull - which is wrong.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2013

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