Pain Free Working

How to Do Pull Ups at Home Without a Bar

Pull-ups are a fantastic exercise for building upper body strength, targeting multiple muscle groups including the back, arms, and core. But what if you don’t have access to a pull-up bar? Don’t worry, you can still achieve similar benefits with a bit of creativity and resourcefulness.

What Can I Use if I Don’t Have a Pull-up Bar?

Pull-up bars can be bulky and not everyone has the space to store them. If you don’t have a pull-up bar, there are still plenty of pull-up options available to you. One is a bar that fits in a standard door frame. This type of bar usually offers multiple grip options and you can take them in and out of the door frame whenever you want.

Aside from getting a bar that fits your door frame, one of the simplest methods is to utilize that sturdy door frame. While not specifically designed for pull-ups, many door frames can support your weight if used correctly. Be sure to test the frame’s stability before attempting any exercises. Additionally, be careful with your fingers when you do this exercise method. 

Another option is to use a sturdy table or ledge that can support your weight. Place the table against a wall for added stability and grip the edge firmly as you perform your pull-up motion. Just ensure that the table is secure and won’t tip over during your workout.

You can also get creative with everyday household items like a broomstick or a sturdy pipe. Simply lay the broomstick across two chairs or countertops, making sure it’s firmly supported. Grip the stick with an overhand grip and perform your pull-ups as usual.

What Household Items Can I Use as a Pull-up Bar?

If you’re looking for a more traditional pull-up bar substitute, there are several household items that can serve this purpose. One common option is a sturdy closet rod or shower curtain rod. These rods are often adjustable and can be easily installed between door frames or other stable surfaces.

Another option is to use a horizontal beam or rafter in your home. This could be in your basement, garage, or even an exposed beam in a living space. Be sure to inspect the beam for stability and consider adding padding or grip tape to improve your hold.

An exercise band can also be used to simulate the motion of a pull-up. Anchor the bands securely to a door frame or other stable surface above you, then grasp the bands with both hands and perform a pulling motion similar to a traditional pull-up.

There are also a few options outdoors. One is using a tree branch to do your pull-ups. But of course, you should check the thickness of the branch first, otherwise, you can end up injuring yourself. It might take a little time before you find the perfect branch but don’t worry, you’ll surely find the one for you. 

You can also look for a fence that is smooth enough to drag your knees along to do pull-ups. A strong fence with a top you can hold onto is also a functional way to do pull-ups outside. An advantage of this method is that your lower body will be against the fence and you can’t swing them to help you do the pull-ups. 

Speaking of swing, you can also use a children’s swing to do pull-ups on. Since they’re stable, you can just hang on the bar, and off you go. The children’s jungle gym is also a good one as you can grab consecutive bars and pull your head up between them. 

How Can I Train Myself to Do Pull-Ups Without a Bar?

If you’re not quite ready to attempt full pull-ups, there are several exercises you can do to build strength and work your way up to the full movement.

One effective exercise is the inverted row, which targets the same muscles as pull-ups but with less resistance. Inverted rows are one of the best bodyweight exercises, meaning you don’t rely on equipment and instead lift your own body weight to do them. Aside from rows, push-ups are another example of bodyweight workouts. 

To do rows, find a sturdy horizontal surface, such as a table or low bar, and lie underneath it. Grasp the edge with a wide grip and pull your chest up towards the surface, keeping your body straight. To do the underhand method, start with your head under the table and your lower body outside. For the overhand way, stick your legs and body under the table and keep your head outside.

Another option is the assisted pull-up, which uses a chair or resistance band to support some of your weight. Place a sturdy chair beneath a pull-up bar or other stable surface and use your legs to assist you as you pull yourself up. As you become stronger, gradually decrease the amount of assistance from your legs until you can perform a full pull-up unassisted.

Other exercises that you can do make use of towels: towel pull-ups and towel doorway rows. It can be tricky to get a full range of movement but these exercises still work better than nothing. To do a towel pull-up exercise, you’ll need a couple of sturdy towels or washcloths. Tie an overhand knot in the corner of both towels, which will be used as your anchor. Place the knots over an open door and close it. Make sure that you use a door that opens away from you. 

To do towel doorway rows, take a towel and fold it twice lengthwise. Then take your folded-over towel and tie it around the door on the handle opposite of you. Make sure the door opens away from you. Once you have your towel secured, perform rows by using each side of the towel.

What to Substitute for Pull-Ups?

If pull-ups are too challenging or you’re unable to perform them due to space limitations, there are plenty of alternative exercises that target similar muscle groups. One effective option is the lat pulldown, which can be performed using a resistance band or cable machine. Simply grasp the handle with an overhand grip and pull it down towards your chest, engaging your back and arm muscles.

Another option is the bent-over dumbbell rows, which target the back muscles and can be performed with dumbbells or other weighted objects. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the weights in front of you with a grip in an overhand manner. Bend at the waist until your torso is parallel to the ground, then pull the weights towards your front, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do so.

What Is the Difference Between Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups?

The primary difference between pull-ups and chin-ups lies in the grip and the muscles targeted. In a pull-up, you grab the bar with your palms facing away from you (overhand), which primarily engages the back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi.

Conversely, in a chin-up, you grab the bar with your palms facing toward you (an underhand grip), which emphasizes the biceps and torso muscles while still engaging the back muscles. While both exercises are excellent for building upper body strength, they slightly vary in the specific muscles they target due to the position of your hold.

If you’re still confused about these exercises, seek out a personal trainer so that they can demonstrate them clearly for you.

Exercises Using Pull-Up Bars

You can do pull-ups without a pull-up bar, but if you do have one, you should maximize its use! Aside from pull-ups, you can do other exercises with pull-up bars. Try them out!

Full Pull-Ups

Now that you have a bar or an alternative to it, you’re ready to do your first pull-up workout! You can start with an underhand grip or a chin-up as it’s much easier compared to the overhand method. 

To do pull-ups, hang from the bar with your shoulders packed and focus on engaging all the muscles of the back of the body. This is your starting position. Next, bend your arms and pull yourself up, aiming to get the chin above the bar. Slowly lower yourself back down. You’ve completed your first pull-up! Simply repeat the exercise as much as you can.

When doing pull-ups, make sure to remember the width of your grip. For example, if the grip is the width of your shoulder, your entire back gets a workout. A wider grip focuses more on the width of the upper back. 


A personal trainer recommended simply hanging from the bar can as it can help build your foundational strength. It can also help with your posture and improve your grip strength. 

For this exercise, place your hands shoulder-width apart on the bar and hang. Keep your body straight as you hang from the bar but allow your knees to point down. Pull your shoulder blades down and together so that your shoulders move away from your ears (this is also known as “packed shoulders”) and the muscles of your upper back engage, chest proud. Brace your abs and squeeze your glutes. 

Release, rest, repeat. Alternate between overhand (palms facing forward) and underhand (palms facing you) grip.

Inverted Rows

Inverted rows are the lower-to-the-ground cousin of pull-ups. You place yourself under a bar that’s set to maybe waist height, and you prop your feet on the ground ahead of you, keeping your body straight, as if you were in a plank position. Then, pull your chest toward the bar.

Alternatively, anything that works with pull-ups can also work for inverted rows. The important thing is to get your workout equipment closer to the ground. 

Final Note

A pull-up bar is a convenient tool for building upper body strength, but it’s not the only option available. By using household items, alternative exercises, and creative techniques, you can effectively do pull-ups and work your back, arms, and core without ever setting foot in a gym. So don’t let a lack of equipment hold you back – get creative and start reaping the benefits of pull-ups today!

As always, if you feel any discomfort, it’s best to stop with the exercise. You don’t want to damage your back or develop any shoulder injuries. Seek the advice and help of a personal trainer if you want to continue doing pull-ups. 

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.