Pull Up Alternatives With Dumbbells


Pull Up Alternatives With Dumbbells

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Most people that have an exceptional physique, especially in their upper body, practice pull ups.

If used in the United States Marine Corps’ Physical Fitness Test, they’re probably great for the body.

However, people who don’t have a pull up bar feel like they’re missing out.

While it is amazing to have a bar, there are many exercises that you can do with the more available dumbbells that target the same muscle groups.

Before we get into the alternatives, we need to understand the exercise itself, and what makes it that unique.

How to Do Pull Ups

The first step is to do a proper warm-up and exercise with increasing intensity to avoid injuring yourself. You can do shoulder circles, arm and wrist rotations, hollow holds, torso turns, planks, and arm swings.


Yes. You should start with a bit of assistance to test the waters and avoid getting hurt.

Assistance mainly comes in the form of a resistance band. Other types include practicing with a partner, on a chair, or with a pull-up machine, resting your knee on the platform.

All kinds of assistance, more or less, use the same steps.

Secure the band at the top of your bar and put your feet on the band. Next, grip the bar with an underhand that you will change to an overhand as you progress, a bit wider than shoulder-width.

Then, pull yourself up slowly and steadily.

Make sure to press your shoulder blades together down and back, too, as the pulling up motion may encourage your shoulders to rise and your body to jerk because your weight should be on your arms.

Finally, descend as slowly as you went up. Pause in the hanging position before you pull yourself up again.


These movements are called “negative” because you use support on your way up, and only do the lowering step slowly, lengthening your muscles instead of contracting them.

People do negatives by jumping on the way up or hopping on a chair so their chins can be above the bar.

Either way, you have to be careful not to hit your chin, of course. Either way, you lower yourself slowly until the end and start again.

Actual Pull Ups

Congratulations! You must have worked very hard to get to the unassisted workout, and your body will thank you.

Grip the bar with an overhand because the underhand exercise is a chin up.

In the hanging position, your arms are straight and wide enough not to touch your ear. As you pull yourself up, keep your abs tight, butt clenched, shoulders activated, and chest up.

Keep yourself up in a small pause, then lower yourself slowly.

Benefits of Pull Ups

What is so special about this exercise that people are either doing it, experimenting with its variations, or seeking alternatives that do the same thing? Plenty.

  1. It targets an impressive number of muscle groups and joints: the wing-shaped Latissimus Dorsi, biceps, triceps, trapezius, infraspinatus, deltoids, pectoralis major (pecs), teres major and minor, forearms, and core. In simple English, it strengthens your core, back, shoulder, and arm muscles.
  2. It increases grip strength, which is vital for many sports like weightlifting, tennis, football, mountain climbing, baseball, and more. That said, grip strength matters in daily life even more because it makes opening stubborn jars or carrying heavy items far easier than it was.
  3. You can challenge your muscles when things feel too easy by increasing the intensity, adding more advanced moves, or weighing yourself down. The gradual intensity makes exercising more productive and efficient.
  4. The fact that pulling yourself up and lowering yourself down slowly against gravity helps you lose weight comes as no surprise, as it boosts metabolism and burns calories.

How Can I Replace Pull Ups With Dumbbells?

Whether a pull-up bar is unavailable or you’re just not ready to get into doing pull-ups yet, replacing these exercises with other ones that work the same muscle groups is as productive.

You can strengthen your shoulders, back, arms, and core using only dumbbells at home.

Dumbbell Row

This is an amazing alternative for pull-ups that is still easy enough for most people to do.

You start by placing a hand and a bent knee on a bench for balance, while your other hand grips a dumbbell. Make sure your body is parallel to the bench and floor, not slouching.

Now, pull up your dumbbell to your torso, then reverse the motion slowly. Switch sides.

Muscles Involved:

Triceps, core, Latissimus Dorsi, biceps, forearms, and upper back muscles.

Dumbbell Lat Pulldown

If you only have dumbbells available, you can still do your favorite lat pulldown exercises.

With your feet shoulder-width apart, grip a dumbbell in each hand. Next, straighten your arms by raising the dumbbells up over your head. Finally, pull them down to your shoulder, and repeat.

Muscles Involved:

Upper back, biceps, and Latissimus Dorsi.

Renegade Row

This exercise will give you a pull-up level figure in no time.

First, start in the high plank position with a dumbbell in each hand, tighten your ab muscles, and keep your body straight.

Then, slowly pull one dumbbell to your chest with your elbow close to your body. Next, lower it slowly and repeat it on the other hand.

Muscles Involved:

Core, back, chest, triceps, and shoulders.

Dumbbell Pullover

Dumbbell lat pulldowns are, as you probably guessed it, lat pulldowns, with dumbbells!

Start by lying down on your back over a bench. Hold one dumbbell with both hands or one in each from the weights, not the hand.

Next, extend your arms as you stretch the weights over and behind your head. Pause, then pull them back.

Muscles Involved:

Triceps, core, Latissimus Dorsi, pectoralis major, and serratus anterior.

Good Morning Exercise

This one is a bit advanced, so we first recommend practicing the movement without any weight to master the flow.

You start standing with a dumbbell in each hand. Rest the dumbbells on your shoulder blades.

Later, bend your knees softly and hinge at your hips while keeping your back flat and your feet pressed to the ground. Finally, slowly move your back in a bowing up and down motion.

Muscles Involved:

Lower back, shoulders, upper back, triceps, and hamstrings.

What Can I Use Instead of Pull Ups at Home?

Not everyone has the space for a gym bar or other gym equipment at home, so most people resort to alternatives they can find anywhere.

The most basic equipment you need to have is dumbbells; they spare you the need for many others, and the possibilities are endless.

If you don’t have dumbbells, you can exercise with books, milk jugs, paint cans, rice packets, and any weighty items that can be used as such.

Resistance bands, which are the most popular choice for assisted workouts, can be replaced with tied pantyhose, chairs, and robe ties.

Finally, you can replace the gym bench with your couch.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking for alternatives because you still don’t know how to do a pull-up or just to work out with what you have, the above ones yet target your shoulders, back, arms, core.

As stated above, remember to get into new activities gradually and to keep your target muscles activated.