The Many Pull Up Variations

The pull up is a very versatile exercise with many different variations to change which muscles bear the load of your body weight. Once you’ve mastered the standard full pull up it’s time to try out these more advanced variations.

Each variation slightly changes the primary target muscle placing more emphasis on 1 muscle than another.

What Muscles Will These Pull Up Variations Train?

These pull-ups variations allow you to target these muscle groups:

  • Latissimus dorsi (lats)
  • Biceps
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius
  • Triceps
  • Brachialis
  • Forearm Flexors
  • Core

Level 1: Chest To Bar Pull Ups

Instead of doing pull-ups to get your chin over the bar chest to bar pull ups require you to touch the center of your chest against the bar.  The goal of this exercise is to build the strength required for higher pull ups eventually leading up to learning the muscle up or building the strength for dynamic movements. As you progress you can make this more difficult by going even higher and eventually performing waist to bar pull ups.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Level 2: Archer Pull Ups

Archer pull ups use a wide grip and require you to pull yourself up towards 1 hand while extending your other arm straight above the bar and looking in that direction. This pull up variation requires much more strength than regular pull ups and loads a higher percentage of your body weight onto 1 arm instead of evenly distributing them to both.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Level 3: Typewriter Pull Ups

Typewriter pull ups are very similar to archer pull ups in which they load a higher percentage of your body weight onto 1 arm. However, unlike archer pull ups, this pull up variation does not lower yourself down to a straight arm position. Instead, one of your arms will stay in a flexed arm hang while the other straightens over the bar and you switch from side to side. This movement engages the biceps much more than other pull up variations and is a great progression after learning the archer pull up.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Level 4: Towel Pull Up

The towel pull up is pull up variation that emphasises the strain on your forearms and fingers. To do a towel pull up drape a towel over a pull up bar and grab onto each side. You can then hang and pull yourself up with a goal of getting your chin to pass the height of your hands. This pull up variation requires tremendous grip strength and in no time will increase your grip strength leaving you with a crazy feeling in your forearms.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions

If you want to get back to the basics and master the standard pull up check out our pull up progressions guide.