Pull ups is one of the best compound body weight exercises, it requires a good level of fitness and hit upper body really hard. So even if you’re used to heavy weight training, adding it to your routine has a lot of benefits. And today, rather than talking about how to make more pull ups or how to make them easier, I’ll give you 16 variations to bring it to the next level and make it harder.
Obviously, you have to be able to do at least 10 pull ups before getting into harder variations, so if you can’t, train yourself with assisted pull ups and other exercises to build your upper body strength for it. If you can knock out pull ups easily, let’s make it harder.
#1 Around the Clock Pull Ups
This variation puts a lot of pressure on your upper back and shoulders as you have to shift your weight around while maintaining your body weight up at the bar. As you pull up to the bar, shift your weight to the left, then gradually shift it to the right and back to the center as you move down. This way, try to move your body in circles clock-wise (or counter click-wise) while pulling up.
#2 Typewriter Pull Ups
Let’s add more movement to the shoulders with typewriter pull ups variation. A typewriter head moves horizontally back and forth as it types. So will you, after pulling up to the bar. Pull up straight, then shift your body all the way to the left, then to the right and back to the straight position to pull down. This is really great for your shoulders and upper back.
#3 One and a Half Pull Ups
Making it harder, we don’t do just one pull up for a rep, we do one and a half. After pulling yourself to the bar, lower down halfway and then pull yourself back up. That’s one rep. This variation requires a lot more control in the eccentric movement when descending because you have to stop your body mid way and reverse the motion.
#4 Hanging Bat Pull Ups
This variation shifts more of your weight to the shoulders and make them work harder. To do hanging bats, pull your knees to the chest and move your chest slightly away from the bar. It works your core as well as you have to keep your torso stable.
#5 Mixed Grip Pull Ups
You know that pull ups are done with your palms facing away from you, while chin ups are done with palms facing towards you. The difference in the grip targets different muscles, pull ups favoring back and shoulders while chin ups hit the biceps more. Mixed grip pull ups allow you to get the best of two variations at the same time. So grab the bar with one of your palms facing you and the other facing away.
#6 Commando Pull Ups
This variation also uses a mixed grip only you use a tight grip with your hands close to each other and pull yourself up to your shoulders, one at a time. This variation also works your shoulders more.
#7 Twisted Pull Ups
A simple but effective variation adding some twisting and rotating action. Simply twist your body to the sides as you pull up. This targets your obliques and core as an extra to the upper body training.
#8 Angled Pull Ups
Putting more weight on individual shoulders by shifting your body at an angle as you pull yourself up to the bar. It’s a pretty simple but effective variation, as you only have to pull yourself up diagonally to each side at a time rather than pull up straight.
#9 Spiderman Pull Ups
You probably know the Spiderman push ups variation, where you raise your knee to the chest and to the side as you push down. The same variation can be applied to the pull ups. Lift your knee up to the chest and to the side slightly twisting your body too. Alternate sides with each rep. This makes your core work harder stabilizing your core and adds rotational movement.
#10 Front Lever Pull Ups
If you know the front lever exercise, we can combine it with pull ups for a great core and upper body exercise. You do front levers by keeping your arms and body straight but raising your feet up while pulling your chest away from the bar. Add a simple pull up after each front lever and you have one of the hardest pull up exercises ever that hits you really hard.
#11 Headbanger Pull Ups
A hard but great exercise for the upper back. After you pull up to the bar, push your chest away from it by extending arms horizontally while still maintaining the same height, then pull back to the bar. Imagine doing an inverted row only hanging from the bar, not being on the ground.
#12 Switch Grip Pull Ups
After you pull up to the bar, quickly switch the grip of one hand. Do the same with the other hand on the next rep and keep doing it as you keep pulling yourself up. This adds some spontaneous eccentric action and explosive power training, one hand at a time.
#13 Plyo Pull Ups
One of the hardest pull up variations as you have to not only pull yourself up to the bar but through it in order to generate momentum to lose the grip and catch it again as you fall back down. This trains your explosive power and spontaneous eccentric muscle contraction.
#14 Cyclone Pull Ups
Hanging leg raises meet pull ups in this exercise, so it trains your core and upper body at the same time. Lift your legs up perpendicular to your body and swing them to the sides as you pull yourself up to the bar. This leg raising and twisting movement works your abs and obliques as well as your arms, shoulders and back.
#15 Assisted One Arm Pull Ups
Grab the bar with one hand and its wrist with the other hand as you perform a pull up. Most of the load goes on the gripping hand and the shoulder but also your core as you have to maintain your body stable.
#16 One Arm Pull Ups
Finally, the hardest pull up of them all – the one arm pull up. You have to be in a really good shape to pull it off but if you can, make sure you add it to your routine. Not only do you get double the load on your arms, you need a very strong core to keep your body stable and in balance as you hang and pull up to that bar.