Pull up bars do wonders to build all the muscles in your back; your lats, traps, rhomboids and even your biceps, but what about your chest and triceps? It turns out you can, but you'll need to be a little inventive.
The Problem With Pull Up Bars
Just about every pull up bar out there advertises itself as a full-body exercise equipment contraption.
The marketers will say that you can perform:
The problem is that you can really only perform more than 1 single, solitary exercise for your chest and triceps with a pull up bar; pushups.
This is achieved by placing the unit on the ground, making sure it is stable, grabbing each end and performing a pushup.
It will look a little bit like this:
Different pull up bars will allow you to perform different types of push ups on the ground, but in general, there are 2 types:
Any pull up bar that allows you to do hammer grip pushups (with your palms facing each other) is going to be a lot better than any bar where you are required to have your palms facing the ground.
The reason for this is simple, you simply don't need a bar where your palms face the ground. You can just hop on the ground and pump out pushups that way with or without the bar. It's redundant.
Bars that allow you to have a hammer grip on the other hand allow you to perform an exercise that you can't easily duplicate on your own, you'd basically be left using your fists as support to achieve the same thing:
These types of bars also have another distinct advantage, this type of pushup really hits your triceps, and it allows you to get a nice, deep stretch that you wouldn't be able to get if your hands were on the floor.
The vast majority of pull up bars out there will allow you to perform both types of pushups. Here is a short list of pull up bars that allow both palms inward and palms facing the ground type pushups:
Note, all of these pull up bars are the type that you use by bracing them up on and in between a door frame. Any bar that you have to screw in, or is permanently affixed on the wall, will not allow you to perform any of these exercises.
However, that simply isn't the biggest problem here.
The biggest problem is that, unlike what the marketing team of these bars tells you, you cannot perform a good dip on these bars.
If you don't believe me, watch one of these advertising videos and see for yourself:
To perform a proper dip, you lower yourself by lowering your triceps at nearly a 90 degree angle
Look at the picture next to this text to see what a proper dip should look like, when lowered:
Lowering yourself below that 90 degree angle puts way too much undue stress on your shoulders, and as such greatly increase the chance of injury.
On the other hand, if you are only lowering yourself to around 45 degrees or so, as in the videos, you really aren't doing your real work in your chest and triceps.
Furthermore, because the pull up bar sits on the ground, it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to add any weight to your dips.
So, what's the solution?
Luckily, you've still got some really good options, so let's go over some great pull up bar exercises for chest.
Weighted Dip Static Holds
Although you can't properly perform a full-range dip on a pull up bar, that doesn't mean you need to throw the baby out with the bath water.
A really great way to burn your chest, and especially your tricep muscles is to perform a "static hold" on the bar.
To perform this, all you need to do is get the bar into position, as if you were going to do a normal dip on the bar.
Next, you'd lower yourself as far as you can comfortably go (without touching your butt on the ground), as close to that 90 degree mark as you can, and then hold that.
Hold that position for 10, 20, 30 seconds or more. Rest for a few minutes. Rinse and repeat.
The thing with static holds is that they are a really good way to finish your workout, but they shouldn't be used as one of your core exercises.
Luckily, there is a really great exercise for just that.
Weighted Push Ups on the Pull Up Bar
A weighted pushup should look something like this:
As most pull up bars have a weight limitation of around 300 lbs. or so, you don't have a lot of leeway when it comes to doing any kind of weighted work.
But if the bar is on the ground?
That's perfect, because now you've got a great exercise where you can:
How you perform a weighted push up is simple:
- 1Fill up an old backpack with some plastic weights, or anything that won't break, or fall off to the side (you can easily make do with old plastic weights, big books and jugs full of water)
- 2Strap on the backpack, making sure to tie it around your chest, getting it as center and high (a little lower than your shoulders) as you can
- 3Perform your reps
- 4Rest and repeat
The most time consuming part here will be finding something that you can use to fit in a backpack, and the initial set-up, but, once that is done, it's done and you've got yourself a very good substitute for dips; an excellent, weighted exercise that hits your chest muscles better than a regular pushup.
This next exercise is a great secondary exercise to your weighted push ups.
Elevated Feet Pushups
With this exercise, you don't even need your pull up bar.
You could probably use it for to perform this, but in my mind, your feet wouldn't be safe and secure.
They are called elevated feet pushups and all you do is place your feet on something that is elevated, such as a small chair, bench or a few boxes, get into the push up positions and perform a regular pushup.
Here is how you perform it:
Here a weighted push up will really work the entire chest, an elevated or decline pushup will really work your upper chest, shoulders and triceps as well.
There are a few key things to bear in mind when performing this:
An exercise like this is best used as a secondary chest exercise, as the position really works your shoulders. Ideally your shoulders will be warmed up, loose and ready to go after the weighted pushups.
A Sample Pull Up Bar Chest Workout
Just because you don't have a bench press bar doesn't mean you can't pump up your pecs with an awesome, testosterone-inducing workout.
Here is a good sample workout that focuses on the chest, triceps and shoulders.
- 12-4 sets of push ups on the pull up bar down on the ground (to get the blood flowing)
- 22-4 sets of weighted push ups (you should use a weight to get somewhere from 6-12 reps on each set)
- 32-4 sets of elevated pushups
- 42-4 sets of static hold dips
With 1-2 minutes rest between each set, you are looking at a good chest workout, all from the comfort and convenience of your home, that will take as little as 20 minutes.
Log all of your reps, sets and weights and when it comes time for your next workout, try to at least increase the reps, weight or another set. Even an extra rep on just 1 of your sets counts as progress.
A good pull up bar will not be able to replicate everything that is in a commercial gym, but it will give you the ability to still get in an awesome, kick-ass workout that hits not only your back and biceps, but also your chest, triceps, shoulders as well as abs.
Follow the steps laid out in this article and you'll never have to leave the safety and comfort of your own home just to get a good chest workout in.