How to Do Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups: Tips, Benefits and Alternatives

Chest-to-bar pull-ups are an effective upper body exercise. (Photo via Pexels/Ketut Subiyanto)
Chest-to-bar pull-ups are an effective upper body exercise. (Photo via Pexels/Ketut Subiyanto)

Pull-ups are one of the most effective back workouts for beginners and pro exercisers.

It's a classic exercise to develop broad and strong lats, rhomboids and mid-traps, and is equally useful for biceps. While pull-ups are great and work wonders for the upper body, you can up the ante by enhancing your range of motion and trying chest-to-bar pull-ups.

What is Chest-to-bar Pull-up?

Chest-to-bar pull-up is an advanced multi-joint exercise that's mostly included in foundational training programmes. It targets the entire upper body and works all the muscles and joints almost equally.

However, the exercise is easier said than done. Pulling your chest towards the bar with a few extra inches of movement is intense and demands more power than a regular chin-up or pull-up. However, with the right form and technique, you can effectively execute the chest to bar pull-up and attain its amazing benefits.

Chest-to-bar Pull-up - Right Form and Technique

Follow these steps to do this back exercise correctly.

  • Start by holding the pull-up bar with your hands positioned slightly wider than shoulder-width distance. Wrap your thumbs around it, and hang from the bar, with your body and arms straight.
  • Keeping your shoulders back and down, press both arms forward against the bar, and push your body backwards.
  • As you do that, your buttocks will automatically move in front of the bar. From there, lean back a little, and keep your chest up.
  • Move your elbows back and down, and pull yourself up again for a part rowing and part pull-up motion.
  • Pull yourself up till the chest reaches the bar, and descend using a controlled and slow motion.
  • Perform a few reps.

Important Tips

If you want to get the most out of this back exercise, follow these tips while doing it:

Start with Basics

The basics of chest-to-bar pull-ups always start with your overall strength. So, begin by improving the form of your standard pull-ups so that they can help you avoid pain and injury that can occur during hanging movements.

Correct Foot Position

When doing this exercise, swing your feet from global extension to flexion, and maintain tension in the body throughout the move.

Engage the Core

Besides keeping the back stabilized, engage the core and glutes to execute the movement. A tight and engaged core cam help you initiate a higher power.

Keep the Neck Stable

Do not allow your neck to fall back during the movement. Make sure the neck is in a neutral position, to prevent neck strain.

Primary Benefits of Chest-to-bar pull-up

Chest-to-bar pull-ups are an excellent calisthenic exercise that work wonders on upper body strength and athletic ability while also offering some more benefits.

This exercise enhances upper body strength, muscular endurance, and muscle hypertrophy, depending on the intensity. Practicing it regularly helps you get better control of your body and also contributes to enhanced grip strength and endurance.

While regular pull-ups largely target the traps, lats, and rhomboids with more emphasis on the lats, chest-to-bar pull-ups increase your lat engagement. That allows you to pull your arms back and requires more work from your upper body muscles.

Chest-to-bar Pull-up Alternatives

Chest-to-bar pull-ups are a productive upper body exercise, but there are some alternatives you may try to keep your workouts interesting and new:

1) Isometric Chest-to-bar Hold

To do this exercise:

  • Use a bench or step to climb up to the top position of the chest to bar pull-up.
  • Engaging your arms and back, pull your shoulders down. Raise your feet, and hold this position for as long as you can.
  • Lowering down yourself by using a slow concentric lowering movement, relax and repeat. Doing that will challenge your muscles even more.

2) Banded Pull-up

To do this exercise:

  • Loop a resistance band around the bar, and step one foot onto it while hanging straight from the bar.
  • Hold the bar with an overhand grip, and keep your hands at shoulder-width distance.
  • Pull your shoulders back and down, and press your arms against the bar to push your body backwards.
  • Keep your elbows down, and pull yourself up till your chest reaches the bar.
  • Hold the position for as long as you can.

3. Chest-to-bar Lat Pull-down

To perform this alternative:

  • Grab the lat pull-down bar using an overhand grip, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width distance.
  • Sit straight on the machine with both arms extended over your head and shoulders pulled back and down.
  • Slightly lean back, and move your elbows back and down while pulling the bar to your upper chest.
  • Pause for a moment to maximize the use of your back muscles, and make sure you don’t rotate your arms.
  • Repeat.

4) Isometric Seated Row

To do this exercise:

  • Sit straight on the ground, with your legs extended in front of you and knees slightly bent.
  • Loop a towel over your feet, and grab the ends in your hands, with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Pull your shoulders down and together, and engage the upper back to pull the towel as hard as you can for a few seconds.
  • Rest and repeat
  • Try to generate as much tension in your back muscles as you can.


Chest-to-bar pull-ups are a difficult exercise and involve a harder range of motion than standard pull-ups. However, with the correct form and consistency, you can master this amazing back workout that can help build upper body thickness and width.

So, the next time you plan to do a pull-up, consider performing chest-to-bar pull-ups to see how it can boost your overall strength.

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Edited by Bhargav