Chin-up bars may not be as popular as other gym equipment. However, if you wish to infuse your sweat session with power and strength building, then bar exercises are what you need. Beginners and even fit individuals find them quite challenging, though. But not to worry. You can start with this pull-up bar progression list before proceeding to advanced exercises.

1. Dead Hangs

Lifting your whole body while holding on chin-up bars for support is a feat. But if you start with dead hangs or hanging from a pull-up bar, you’re giving your upper body muscles time to warm up and stretch.

This beginner exercise specifically targets the muscles on your hands and wrists, forearms, shoulders, upper back and core. With dead hangs, you can surely make proper pull-ups in no time. Moreover, these can decompress your spine, improve your grip strength and relieve shoulder pains.


  1. Step on a weight bench or jump box to help you reach the pull-up bar. Make sure not to jump straight into a dead hang to avoid hurting your shoulders and wrists.
  2. Hold the bar with your palms facing away from you (overhand grip) and your arms shoulder-width apart.
  3. Step away from the bench or jump box, so you are hanging onto the bar. Keep a correct form with your arms straight and relaxed.
  4. If you’re a beginner, hang for 10 seconds before stepping back onto the weight bench. Then repeat the exercise three more times.
  5. Increase your exercise duration up to 1 minute as you gradually progress.

2. Isometric Holds

Once you’re comfortable with dead hangs, it’s time to progress to slightly more challenging isometric holds. Here, your goal is to pull yourself up with your chin above the bar, then hold this position for a specific amount of time.

People do the isometric exercise on chin-up bars to target the lats or scapulae, which are essential for performing pull-up exercises. To some extent, isometric exercise also strengthens the forearms, shoulders, traps, triceps and middle back. It also helps in correcting posture and shoulder issues.


  1. Step on a weight bench or jump box to reach the pull-up bar.
  2. Grab the bar with your palms facing away from you and your arms shoulder-width apart.
  3. Step away from the bench or jump box, so you are hanging onto the bar. Keep your arms straight and relaxed.
  4. Pull yourself up, moving your chin above the bar. Keep your chest out and your elbows down. Make sure to breathe while pressing your shoulder blades together.
  5. If you’re a beginner, hang for 5 to 10 seconds before stepping back onto the bench. Try to beat your previous time and work your way up to 60 seconds.

Man doing dead hang movement on a pull up bar

3. Negative Pull-Ups

Another effective exercise to prep your body for pull-ups is the negatives. It’s a type of eccentric exercise that aims to lengthen rather than contract your muscles. This movement, in turn, helps build muscle mass and strength.

Negatives can also teach you the proper form when lowering your body during actual pull-ups. Moreover, these also enhance your grip strength and endurance while working out your back and biceps. Here, your goal is to do each negative pull-up in a slow and controlled manner.


  1. Step on a weight bench to grab the pull-up bar with a shoulder-width grip. Your palms should be facing you this time.
  2. Step away from the weight bench and lift yourself slightly before slowly lowering yourself, with your arms fully extended. Release, then repeat for up to six more times.
  3. For consistency, you can try counting down to 10 as you descend.
  4. If you’re a beginner, you can do a leg-assisted negative. Instead of lowering yourself with both legs, try doing it with one leg only while keeping the other on the bench. This way, you have more control while descending without straining your arms.

4. Basic Chin-Ups

Building up strength will give your body power to perform active hangs and progress to chin-ups. Your entire body works together to pull and keep yourself up to the bar, making a standard chin-up an all-around exercise. This classic grip mainly targets your biceps and back. It can also strengthen other muscle groups and stabilise your spine.


  1. Start in a dead hang with an underhand grip (palms facing towards you) and your arms shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lift your body such that your chin is level with the pull-up bar. Hold this position for a few seconds.
  3. Slowly lower yourself back down, then repeat. Make sure to keep your body straight every time you pull yourself up.

5. L-Sits

While people consider L-sits as a floor exercise, you can also do them on the bar. Chin-up bars are not for upper body exercises only, after all. With L-sits, you’ll be on an active hang while training your core muscles, quads and hips at the same time.


  1. Grab the bar with an underhand grip.
  2. Raise both legs so that they’re perpendicular to your chest and parallel to the floor.
  3. Hold this position for as long as you can, then repeat.
  4. A variation of this exercise is to combine chin-ups and L-sits in one move. Try doing this when you’re comfortable doing either.

Are you tired of doing crunches and sit-ups for a strong core? Add these alternative exercises for core strengthening to your routine.

Man doing L-sit up on a pull up bar

6. Burpee Pull-Ups

Pull-up exercises are not all about muscle growth and endurance. You can try pull-up variations to get your dose of cardio fitness, too. The burpee pull-up move is one example. It’s a challenging exercise, but once you pull it off, you’ll be optimising your bar routine. Moreover, you can adjust the height of your chin-up bar as you progress for maximum effects.


  1. For your starting position, stand under the chin-up bar with your legs shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place your hands on the floor and kick your feet backwards to get into the push-up position. Bend your elbows and lower your stomach and thighs to the floor.
  3. Push your hips up and jump your feet back to the squat position.
  4. Finish the move by jumping up to grab the bar and do a chin-up.
  5. Extend your arms to descend and release. Repeat the same combo.

Doing bar exercises will surely benefit your body. However, make sure to limit your strength training routine to three times a week to give yourself time to rest and recover. Keen to try doing these at home? Check out this list of the best chin-up bars in Australia that you can conveniently install on your doorway or wall.

Infographic on 6 Beginner Exercises for Pull Up Bar