When Pull-ups Aren’t An Option

Pull-up Exercise Options

It shouldn’t be too difficult to notice that I’m a fan of pull-ups. As you can see, I’ve been known to do pull-ups almost anywhere. More often than not, you can find a place to perform the exercise. There are occasions however when you may not have any options. For instance, if you are traveling, you might not feel comfortable performing pull-ups from a hotel door. Fortunately, if you find yourself in that position, there are other options available. The portable pulling exercise that follows is a prime example.

Pulling On The Go

Many low-tech or home based workouts are rooted heavily in pushing. Push dominance typically originates out of convenience. Pushing exercises such as pushups and burpees can be performed anywhere without equipment. Quality pulling exercises aren’t as easy to find without free weights or a pull-up bar.

Strength Training At Home (Pulling)

Fortunately, there is a useful option that you can pack with you wherever you go. All that you’ll need is a 41 inch resistance band and something that serves as a handle. In the video below, I use a piece of pipe. A more travel-friendly option would be a towel. The towel would also provide additional grip strength benefits.

This resistance band exercise is both convenient and effective. You won’t need much room to perform it and the benefits are impossible to deny. As for how much resistance is needed, I typically recommend a medium or large band. It is also possible to use two bands at once if or when you outgrow a single band. The exercise is more difficult than it looks though so I wouldn’t expect that to happen too soon.

Push and Pull

Another benefit of traveling with a resistance band is that it can be used for pushups as well. Simply loop the band around your back and through your hands and you have a challenging pushing exercise.

Resistance band rows and band resisted pushups can be combined for a convenient, yet effective upper body workout. These exercises can be performed virtually anywhere. You won’t need to worry about overhead clearance or a pull-up bar. You could literally perform these exercises on the side of a bed in a hotel room.

Final Thoughts

It is always useful to have quality pulling exercises available at your disposal. Just because you don’t have weights or a pull-up bar isn’t a valid reason to exclude pulling from your training. And even if you have access to those other tools, band resisted rows can still provide a useful challenge. With enough resistance, this exercise can quickly become an extremely challenging strength movement.

In summary, if strength is your goal, don’t limit yourself to pushing. Balance out some of that pushing by pulling hard and often. Not only will you prevent imbalances, but you will also develop a stronger and more capable body.

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“Opportunity is often difficult to recognize; we usually expect it to beckon us with beepers and billboards.” – William Arthur Ward


  1. Hey Ross,
    Which pull up bar in that in the very bottom center picture? That looks like the perfect size for my room in my new apartment. My current one is too big and can’t fit in the door frame.

  2. This sounds great and very helpful for travel, but one question: does a person’s height affect which band they should order? I’m 6’6″–do I need to worry that I’m overstretching the band if I do the exercise above? Thanks for all the ideas and great info!

    1. I’ll test it from a similar length tomorrow. I’ve had someone around 6’1″ perform the exercise without problems, but I’ll set up a test of a few more inches and get back to you. I don’t anticipate problems, but you may not need as strong a band (the further it stretches, the greater the difficulty).

      I’ll respond back tomorrow or the next day.

        1. Okay, so after some experimentation… you’d definitely be challenged by pulling the stronger bands to that length. Not so much because the bands can’t handle it, but rather due to the tension of an already strong band.

          Another option would be to stand on the band with one foot and perform what will look somewhat like a bent over row. You’ve got a little more freedom to vary the total distance.

          You could also perform a one arm row if you can secure the band to an upright structure. I’ve demoed something similar in the past with a homemade handle (also made from pipe).

          Let me know if you need more info/details.

          1. Thanks for taking the time to look into that and get back to me, Ross. I really appreciate it. I’ve got some travel coming up, so I’m going to order one (or both) and give it a shot.

    2. Heey, I’m over 2 meters tall. Dont know how many feet or inches. Gues 6’7 or 6’8. And pulling with the band works great. But there is a lot of initial tension, so exercises get a lot harder if you compare them with shorter people (sometimes it hurts my ego). Use the band now for over a year still are in great condition :), use them for overhead work also then they get really stretched. Hope this helps.

  3. Hey Ross,

    I remember the band high pulls from Never gymless. That could be convenient for travellers. Resistancebands in general are very convenient since they easy to pack and they offer resistance just as much as you want to with just just about any exercise you`d like to do. Offtopic: I just came across the grappler pull up. Ever tried them?

  4. hello Ross I want to thank you for all the advice, information that you give us your advice donnes.Avec I made ​​myself 45kg and 20kg sandbag of differement.Je to work just read your paper on “When Are not Pull-ups An Option ” and I learned enormously important things for me who lives in FRANCE.
    Ross thank you

  5. Looks awesome, simple and effective, but… One question

    I can’t do pull-ups anymore due to a (partially) torn biceps tendon. My arm gets wrecked anytime I do (a) pull-up(s). You have any clue if this method is safe for this kind of injury?

    1. @Jan – If the bicep tendon is torn, I wouldn’t engage in any pulling. Have you seen a doctor/surgeon to discuss possible options?

  6. Never has this crossed my mind, only just started following your posts but will be doing so for the forseeable
    Future, thats for sure!!

    Brilliant and convenient exercise!!

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