Outside the Box – Pull-Up Exercises

Outside the Box – Pull-Up Exercises
Reading Time: 5 minutes

It’s been nearly a year since I got my first body weight (unassisted) pull-up. A goal I’d had for what seemed like forever finally came through, but I’ll admit to being a bit slack on working on them since. By now I should be doing sets of 5-10 with ease… I’ll admit this is not the case.

Body weight exercises are always going to be a little more tricky for people like me – being taller than average is not in my favour with long levers and a larger mass to move. But that needn’t be an excuse for under-performing when you have people like Chyna Cho and Sara Sigmundsdottir (5’8″ and 5’7″ respectively) at the CrossFit Games. The key is to work at your weaknesses, and as the author of Happiness By Design (a book I thoroughly recommend, by the way) says – if you want to do something, make it easy to do.

So to try and combat this I bought myself a Pull Up Mate. The Pull Up Mate is a freestanding pull-up bar and dip station, so it doesn’t need to be fixed to a wall or slotted into a door like most home pull-up bars. It’s strong enough to support 110kg body weight and can be taken apart quickly to store under a bed or behind a sofa. It was actually my husband who found it and sent me a link (and admittedly he’s had the most use out of it too!) but it was perfect for what we’d been looking for. We bought the wide grip version and it fits nicely in our spare room for regular use.

Here are my “homework” exercises for improving my body weight exercise strength and technique.

What you’ll need:

Pull-up Exercises


  • Jump or pull yourself up to the top of a pull-up position (chin above the bar).
  • Slowly lower yourself down.
  • Aim for 5-10 seconds on the lowering phase.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Shaking is expected!

Pull-up holds

  • Jump or pull yourself up to the top of a pull-up position (chin above the bar).
  • This time hold the top position for 5-20 seconds before lowering.
  • Embrace the silly facial expression you no doubt have!
  • Repeat 3-5 times.

Lat pull down

  • Attach two light-weight bands to the top bar of the Pull Up Mate.
  • Slot a broom handle through the loops of the bands.
  • Sitting either on the floor or on a chair, hold the ends of the broom handle in a wider than shoulder width grip.
  • Pull the bar down to below your chin, using your back to initiate the movement (don’t let your elbows lead).
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps x 3 sets.


  • Attach a band to the top bar of the Pull Up Mate and hook your knee into it.
  • Allow the band to support your body weight as you hang from the bar.
  • Using your back to initiate the movement, pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.
  • Slowly return to the start.
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps x 3 sets.
  • To make this more difficult, use a lighter band (or no band) or pull yourself until your chest touches the bar.

Ring Exercises

Ring dips

  • Attach a band to the handle of one ring.
  • Loop the other end of the band over the other ring and hold in place with your hand.
  • Step your knees into the band, keeping your arms fully extended and hands tucked in close to your body.
  • Bend your elbows to lower yourself until your biceps touch the rings, keeping your arms close to your body throughout.
  • Push yourself back up to fully extended arms.
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps x 3 sets.
  • To make this more difficult, use a lighter band (or no band).

Muscle-up progressions

  • Hold the rings with a false grip – this is where the ring rests on the edge of your wrist and your hand rotates inwardly to grip.
  • Yes, it feels weird!
  • Stack your feet directly under the rings and lean yourself back until your arms are fully extended.
  • Pull yourself up, using your legs to assist a little if needed, until the rings touch your rib cage.
  • Peel your hands apart and drop yourself forward until you’re in the bottom of a really deep dip.
  • Jump or push yourself up to the top of a ring dip.
  • Repeat 8-12 times x 3 sets.
  • To make this harder, put your feet further forward of the rings.

Core Exercises

Hanging knee/leg raises

  • Hang from the bar in a “dead hang” with your knees tucked behind you.
  • Keeping as still as possible, pull your knees up and towards your chest.
  • Lower back down to the start.
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps x 3 sets.
  • If you find this easy, try straightening your legs (you might need to hold a half or full pull-up to be able to do this unless your bar is higher!)

Windscreen wipers

  • Hanging from the pull-up bar, straighten your legs out to one side.
  • Sweep your legs up and over to the other side.
  • Pull a really silly concentration face.
  • Repeat 8-12 times x 3 sets.
  • If this is too hard, bend the legs a little to shorten the levers and make it easier.


Photos taken with my Olympus PEN E-PL7*.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in association with Pull Up Mate. I bought my own Pull Up Mate, but the Reebok rings and Bulldog Gear bands were samples gifted to me. As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by payment, or items/services gifted to me. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page. * Affiliate link. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page.

Georgina Spenceley
Georgina Spenceley


  1. 19th December 2016 / 7:53 pm

    I saw your instagram with the ‘lat pull down’ and thought it was absolutely fantastic! I have a power rack with a lat pull down etc in our garage. But only the other night I was talking to a friend about how to put together a ‘home gym’ type situation without spending a tonne and mentioned your idea. The problem with the power rack etc is that is takes up so much space, it’s expensive etc etc and that’s why I think this is fab.
    Oh, I need to mention that my weight lifting face is ‘special’ so I’m pretty impressed that you managed to look great whilst hanging, I just look…pained! x

    • Georgina Spenceley
      19th December 2016 / 10:33 pm

      Thanks Katie! I got the idea from one of our coaches at CrossFit who uses bands on our rig so thought I could easily do that with the Pull Up Mate! Bands are great for everything really. Power racks are great, but like you say they are expensive and take up loads of room, and if you don’t have exactly the right space it just doesn’t work so having something more versatile is really good! Haha, got to love a lifting face!! x

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