Best Pull Up Assist Bands of 2022

One of the most effective exercises to build upper body strength and muscle is the humble pull up. Pull up assist bands are an excellent tool in both working you way towards being able to do full unassisted pull ups, or for improving your technique if you can already get your chest up to the bar. The most common mistake I see with pull ups is people who only execute the movement in a small range and don’t allow themselves to lower fully before coming back up to the bar. This is generally due to a lack of strength in the end range, or limited mobility through the shoulders.

How to use pull up assist bands:

Like all fitness equipment, it’s important to regularly inspect your gear for signs of wear or damage. We’ve all seen the home gym fails on YouTube and all jokes aside, you can suffer some really serious injuries if some of this equipment goes wrong during a workout. Pull up assist bands can sustain wear over time, especially if they’ve been looped over a rough edge or surface.

Before every workout, give your pull up assist bands a visual inspection and do not use if you think they’re damages. This is a relatively inexpensive piece of gear, so it’s not worth risking injury if you think it needs replacing!

Always complete a general warm up for 5-10 minutes before starting your workout and do some light mobility work through the shoulders and back to get the right muscles activated. It’s important to keep your core switched on during any exercises and remember to breathe! Exercises using a resistance band should be performed slowly, in a controlled manner. Your focus should be on getting the full range of movement, not maximum weight or reps.

Pull up assist bands come in different thicknesses / resistance levels depending on your needs. I suggest buying a pack with several different resistance levels in it so you can increase or decrease the level of resistance / assistance as required. These bands can be used for a huge range of different exercises, not just pull ups, so a variety of resistance levels will mean you can do more with them.

Using Resistance Bands for Pull Ups:

To attach your band to the pull up bar, fold the band over the bar, then pull one side through the other to create a choke knot (see image below). Your band should sit firmly on the bar and have a long loop dangling down in the middle.

best pull up assist bands 2022

Depending on how high you can lift your leg, you might find it helpful to stand on a box or step to get yourself into the band to begin with. Stretch the band down and place one or both feet (or your knees if you prefer) into the loop of the band. Grip the bar in your desired grip position for pull ups / chin ups and get yourself centered

Maintaining a stable body position with your core activated, pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar. It’s important to focus on proper technique, so you are using the correct muscle groups and getting the maximum benefit from these exercises. Your shoulders should be down away from your ears, your chest should be out and shoulder blades squeezing together. At the top, pause for one to two seconds and then lower yourself back to the start position, maintaining control. The eccentric part of this movement (that is, the lowering back down) is super beneficial when done slowly and controlled. If you can fight against gravity and make this movement as slow as possible, you will get much more bang for your buck with your pull ups!

Using pull up assist bands for beginners:

So, what if you can’t pull yourself up to the bar yet? A thicker resistance band will provide more assistance in getting you up to the bar as it will support more of your weight, so adjusting the difficulty level of your resistance band is an obvious place to start. If you’re just starting out, or recovering from injury, you might find that even the thickest resistance band you have available is still not enough support to get you all the way to the bar. A good way to work around this is to perform eccentric pull ups only. This means you only do the lowering portion of the movement, but do it as slowly as you can to fight against gravity. You will need to start on a box of some sort so you begin each rep with your chin already at the bar, then use the resistance band to help you slowly lower all the way down until your arms are extended. Place a foot back on the floor, climb back on the box and repeat.

resistance bands for pull ups 2022

Choosing the right size pull up assist bands:

As I mentioned previously, a multi-pack of resistance bands is a great way to give yourself versatility in how you can incorporate pull up assist bands into your workouts. You can also adjust the level of resistance of a single band to gradually increase or decrease the level of difficulty.

Adding Resistance

By wrapping your band around the bar an extra time, you can shorten the length of the band from the attachment point.

Providing Assistance

By starting with the band wrapped around the bar more, you can then increase the length of the band on exercises such as pull ups to increase the assistance given. If you only have thinner assist bands available, you can always combine bands together to provide extra assistance. As your your strength increases, remove each band.

What do the different colors mean?

Different manufacturers use different color ratings to identify their resistance bands. They are generally categorized by weight, so it’s important to check the specific brand your looking to purchase to make sure you pick the assistance bands that are right for your needs. Visually, a thicker band is usually more resistant that a thinner one,but it all comes down to the tension in the rubber, so make sure you look at the specifications.

You might consider what exercises you want to perform with your resistance bands too. I find a thicker, wider bands more comfortable to stand or sink a knee into for pull ups, but I like a thinner band for exercises where I’m gripping on to it. You do you.

 Pull up assist buying Guide

Here’s my 2022 pick of the best pull up assist bands to get your fitness goals firing. Just a reminder that as an Amazon Associate, I can earn from qualifying purchases that result from this website.

LEEKEY 4 Pack Resistance Bands

This multi pack from Leekey is a great starter kit that should meet all your resistance band needs. It’s affordable and comes with thousands of positive reviews on Amazon, so you can feel confident spending your money on a product that has had that many satisfied customers. The bands in this pack include:
Red Band (15 – 35 lbs)
Black Band (25 – 65 lbs)
Purple Band (35 – 85 lbs)
Green Band (50-125lbs) .

The red band in this pack is a little stronger resistance than some of the lightest bands in other multi-packs, so if you want something super lightweight, make sure this isn’t going to pack too much punch for you. These bands can snap eventually and there are several reports of snapping occurring, but you should be seeing evidence of aging through cracks in the rubber before any major failures occur. As I mentioned above, it’s important to inspect your gear regularly! The thinner bands are the ones most prone to failure.

WODFitters Pull Up Bands 5 Band Set

From as light as 10lbs up to a heft 175lbs, this five pack of pull up assist bands will have you covered for exercises that target every area of the body. An excellent investment for a home gym set up, where you might be short on space or on a limited budget. You’re probably paying a slight premium because of the Crossfit flavor in the marketing here, but you can be pretty sure of a quality product. All these bands are 41″ in length, but the resistance level varies as follows:
Red Band: 10lbs – 35 lbs (0.5″ width)
Black Band: 30 – 60 lbs (0.75″ width)
Purple Band: 40 – 80 lbs (1.25″ width)
Green Band: 50 – 125 lbs (1.75″ width)
Blue Band: 65 – 175 lbs (2.5″ width)

As with many things in life, you get what you pay for. The WODFitter bands do come at a more premium price, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence from customer reviews that these bad boys are durable AF and will last whole lot longer than their cheaper counterparts. You need to weight up how much use you think you’ll be getting out of them when deciding how much to invest. I think that once you’ve had a 40″ rubber band snap on you once, that you’ll be looking to the more expensive versions to minimize your chances of that happening again!

What is the point of kipping pull ups?

What are kipping pull ups?

Not sure of how to start a conversation among a group of gym go-ers? Try bringing up the topic of kipping pullups and see how that goes for you! When you mention the word Crossfit, it elicits some strong (and often polarizing) responses in people. Those who participate in it or enjoy the competitive level athletes as a spectator hold Crossfit in high regard. It is widely recognized as a thorough test of whole-body strength and endurance. However, for every one of those people, there is at least one who poo-poo’s the Crossfit community. The most common points of concern are the high rates of injuries as the focus on massive numbers of reps can result in poor technique due to fatigue. The culture of pushing your body to complete the “WOD” (Workout of the Day, for the uninitiated) at any cost has been frowned upon as being unsafe and many fresh-faced “Crossfitters escalate their weights too fast without developing good mobility and connective tissue strength resulting in injuries too.

I’ll write another article about injuries and Crossfit, because I think there’s a lot of misinformation floating around, but for now, let’s just talk about kipping pull ups. One of the biggest bugbears of the Crossfit haters is the kipping pull up. The “kip” is the introduction of the lower body into the pull up movement, creating momentum, which helps to drive your chest towards the bar.

Kipping pull ups are often sneered at as a “cheats” pull up and branded a dangerous movement, yet features regularly as a standard part of Crossfit workouts. It’s sparked many passionate discussions at my own gym over the years, so I thought I’d answer some of the frequently asked questions about kipping pull ups here.

The official Crossfit opinion is that “the kipping pull up is a full-body movement that increases the demands of coordination and agility compared to a strict pull up”.

It’s important to note that strict pull ups are also included in Crossfit, so there is no argument that they are a substitution exercises or that developing the strength and technique to perform strict pull ups isn’t important. In fact, kipping pull ups are intended to be learned after you’ve mastered strict pull ups – they are not designed as a progression to strict pull ups, although that is how many view them.

What is the point of kipping pull ups?

Essentially, kipping pull ups are faster than traditional versions, allowing the athlete to perform more reps in the allotted time frame. They also serve as a foundation to muscle ups and can be useful in developing agility and explosiveness.

what is the point of kipping pull ups

The pitfall to watch for here is that the kipping version of a pull up should not be attempted until you can perform at least one perfect strict pull up. (Personally, I suggest getting to 5 reps of strict before attempting the kip). You need to develop the upper body strength to control the movement first.

The kipping thrust propels you upwards, meaning it takes less effort through the back muscles to get you to the bar, but the load on your shoulders if you can’t control the lowering movement properly is B.A.D. I’ve watched on in horror seeing people who can’t do a single strict pull up pump out 20 kipping pull ups, slamming their body weight down onto their shoulder joints.

For time-pressured workouts such as EMOM or AMRAP style, the kipping version is favored to reduce the amount of time their muscles are activated for and speed up the pace and max out their number of pull up reps.

Are kipping pull ups easier than strict ones?

Yes, in that there is less upper body strength required. However, if you are performing as many reps as possible in an allotted time, you could argue that performing 3 times as many explosive kipping movements can be just as exhausting as fewer strict pull ups.

Once executed correctly, kipping pull ups can also be kinder to your shoulders that traditional variations because you actually end up more horizontal than vertical to the bar thanks to the ‘kip’. When done poorly, however, these babies are death by a thousand kips to the shoulder joint.

Kipping pull up benefits:

The kipping pull up is an essential building block to difficult movements such as the muscle up. It’s a foundational skill to have for gymnasts working on bars or rings and also for those who compete in ninja warrior style events. Rockclimbers can benefit from developing the ‘kip’ movement as well. So, what is the point of kipping pull ups? I guess the main thing here is to weigh up what your goals are. If you are a competitive Crossfitter then of course you need to work towards learning all the potential movements you could be required to perform. The muscle up is one of the hardest movements to execute, and you will need to nail the kipping pull up first as a progression towards the muscle up.

If you are training for any sorts of gymnastics, parkour, circus or ninja warrior activities, this is also a worthwhile endeavour – or maybe you just want to mix things up a bit in the gym?

If developing strength is your goal, however, you are better focusing your time and energy towards strict pull ups, with variations on your grip to challenge different muscle groups.

Are kipping pull ups dangerous?

As I said before, kipping pull ups are something to learn after you’ve already mastered strict pull ups and can perform around 5 in a row. With any new movement, I recommend getting some guidance from a qualified coach to make sure you start off with the correct form.

It’s also super important to do work on your shoulder and thoracic mobility throughout your training. If you’ve neglected this stuff (be honest), /I highly recommend putting in the hard yards in improving mobility and connective tissue strength before loading up on any new movements. I love this article by The Prehab Guys, on the stages you should progress through before the kipping pull up.

I hope this has cleared up some questions for you and allowed you to have a robust discussion around the pull up bar. If you’re still working on the strict pull ups for now, check out my other articles for some training tips.

The Best Pull Up Alternatives without a Pull Up Bar

Obviously, if your goal is to be able to do pull ups, then you will need to get access to a pull up bar of some sort, whether it’s at home, the gym or even at a local park. There may, however, be times when you can’t access a bar for a period and need to find an alternative for pull ups… what should you do? Fear not! I’m here to share some of the best pull up alternatives yu can do without a pull up bar:

Row, Row, Row your boat
(however you can!)

Rows are an excellent movement that engage your back muscles, shoulders, arms and core. The great thing about rows is that they can be modified depending on what equipment you have available and also your ability. The most common ways you can do rows (without and fancy cable machines at the gym) are:

Doorway Rows

  • These are best suited to beginners, who might not be up to doing full pull ups yet.
    With your feet in line with the doorway, use a broom handle horizontally braced against the other side of the doorway or even hold onto the insides of the door frame with your hands.
    Note: Place a towel between the broom handle and the door frame to avoid damage and if you’re a really big unit, maybe consider other options, so you don’t go doing any damage.

Inverted Rows Using Furniture

  • Stuck at home? Grab a couple of dining chairs and sling a bar of some sort (broom handle) across them, leaving a gap between the chairs.
  • Lying on the floor, grip the bar and pull yourself up so your chest touches the bar.

Towel Pull Ups

  • If you can already perform a proper pull up, this alternative will be good for your grip strength. You will need two smallish towels. Tie a knot in each towel and place over the top of a door.
  • Close the door, so the knots act as an anchor and the rest of the towel hangs over the closed door for you to grip on to and pull yourself up.
  • If you have some sturdy straps such as car tie downs, these also work well.
    Note: Set yourself up so the door opened away from you, just in case you manage to force it open…my best mate cringed when he saw me doing this as he thought it placed to much strain on my door…I’ll let you be the judge!

Ring Rows

  • If you have somewhere you can fasten a set of rings (even over a tree in the backyard), you can do a killer workout as an alternative to pull ups. Lean back with your feet on the floor and row yourself up, adjusting the height of your rings to make it easier if need be. You can really drill down and target different muscles by throwing in some straight arm strength work here.

Bent Over Rows

  • Got a set of dumbbells? Great! If not, see what you can work with – I use a 15 litre water bottle, but maybe you have a jerry can in the shed or a chainsaw you could lift instead? (Not turned on!)

Renegade Rows

  • Harder to do with a chainsaw, I’ll admit!

Resistance Bands

  • One of my all time favorite pieces of low cost, yet versatile fitness equipment. Any of the ring row exercises of dumbbell exercises can be performed with the help of some resistance bands.
best pull up alternatives

Mobility work to improve your pull up performance

You’ve heard me banging on about it before – work on your mobility! Use this time without a pull up bar to really focus on strengthening your connective tissue and improve your range of motion. The most common injuries from pull ups are due to poor preparation. Work on your wrists, your shoulders and even your hips. Trust me!

Use a resistance band or a simple broom handle to get your arms moving freely over and around your head and incorporate dynamic stretching (that is, stretching the muscles while moving) in to your routine.

My favorite exercises that help with mobility, while also giving your muscles a hard time include:

  • Elephant walks
  • Back Bridges
  • Prone Trap Raises
  • Prone Swimmers

The main thing to take from this is understanding that you can still train specifically no matter what equipment you have access to. These pull up alternatives will keep you on track to improving your strength and fitness without a pull up bar – you can only work with what you have available, so remember SOMETHING is ALWAYS better than nothing!