Can't Do a Pullup? Try This Lying Down Modified Pullup!

Lying Modified Pullups!

What Are Lying Pull-Ups?

Lying pull-ups, or inverted rows, are a bodyweight exercise where you pull yourself up to a bar from a horizontal position. This movement targets multiple muscle groups, making it an all-encompassing workout for the upper body. By adjusting the difficulty through bar height or body positioning, it caters to all fitness levels, from beginners to advanced athletes.

The purpose of this movement is for those who do not have access to a pull up bar or perhaps cannot do a pull up. It is designed to utilize just your bodyweight in having a similar effect. You can use the lying modified pull up to build strength to try an assisted pull up and then a pull up.

Muscles Worked During Lying Pull-Ups

This exercise primarily engages the back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and traps, while also working the biceps, forearms, and shoulders. The movement promotes scapular retraction and depression, key for shoulder health and posture improvement. Incorporating lying pull-ups into your routine ensures a balanced development of the upper body.

How to do Lying Pull ups?

  • Perform this movement by lying flat on your back with your feet on the floor, knees above you and your elbows at 45 degree angles from your torso. Your shoulders should be down and press back against the floor.
  • You will engage your scapula or shoulder blades by squeezing your shoulders down towards your hips and squeezing your shoulders back together. This should puff out your chest. While doing this, you will drive your elbows into the ground.
  • If you have enough strength, then your torso will raise up off the ground. It will also hyper engage your abs, but also your rear delts, upper back muscles and lats. These are the same exact muscles used in a pull up.
  • Keep your core tight and flexed the entire time. When you reach about a 45 degree angle with your back of the floor, lower yourself back towards the ground while maintaining tension throughout your body.
  • Lower your body until the back of your arms are laying against the ground again, then drive yourself back up in the same way.

Common Mistakes When Doing Lying Pullups

Many beginners make the mistake of not maintaining a straight line from head to toe, leading to ineffective muscle engagement or potential injury. Others fail to fully engage their core or allow their hips to sag. Addressing these common errors is crucial for maximizing the exercise's benefits and preventing injuries.

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Integrating Lying Pull-Ups into Your Workout Routine

Incorporating lying pull-ups into your workout routine can significantly enhance upper body strength and endurance. For beginners, starting with a higher bar and progressing to a lower one as strength increases is a viable strategy. Advanced athletes might add weight vests or perform more challenging variations to keep the exercise challenging.

Equipment and Form

To perform lying pull-ups, you'll need a stable bar set at an appropriate height in a Smith machine or a squat rack. Grasping the bar with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width, ensure your body forms a straight line, and pull your chest towards the bar while keeping your elbows close to your body. Proper form is crucial for effectiveness and safety.

The Lying Pull-Up vs. The Traditional Pull-Up

While both exercises strengthen the back, they differ in their approach and muscle engagement. Traditional pull-ups, a vertical pull exercise, require a pull-up bar and a significant amount of upper body strength, making them challenging for beginners. Lying pull-ups, on the other hand, are accessible, adjustable, and focus on horizontal pulling motions, offering a comprehensive back workout with less strain on the shoulders.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Avoid common pitfalls such as pulling with your arms instead of your back, not fully extending your arms, or losing the straight line of your body. Focus on engaging your back muscles and maintaining proper form throughout the exercise. Regularly reviewing and correcting your form can lead to significant improvements in strength and technique.

Progressions and Variations

Once the basic lying pull-up becomes manageable, explore variations to keep your muscles challenged. Elevating your feet, adding weight with a vest, or experimenting with grip variations can intensify the workout. These modifications not only prevent plateaus but also ensure continuous progression in strength and muscle development.

 Ensuring Proper Execution

Prioritizing safety and proper form is paramount. Begin with a bar height that allows you to perform the exercise with correct form and gradually increase the difficulty as your strength improves. If you experience any pain or discomfort, reassess your form or consult with a fitness professional to make necessary adjustments.

The Role of Lying Pull-Ups in a Comprehensive Fitness Plan

Lying pull-ups are more than just a back exercise; they're a versatile component of a holistic fitness regimen. By engaging multiple muscle groups and requiring minimal equipment, they offer a practical and effective way to build strength, improve posture, and enhance overall fitness from the comfort of your home or local gym.


Dedication to mastering lying pull-ups can transform your upper body strength and aesthetic. Regular practice, combined with attention to form and progressive overload, will lead to noticeable improvements in muscle tone, posture, and functional strength.

In conclusion, lying pull-ups stand out as a versatile, accessible, and effective exercise for strengthening the upper body. By engaging a broad spectrum of muscles, offering easy modifications for all fitness levels, and requiring minimal equipment, they provide a foundation for a strong, healthy back and a balanced physique. Remember to focus on proper form, start with manageable variations, and gradually challenge yourself to unlock the full potential of this powerful bodyweight exercise.

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