How to Train Back & Shoulders Without a Pull-up Bar in Calisthenics? (My Experience)

Having access to a pull-up bar in your home is mandatory if you want to develop a wide and strong back and shoulders with calisthenics but it is possible to train them without one to some extent. 

Here’s how to do exactly that.

What you will learn

  • Do you really need a pull-up bar to train back & shoulders (My experience)
  • What would you need to train your whole body in calisthenics (Including Back & Shoulder) 
  • How to train your back without owning a pull-up bar (4 Methods)
  • How to train shoulders without owning a pull-up bar (2 Methods)

Do you really need a pull-up bar to train back & shoulders (My experience)

You will have to use a pull-up bar for proper back training if you are doing calisthenics but it is possible to train your shoulders without one and still see great results.

While it is possible to target your back with resistance bands, dumbbells and a barbell you should definitely get access to a pull-up bar or anything similar to one that is sturdy and has enough thickness and height so you can hold on comfortably and do pull-ups and chin-ups (one of the most basic and essential movements for your whole body development).

When it comes to shoulder training you can actually focus and develop them quite easily with a set of resistance bands or use your own bodyweight as resistance to gravity with handstand push-ups and elevated push-ups, but owning a pull-up bar would definitely help. (Learn more a bit later)

What would you need to train your whole body in calisthenics (Including Back & Shoulders) 

If you want to do calisthenics and target your entire body efficiently and learn advanced moves you will need to have some equipment.

In order to be most efficient you will need to have access to:

  • A pull up bar or anything similar that is safe to use
  • Dip bars or anything similar where you can do dips
  • Some type of weight for extra resistance (backpack filled with bottles of sand/water, rocks, weighted vest, resistance bands, weight plates or dumbbells)
  • Gymnastic rings (the only alternative is a pull-up bar) 

Free equipment I have used: public pull-up bar (and anything else I find safe to use), public dip bars (or 2 chairs with weights on top), old backpack filled with bottles of water or sand for weighted calisthenics, anything strong I can hold on to in order to train

All equipment you need for calisthenics (that I currently own and use)

Free vs paid calisthenics equipment. Which one to use?

If you don’t have any money and are just starting out you should use free available equipment you can find locally or build yourself a pull-up bar and a dip station. (great essentials to start with)

Here are some great video tutorials if you are interested:

But if you want to save time, have some available money and want to use something completely safe and tested I recommend you to spend a bit of money and get yourself some essential calisthenics equipment.

You should definitely own at least:

  • Pull-up bar
  • Dip bars
  • Resistance bands
  • Gymnastic rings
  • Parallettes
  • Weighted vest 

(all links to the ones I own and use are above)

How to train your back without owning a pull-up bar (4 Methods)

Method 1: Use a free public pull-up bar or something similar you can find that is sturdy and safe. Ask somebody or search locally if there is any public workout equipment and go there to train. (I have a couple of places in the local park near where I live)

Method 2: If you are tight on money simply build yourself one and attach it in your home, yard or somewhere public where other people can use it as well. (Here’s an example video of a great and cheap DIY pull-up bar build)

Method 3: Use resistance bands or a set of dumbbells or a barbel in order to target your back muscles. Owning any one of these options will allow you to do many exercises and target individual parts of your back. If you don’t know any exercises, use Youtube and Google and check some variations. Example: “resistance bands exercises for back” will show you everything you need to know. (click the highlighted words to check mine if interested)

Method 4: Use a towel you can tie to somewhere high secure in order to do pull-ups or horizontal pull-ups. Make sure that the towel is made from thick enough material and it is connected in a nice and strong way. (Always do a pull test while slowly leaning before you start)  

How to train shoulders without owning a pull-up bar (2 Methods)

Method 1: Use your own bodyweight. Great shoulder exercises you can try are push-ups with elevated legs, push-ups where your legs are closer to your body (your butt sticks out), handstand push-ups and regular training for handstand or planche. (All exercises in which you push your body away from the ground includes your shoulder muscles)

Method 2: Use specific equipment like resistance bands, gymnastic rings, dumbbells or a barbell. Depending on the available equipment you have you can do many exercises and target your shoulder muscles from different angles. (The more equipment you have, the more options you can do)

Quick Tip: Use Google or Youtube to see how to do specific exercises with any type of equipment in case you don’t know.

Now you know what you will need to train your whole body with or without a pull-up bar. Use this knowledge and find, build or buy all the necessary things you need to be successful in calisthenics.

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