Exercise of the Week: Towel Pull Ups

Here’s a great variation on a classic exercise. Pull ups are still one the best ways to develop overall back strength and definition. There’s lots of pull up variations, each working the body a little differently. Towel pull ups are fairly unique, though.

Here’s what they look like: (click for a larger view)


By gripping the towel during the exercise, you also develop outstanding forearm and grip strength, which can be a great asset for many sports, including wrestling and rock climbing, along with combat sports such as judo, jiu jitsu and others. Pull ups are also a great bicep conditioning tool. Just think, arms and back of STEEL!

To get started, try a simple pull up pyramid. Start with 1 pull up, then take a 15 second break. Grab the towel and try 2. Take another break. Continue adding a rep each time until you can’t go up in reps anymore. Take a 60 second break and work your way back down.

Trust me when I say your back, arms and shoulders will be on FIRE!

If you’re not able to do a standard pull up with the towel, you can still develop back, forearm and grip strength by working negatives. To do a negative, stand on a bench or stool and grab the towels. Slowly step off the bench while holding tightly on the towel. Lower yourself down as slowly as possible, so that your arms are fully extended…bend your knees if you have to. Quickly step back onto the bench and repeat for another repetition. Negatives can help you quickly develop the strength it takes to do regular pull ups.

As with any type of training or conditioning, you must have consistency to see results. If you stay diligent with this and other exercises, you will get stronger.

Give the towel pull ups a shot and let us know how you do.

Keep training hard!

Jason K.

Hybrid Fitness


8 Responses

  1. I gave towel pull ups a try today and I LOVE them. I never thought of doing that. The most I got in a row was 8. I’m going to keep at it though!


  2. Jay:
    Excellent work! There are lots of pull up variations, but towel pull ups are one of the toughest by far. Stick with them and you’ll be up to double digit reps in no time. Thanks for the feedback and keep me posted on your progress!

  3. I agree u have been doing pull ups for a ew months now and i have to say its my favourtie exercise, it’s just the fact that it is so hard keeps me trying to conquer this demanding of exercises. Remember there are many variations too which will keep your upper body strong well into your 70’s.
    This is a true masterclass of an exercise and every man woman and child should be doing them, it’s what we humans are built for! : – )

  4. These things work wonders on my MMA and wrestling game

  5. Great news, Camrin! Glad to hear you’re liking them. I’ve got a new variation all set to go. I’ll include the video and post it in the near future.

    Keep training hard!

    Jason – Hybrid Fitness

  6. I agree u have been doing pull ups for a ew months now and i have to say its my favourtie exercise, it’s just the fact that it is so hard keeps me trying to conquer this demanding of exercises.


  7. hello there!
    i have a question: when i preform this pullup, i find that the joints in my hands ache quite a bit; is this normal? will it go away if i keep at it?

    • Hey Fonz:

      Thanks for the post.

      This pull up variation puts much more stress on the muscles that flex the fingers as compared to a regular pull up. With that said, the aching in the joints of the hands is fairly common. It should go away within a few weeks of consistent work, though. If it doesn’t we recommend you try an incline variation of this same movement. Instead of pulling yourself straight up, wrap the towel around a stationary bar or other object (Smith Machines work great for this) and try an incline pull. Start with a 45 degree angle and work up from there.

      It will still crush the lats, traps and biceps (trust me on that) but since you’re working on an incline, it’s more forgiving on the grip. As you get stronger, work up to a more vertical pulling position and before you know it, you’re grip will be absolutely iron-clad.

      Keep training hard!

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