If you’re struggling to stay motivated when exercising day after day, then you are not alone. It requires dedication and variety; fortunately, there is always another exercise or variant that you can try. Towel pull-ups are simply a variation of the standard push up.

However, you may be surprised at how this simple change can be more challenging and offering an array of extra benefits. Even if you can already do hundreds of standard pull-ups, you’ll find that towel pull-ups are more challenging and more rewarding.

The Benefits of Towel Pull-Ups

The most challenging part of any resistance based workout is maintaining your grip. If you've ever struggled to complete that last set, you’re probably already familiar with the pain in your hand and forearm. It’s this that lets you down before your physical strength.

Towel pull-ups or any exercise that uses a towel will improve your grip strength. However, it is worth noting that your grip actually consists of three different types of grip:

  1. Pinching

This involves just your fingers and thumb and avoids using your heavy forearm muscles.

  1. Gripping

Gripping combines your hands and forearms to provide the maximum force. This is the most commonly trained part of your grip with pulling exercises.

  1. Crushing

The third element is the ability to crush something with your hand and forearm. You've probably worked on this part of your grip with the grip training machines in your gym.

All of these aspects need to be trained to ensure you maximize your grip strength, towel pull-ups and any exercise using a towel for grip can help with this.

Grip strength is linked with higher cognitive function, so boosting your grip is not the only benefit of the towel pull-ups.

You will also feel the benefit in your forearms as they get bigger stronger. In addition, you’ll note an increase in the range of movement you can achieve; increasing the effectiveness of any exercise.

Another benefit is that using a towel is actually fun and you can always find one to use when exercising.

Learn How to Get it Right!

Step 1 – Get Your Towel!

towel pull upsYou can use virtually any towel, but the best one to choose is one that has a medium thickness and is not too large. A full-size bath towel will swamp you when exercising and may make it possible to complete your towel pull-ups.

The medium thickness will challenge your grip; any thicker and you’ll be moving more towards a lat exercise instead of a pull-up.

Before you start, don’t forget to look at where you intend to do your pull-ups. If you have a center bar, you’ll be able to use one towel wrapped around the bar. If your machine doesn't have a center beam, you can use a short towel on each side.

Step 2 – Moving Up

Check your towel is firm and grab one end of it in each hand. Then, just as with the normal pull-up, you want to bend your knees so that your legs are off the ground and your feet crossed. Slowly pull yourself up, ensuring that your chin goes higher than the bar.

Ideally, hold the top position for a second before returning.

Step 3 – Going Down

You need to lower yourself back down toward the ground so that your arms are straight and your feet/legs are not touching the ground. It’s important to do this slowly to really work your muscles and your grip.

Step 4 – Repeat

towel pull upsYou’ll be aiming to do 3 sets of 15 reps, but when you first start, you can simply go for exhaustion. Bear in mind that this is a lot more challenging than it appears even if you are used to doing conventional pull-ups.

Your hands will ache afterward if you leave your towel pull-ups to the end of your session, and you’ll find that you'll be struggling to complete them. This is why you should do this exercise at the start of a muscle training session, and it should be on a day when you’re targeting your arms or before you start using your dumbbells.

Variations of Towel Pull-Ups

It is possible that you’ll find it too hard to do the towel pull-ups at first; you may simply lack the grip strength. Fortunately, this isn't an issue in the long term. The best approach is to position the towel as above and pull yourself upwards into the top position.

However, instead of lowering down and coming back up simply hold the top position for as long as you can; this will improve your grip strength.

Alternatively, you can push off from the floor to help you get to the top position and then lower yourself back down slowly. Push off the floor again and repeat until you can’t do anymore.

Access A Wide Variety Of Extra Exercises & Support

Towel pull-ups work your grip and forearms, but they don’t need to be completed in isolation. In fact, there are an array of exercises that you can do with a towel to help improve your grip and the effectiveness of the exercise:

Towel T-Bar Rows

Add a towel to your standard T-bar row, or Meadow Row and transform your grip while gaining the benefits of this exercise across your shoulders and upper back.

Towel bent Over Row

Again add a towel and enjoy the extra challenge and the associated results with the bent over row which is also designed to work your shoulders and back.

Side to Side Towel Pull-Ups

Once you’ve mastered the towel pull-ups, you can add in a side to side motion. This means removing one hand from your towel and extending that arm out to the side; keeping it straight. Your weight will be entirely on the other hand.

Simply switch from side to side, if possible do 10 on each hand.

Towel Dumbbell Curls

Work your biceps and improve your grip at the same time by using a towel to hold the dumbbells when performing the standard dumbbell curls.

Towel Farmers Walk

The Farmers walk is fantastic for strengthening legs, building core strength and boosting your shoulders as well as your forearms. Add a towel on each side, and you’ll be working your grip at the same time; making this one of the best all-around exercises you can do!

Alongside this, it is essential that you get the support you need to turn your exercises into a habit and build a routine that will ensure you meet your goals. That’s what the Fit Father Project is here for, to give you access to hundreds of other exercises and the support of thousands of other men who have the same goals as you.

If you're interested in building muscle and shaping your body, take a look at our Old School Muscle program. 

If weight loss is your goal check out FF30X today to transform your fitness, health and your life.

Your new friend & health coach,

stuart-headshotStuart Carter
Head Training Staff, The Fit Father Project

Brotherhood Nickname: “The Fit Brit”
Bragging Rights: 16 Years in the fitness industry, Author of ‘The Easy Fitness Guide', Father of 4 boys and Husband to a Venezuelan beauty.


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Then I’d recommend you read the program overview letter for our Old School Muscle Program (OSM).

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on towel pull-ups.