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Bar benefits

So athletes hitting the bar for stronger arms and shoulders will be pleasantly surprised with the results. "It’s a multi-joint exercise that strengthens your grip, biceps, back and abs," says Lucas Varella, a Tier X health and fitness coach at Equinox in Century City, California.

Strengthen every body part from head to toe with these variations. Perform 2 or 3 sets of each exercise twice a week.

Hanging Knee Raise

Grasp a pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing behind you. Extend arms so you’re hanging from the bar with legs straight. Keeping upper body still, bend knees, raising them toward your chest. Extend legs to return to the start position. Do 10 to 15 reps.

Chin Up

Grasp a pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing behind you. Extend arms so you’re hanging from the bar with legs straight. (Use a box to jump up onto bar if it’s too high.) Bend elbows, raising chin over bar. Extend arms to return to start position. Do 10 to 15 reps, or as many as you can with perfect form.

Parallel Pull-up

Position yourself at the bar with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart, legs extended at hip level in front of you. Keeping feet flexed and legs stiff, bend elbows by sides to pull yourself up, until chin reaches bar. Gently lower back down; repeat. Do 5 to 7 reps.

Single Towel Pull-Up

Drape a small towel over the bar, and grab one end with each hand. Maintaining a strong grip on the towel, bend elbows by sides to lift yourself up toward bar, extending legs out to hip level in front of you* as you do. Slowly extend arms to lower yourself toward floor. Repeat, pulling yourself up until chin reaches bar. (*If this is too difficult, bend knees in toward chest every time you pull-up instead.) Do 5 to 7 reps.

Sandbag Pull-Up

Position yourself at the bar with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart, holding a sandbag with your feet (one handle on top of each foot; if wearing shoes, you can use kettlebells). Keeping feet flexed and legs stiff, bend elbows by sides to pull yourself up, until chin reaches bar. Gently lower back down; repeat. Do 5 to 7 reps.

Stability Ball Pull-up

Position yourself at the bar with an underhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart, legs extended at hip level in front of you, squeezing a stability ball between your feet. Keeping feet flexed and inner thighs engaged, bend elbows by sides to pull yourself up, until chin reaches bar. Gently lower back down; repeat. Do 5 to 7 reps.