By Nora Tobin for

Pull-ups are an excellent exercise for working multiple muscles at the same time while also increasing your heart rate -- which is why so many top trainers include them in their training plans. But like most exercises that have great potential to improve your fitness, they're also one of the most difficult to perform. That doesn't mean you should avoid them. Instead, trade the iconic exercise for less difficult moves that target the same muscle groups -- lats, deltoids and rhomboids -- until you're strong enough for the real thing.

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How It Works: Two or three days a week, add some of these exercises into your existing strength routine or do all eight as a separate workout, complete with a proper warm-up and cool-down.

You'll Need: A pair of three- to five-pound dumbbells, a pair of 10- to 20-pound dumbbells and a squat bar.

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  • Renegade Rows

    <strong>Reps:</strong> 8 per side Place a set of 10- to 20-pound dumbbells on the floor and get into pushup position with shoulders above wrists and feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, hands on the set of weights. Keeping hips level, bring one weight up to shoulder height, pointing elbow directly toward the ceiling. Engage core and legs the entire time. Lower the weight back down to the floor and switch sides. Make sure to keep belly button drawn up and in and shoulders down and back. Do 8 reps on each side.

  • Lat Squeezes

    <strong>Reps: 30</strong> Grab a set of three- to five-pound dumbbells and stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and tailbone tucked. Keeping upper arms close to body, bring hands out to your sides so that forearms are parallel to the floor. Draw elbows toward one another as tight as possible. This will only be about an inch, then bring elbows back to starting point. Do 30 reps.

  • Rhomboid Pulls

    <strong>Reps:</strong> 30 Grab a set of three- to five-pound dumbbells and bend arms to form two right angles. Maintain the bend as you lift arms up to shoulder height. Pull elbows back an inch, then forward an inch. Draw shoulders down away from ears during the entire movement. Do 30 reps.

  • Band Pulldown

    <strong>Reps:</strong> 15 Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and chest lifted. Hold the handles of the band with palms facing up. Step back so there is tension on the band. Pull band with straight arms until it reaches hips. Return back to starting position and repeat. Do 15 reps.

  • Snatch Grip Bar Hold

    <strong>Reps:</strong> 30-second hold Bend knees, shift hips back and keep chest up. Place hands wider than shoulder width on the squat bar and pull the bar into your legs (near your hip crease). Get tight through your upper back by engaging lats and drawing shoulder blades down and together. Hold for 30 seconds, continually pulling the bar in toward legs.

  • T Hold

    <strong>Reps:</strong> 20-second hold Take a band and pull it out to shoulder width, palms facing forward. Hold shoulder blades down and back, keeping chest up. Hold band for 20 seconds, keeping neck relaxed and core engaged the entire time.

  • Barbell Row

    <strong>Reps:</strong> 10 Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Shift hips back, bringing torso parallel to the ground. Keep glutes and core engaged the entire time. Place hands on squat bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Bend elbows and bring the bar up toward chest. Pause and then slowly lower the bar back down. Keep gaze down to the floor to avoid straining neck. Do 10 reps.

  • W Raise

    <strong>Reps:</strong> 10 Hold a pair of 3-pound weights. Bend knees and shift hips back, bringing torso parallel to the ground. Keep glutes and core engaged the entire time. Draw elbows up to shoulder height, forming a 90-degree position with the arms. Keeping upper arms still, rotate weight to bring forearms up (parallel to the ground). Press weights out, extending arms all the way to straight. Repeat the movement in the other direction and repeat. Do 10 reps.

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