The High Bar Pull Over: Finally an Ab Exercise that Works!

Here is a video we shot of the high bar get-up. The move is simple really, once you have basic strength. Pull-up, lift the legs, look back, pull more and finish.

High Bar Get-ups Burn Fat and Build Six-Pack Abs

The high bar ab get-up is a very exhausting move and burns a ton of calories. Its difficulty level, as far as energy requirements go, are right up there with the power clean from the hang.

Because one of the main movements in this complex exercise is the lifting and swinging of the legs upward, the high bar get-up is an excellent abdominal exercise. In fact, you can base your whole routine on this drill, provided that you dedicate yourself to getting really good at it – which means being able to do 15+ reps.

A Great Measurement of Relative Strength

You cannot be fat or weak and be good at this exercise. As a bonus – the better you are at the high bar get-up, the better you will look. You will have a defined six pack, a small waist, a developed v-shaped back and powerful shoulders and traps. The get-up also trains your grip and makes you mentally tough. Can’t beat that.

What is the High Bar Get-up

This is a gymnastics move that involves all your upper body pulling muscles as well all your abdominal muscles. You basically will do a half pull-up, then raise your legs and swing them up.

At this point you will continue pulling with your back muscles until you reach an inverted position. Finish off by shrugging so that you are able to clear the bar. You will find yourself with your arms extended at the top of the bar.

How to Get Good at High Bar Get-ups

The simplest answer of course is to repeat the exercise lots and lots of times. That being said, getting stronger at the individual elements that are involved is another way to ensure success. This means getting stronger at pull-ups and hanging leg raises.

  • Start in a pull-up position. The beginning of the movement is just like a regular pull-up.
  • Do a half pull-up. Start by contracting the lats and pulling yourself up a bit.
  • Lift your legs up and look back. At this poing hold the half-pull-up position and contract the abs thus lifting the legs. Don’t look at your legs! It’s impossible to do the get up this way, because this is a rotational move – you swing around the bar. So you cannot swing your legs up AND look at them at the same time.

  • Continue lifting your legs and pulling. You need to exert more force her. Pull.
  • Pull and shrug to pass the bar. You will find yourself in an inverted position with the legs almost ready to pass the bar. Use all your force – pull and shrug so your waist reaches the bar.
  • You will find yourself on top. You did it! Now carefully slide down OR reverse the movement.

Action Plan

The key to getting good at a complex move like this is a high training volume and an avoidance of forced or “failure” reps. The exercise involves a lot of muscles – basically all the pulling muscles and the whole abdominal wall.

Because of this, forced reps only tire the muscles that work in the final portion of the move. This is a poor trade-off, because those “failing” reps exhaust the nervous system and you cannot perform more sets or recuperate well enough.

Other Ideas for Abdominal Training

Getting stronger abs will greatly aid in getting better at the high bar get up. Here are a few ideas from some of my favorite blogs:

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16 thoughts on “The High Bar Pull Over: Finally an Ab Exercise that Works!”

  1. Sweet exercise! I think I probably did something similar as a kid without even knowing the benefits! This looks like a very functional move – can’t wait to try it out!

  2. Reminds me of hanging knees to elbows… but 100x more badass! I’m stuck with a door pull up bar these days but am going to keep an eye out for a bar in my neighborhood where I can try this out!

  3. Craig,

    first off – children have almost perfect technique on most movements (squats, lunges, etc), before lifestyle destroys it. So I’m pretty sure you did something like this. As far as functionality goes, this move is one of the main exercises they do here in the army, so I guess it’s alright..


    Hope you find a bar man. It’s a lot of fun! You are right on the money – hanging knee raises will improve abdominal strength which is key here. Add some pull-ups and you’ve got the basic strength for the high bar get up.


  4. I find Olympic gymnast really buffed and muscular. I would love to look like some of them. This pull up reminds me of the stuff they would be do ing every day. So i’m sure it is very effective.
    i’m sure I could do a couple but anymore would start to be a challenge.

  5. Mike – good call man! All the bodyweight “crews” are freaky strong:

    -the Bartendaz
    -the bar-barians
    -the calisthenics kingz etc.

    Crazy stuff! And hats off to these guys and to guys like you for popularizing sport in times when being a “thug” or doing drugs etc. is what mainstream media makes seem cool.


  6. Dan, if you are working on the muscle up, the high bar getup will be a breeze… give it a shot!


  7. hi im from the philippines, good work on your site!thanks for all the info..THANK YOU VERY MUCH…1 quick question,i started working out 3 months ago, i lost 6-8 pounds, and can see improvement on my arms,chest, shoulders,but my goal was to add muscle mass/weight bcause im a bit only 5’6″ and 121 lbs ryt now.the thing is i still have lower belly fat, my 4 pack is slightly visible(when i tense/flex my waist)and i really want to have a solid 6 pack and strong core..dya think i still need to lose a few pounds? just worried cause i look skinny with my clothes on and my friends are freakin out and telling me that im too thin, what do you think is my ideal weight?cause i wanted to weigh at 130lbs? but lose the fat on my belly..thank you and mabuhay!

  8. Gil, here’s the deal – you still need to lose a few pounds to see the full six pack – there is a thin layer of fat covering your whole body. To see the lower abs you need to lose fat from the whole body. You may be about 10lbs away from the ideal body fat percentage. But – i’d suggest losing only 5lbs and focusing on adding more full body strength with squats, deadlifts, renegade rows, full contact twists, military presses. You can read about these exercises from the links in the sidebar.

  9. Gil,

    Rusty from fitnessblackbook explain it very well in his e-book “Vacation body blueprint” and you can download it here :


    Hope you don’t mind the link. As Rusty share your point of view, I thought it was a good idea to put it here. Plus your friend Craig is mentionned as a case study to a perfect 6 packs 😉

  10. I’m going to try this tonight. It doesn’t seem too difficult. It appears to be targeting the arms and back more than the abdominals? I’ll have to try and see for myself.

  11. Well – it targets the holl frontal part of the musculature. All the pulling muscles (upper back, biceps, forearms, hip flexors, abs….



  12. Congrats on the video demonstration Yavor … nice work 🙂 Before I read the comments, I was thinking “hey we did something similar to the High Bar Get Up on the monkey bars when I was a little kid!”.


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