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Pull up bars – Your ultimate guide
If we’re ever stranded on a deserted island, we want a pull up bar in our kit. And that soccer ball that Tom Hanks had in Cast Away. While the soccer ball would just be cool, the pull up bar would keep our backs strong and our arms massive. Cutting down coconut trees and building a raft would be so easy.
Whether you’re looking for a pull up bar, a wall- or ceiling mount model or maybe a chin up bar for the door frame, we’ve got you.
Not sure where to start looking… keep reading. We’re breaking down everything you need to know about the pull up bar in our ultimate guide. And we won’t mention coconuts or soccer balls again.
What to look for when shopping for a pull-up bar online
When choosing a pull-up bar for your home gym, start by considering the bar’s weight capacity, the amount of space you have available, and how easy it is to install.
Will a pull up bar actually fit in your doorway? The first step in choosing a pull up bar is to measure your doorframe.
If you have standard-sized doors, most door frames will be 24 to 36 inches.
We suggest that you measure the actual door – not the open space – if you're sure you have a standard door frame.
In each online product description, you’ll see the measurements of the bar and the measurements required to install it. If you’re getting a pull up bar as a gift, check out ones with an adjustable length (24.5 to 36.5 inches).
If you’re looking at a chin up bar that attaches to the wall, make sure your wall has enough space available, too. You don’t want to get one home and realize you have no place to exercise.
Weight matters, too
A door pullup bar has a lower weight limit than one attached to a wall. Read the weight capacity limit carefully and obey it. It’s not a suggestion – it’s the actual limit. Exceed it, and you run the risk of serious injury and damage to your door or wall.
4 types of pull up bars
Doorway pull up bars – These are the home gym classics! Metal bars that extend the length of your door frame and give you the freedom to do chin- and pull-ups whenever you want. Quick to install and since it's just a simple bar, they save space.
Wall-mounted pull up bars – These take a bit more commitment because there's drilling required. They are more stable than doorway pull up bars. If you’re down for the cost and the permanent installation, go for it.
Free-standing pull up bars – Got a garage? This one’s for you. A free-standing pull up bar requires a lot of space (but no screws like a wall mounted one). Some come with squat rack attached so you can keep your legs as strong as your lats.
Suspension or sling training system – Suspension or sling training equipment isn’t really a pull up bar, but you can do many of the same exercises. These systems attach to a fixed point in the ceiling and provide a full-body workout (that's why they're called ceiling mounted systems). You can easily detach most suspension training tools and take them with you when you travel.
Are pull up bars secure?
We get asked all the time if pull up bars fall easily. The answer is no.
If your pull bar is installed properly and made from top-quality materials like heavy duty steel, and if you don’t exceed the weight capacity you’ll be able to exercise safely. Plus, the pull up bar won’t damage the door frames in your house.
Let’s get scientific. When you exercise on a pull up bar, your weight distributes to the sides of the bar, not the center. As you pull up, you pull down on the bar. The sides of the bar take the pressure, not your door frame.
Do pull up bars damage door frames? If installed correctly, it will not. If your door frame is super old or if you exceed the weight capacity limit, all bets are off. The frame could take a beating.
If you’re concerned about the doors in your home (or if you’re in a rental property), consider a free-standing pull up bar. Or just train with resistance bands while you look for a new place to live.
How much weight can a doorway pull up the bar handle?
Every product is different. Most door frame pull up bars at ShapeNation have a weight limit of 240 pounds (110 kg).
If you’re heavier than that, consider a wall mounted bar that can hold up to 550 pounds (250 kg).
What are the benefits of pull-ups?
Pull-ups and chin-ups are compound body weight exercises.
Compound means they work multiple muscles at the same time.
Body weight means there's no extra equipment needed – your own bodyweight gives the resistance.
The more muscle groups you use, the more calories you burn. That makes pull-ups and chin-ups great for burning calories and helping you lose weight.
You can also expect strength gains and hypertrophy.
Pull up – The different muscles targeted in a pull up include the latissimus dorsi and rhomboids (upper back), posterior deltoids (shoulders), and biceps. You’ll also need a strong core and stabilizing muscles like the transverse abdominis.
Chin up – The major muscle groups targeted in a chin up include the biceps, latissimus dorsi and teres major (the wing muscles), posterior deltoid (shoulder), core, and spinal stabilizers like the transverse abdominis and lumbar multifidus.
Can a pull up bar help you lose weight?
When it comes to weight loss, your pull up bar will do nothing. It’s a piece of equipment.
It’s the pull-ups you do that help you lose weight and reduce belly fat.
Both pull-ups and chin-ups can be performed on a pull up bar. These are compound exercises that engage more than one muscle at a time. The more muscles you use, the more calories you burn. The more calories you burn, the more weight you lose.
It’s important to note that pull-ups alone won’t reduce fat or help you lose weight. Doing a couple of half-hearted chin ups a day does nothing but make your arms sore.
You have to have a healthy balance of proper diet and regular exercise. Pull-ups are a great addition to that healthy lifestyle. And a pull up bar at home means you can exercise whenever you have the time.
Losing weight is part of a commitment to a healthier lifestyle. A lifestyle. Choose the lifestyle first. The equipment is nothing without your commitment.
Can you get ripped with a pull up bar?
It depends on what you consider ‘ripped’, ‘jacked’, or ‘shredded’. And it depends on your commitment to eating right and exercising regularly.
Pull-ups are the number one upper body exercise to target lats, upper back, shoulders, and biceps. If you focus only on pull-ups, you’ll get a nice shape – the coveted V that many men are after.
The problem with only performing pull-ups is that people often forget to target their lower half. So to answer your question: Can you get ripped from just a pull up bar? The answer is no.
You’ll get a shredded back and shoulders… but you’ll end up with tiny legs.
There are other exercises you can do. You can target abs by adding hanging leg lifts to your routine. Hanging is also great for your shoulders and lats. Fighting against gravity to lift your legs and target your abs is a tough exercise. The result… a killer six-pack.
Those legs though. They’re difficult to target with a pull up bar alone. And we consider the entire body when we hear the words ‘ripped’ or ‘shredded’.
To successfully target your lower half, consider a sling or suspension training system. You can easily loop a sling system around your pull up bar. You can also just add body weight training in conjunction with the pull-ups you're banging out.
Ultimately, the best workout routine includes both pulling AND pushing exercises. A pull up bar will give you the pull, bodyweight exercises (like push ups) are great for the push.
Pull up types
Chin-ups – We added it here because it does include pulling your body up. Many people consider them easier than an actual pull up.
How many pull-ups should you do a day?
This depends on your level. If you can 1, then do 1!
If you can do 3 sets of 15, then what are you reading this for?!
One is better than none. Remember… small steps equal big changes in the end.
Is it bad to do pull-ups every day?
It is OK to do pull-ups every day. If you’re not hurting yourself, go for it.
There is a lot of talk of rest periods, etc. And a lot of beginners get confused and think they must rest between every single workout.
The truth is, your body will tell you when to rest.
If you’ve had a killer workout on Monday, you’ll be too sore to do it again on Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean that a rest day is sitting on the couch talking to a soccer ball while eating a bag of chips. Instead, go for a walk or a swim. Your rest can be ‘active’, too.
And don't forget that just pull ups won't help you reach your goals. You need a complete workout of pushing, pulling, and stabilizing core exercises + a healthy diet to really see results.
If you're seriously worried about starting an exercise program, always seek professional medical advice. Your health and safety are important.
The pull up isn’t the easiest exercise to start with. Even with the best pull up bar on the market, it’s up to you to actually lift yourself.
Start with your arms extended on the pull up bar and hands in an overhand position. There are multiple grip options out there (see the list below), but this one is the classic pull-up.
Pull yourself up until the bar hits your chest. If you can’t make it to your chest, lift to your chin.
At the top of the movement (when the bar is at your chest), engage your shoulder blades and make sure you pull them down and together. Think of the shoulder blades touching at the top of your back.
If the steps above are too difficult, don’t worry! You’ll get there.
You can also start by just hanging on the bar with straight arms. When you hang, make sure you pull your shoulder blades down – think of lengthening the space between your ear and your shoulder. You do not want your shoulders to touch your ears.
Start by hanging, and build up your arm and shoulder strength from there.
If you’re new to pull- or chin-ups, there are a few pull up bar accessories that can help you master the moves in no time.
Resistance bands – Loop a resistance band around the pull up bar and then put your knees or foot in the band. This helps alleviate the full weight of your body, making it easier for you to pull yourself up.
Sling or suspension trainer – With a suspension trainer around your pull up bar, you can easily start a pull up from your knees on the ground. This takes a lot of weight off, and you can use your feet start the lift. It’s a great way for anyone struggling with a pull up – or if you’re overweight.
There’s no need to bang out 30 during every rep. If that’s you, it’s time to progress. Consider adding a weighted vest or belt to help you keep reaching those gains you’re after.
5 different grip positions
Every personal trainer will have their own variations and favorite go-to grip positions. These are ours.
The basic gist is this... overhand grip = pull up, underhand grip = chin up.
Here are 5 different grip options to keep your workouts varied.
Use an overhand grip with hands slightly wider than your shoulders.
Use an underhand grip. Hands are slightly wider than your shoulders.
For both a pull-up or chin-up. Hands face each other. It's usually the easiest grip to master.
For both pull- and chin-ups. In this grip option, your hands are much wider than your shoulders. This takes a huge amount of strength.
One of our favorites. One hand grips the bar in an overhand position, while the other use an underhand grip.
Shop secure pull up bars at ShapeNation
A pull up bar is worth the investment. After all, you never know when you’ll need extra strength to make an emergency raft.
Our growing collection includes everything from adjustable pull up bars to wall mounted chin up bars and ceiling mounted options. From indoor to outdoor use, we have the equipment you need to pull up your pull up game. Get it? Pull. Up.
If you’re the one looking for the total shred, it’ll take more than just a bar hanging from your doorway. From resistance bands, yoga mats, and dumbbells, to kettlebells, protein powder and foam rollers, we have what your home gym is missing.
At ShapeNation we’re excited to be a part of your fitness journey. We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it a thousand times… it takes more than just great equipment to see changes. It takes commitment from you.
You bring the motivation, we’ll handle the rest.
Are you looking for more products to take your training to the next level? Our most popular categories are dumbbells, kettlebells, exercise mats, resistance bands, protein powder, workout clothes, headphones, massage guns, foam rollers, and exercise balls. Find all the best exercise equipment on ShapeNation