Look… I’m obviously all for using LESS exercise equipment. While free weights do have some value, in my humble opinion most other equipment that litters gym floors are garbage.
So why on earth would I write a post on exercise equipment?
The reason is because if there was one piece of equipment that I would HAVE to recommend to my readers, it would be a pull up bar (with rings being a close second).
Because in calisthenics, you absolutely need somewhere to hang from to perform even the most basic of exercises (such as pull ups).
There is simply no substitution.
Now… you don’t HAVE to have a pull up bar. You can use a tree branch in your backyard, monkey bars, or even a bed sheet hung over a door (pretty creative, right?).
It’s just… pull up bars are convenient. Most offer a nice grip and a consistent place to do your hanging exercises.
But with so many pull up bars on the market, how do you know which is best for you?
This post aims to answer that question.
The Best Pull Up Bar For You Depends On Your Personal Situation
The truth is that the best pull up bar for you depends on your personal situation.
- Train at home or at a gym?
- Prefer indoor or outdoor workouts?
- Live in an apartment or own a house?
- Have wide or narrow doorframes?
- Have exposed ceiling joists or finished ceilings?
- Have tall or short ceilings?
- Want to spend a little or a lot of money?
These are just a few of the questions to consider on your hunt for the best pull up bar.
To give you an example, I began my pull up training with a simple doorway pull up bar. This worked well in my old house where all I had was doorframes.
Once I moved to a new house, I had an unfinished basement with exposed ceiling joists. At this point I switched from a doorway bar to a ceiling (joist) mounted bar in my basement.
In my old house, if I had a joist mounted bar it would have been useless because I had no exposed joists to mount it. But in my new house it made perfect sense.
Do you see where I’m going with this? You have to figure out what makes the most amount of sense for you at this moment in time, knowing that it may change as time goes on.
Let’s move on and take a look at the type of pull up bars out there on the market.
4 Types Of Pull Up Bars – Which Is Best For You?
Although there are many different types of pull up bars on the market, for simplicity they all can be categorized into one of the following:
- Doorway / doorframe
- Wall or ceiling
- Calisthenics park
Let’s dive into each of these in a bit more detail.
1. Doorway Pull Up Bar
By far the most popular type of pull up bar is a doorway bar. This type of bar fits into an existing doorway in your home or apartment.
Some of the benefits of a doorway bar include:
- Relatively inexpensive (most are under $40)
- Easy to assemble
- Easy to put up and take down
- Versatile (most homes or apartments have doorways)
Some of the drawbacks include:
- Not as sturdy as some other types of pull up bars
- Relatively cheap construction (many manufacturers use plastic components)
- Unable to fit in some doorways
- Low hanging height, oftentimes requiring you to bend at the knees or hips
- Limited space (you only have the width of the doorway in which to work)
I personally own the Perfect Fitness Multi Gym Doorway Pull Up Bar. However, as I mentioned above I no longer use this bar and now use a ceiling mounted bar in my unfinished basement.
The Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar is another popular favorite in the doorway pull up bar category with over 4000 Amazon reviews.
There are several other doorway pull up bars on the market boasting different grip variations. Be careful about getting sucked into this marketing hype.
When it comes to pull ups and other bar exercises, all you need is a straight, solid bar. This allows you to do both pull ups (pronated grip – palms facing away) and chin ups (supinted grip – palms facing you).
Neutral (hammer) grip is a nice bonus, but it’s not necessary. Personally, I don’t like neutral grip bars because they get in the way of performing different variations of pull ups (such as archer pull ups).
Not all doorframes can support these types of pullup bars. If you have wide or weak doorframes, an extendable pull up bar may be a better option for you.
Usually these types of pull up bars comes with supports that you must attach to your doorframe, which may be undesirable.
I once had really wide doorframes in my old apartment and ended up purchasing the Prosource Fit Multi-Grip Chin-Up/Pull-Up Bar.
2. Wall Or Ceiling Pull Up Bar
Next on the list is a wall or ceiling pull up bar. These bars are semi-permanent as they typically mount directly to a wall or ceiling.
Some of the benefits of this type of bar include:
- Sturdier than a doorway bar
- Usually made from higher quality material
- More space to move (you aren’t limited by the width of your doorway)
Some drawbacks include:
- Cannot move it as easily as some other pull up bars
- Generally more expensive ($50-$100 range)
- Typically requires hardware and tools to install
If you have a dedicated area for your workouts, this type of bar may be a great option. As mentioned earlier, I personally perform my workouts in my unfinished basement using this joist mounted pull up bar.
This bar is solid as a rock and hangs high, giving me enough clearance to keep my feet straight during pull ups. I like it a lot better than my old doorway bar.
I also like to grip iron when doing my pull ups rather than soft padding that is typically found on doorway pull up bars.
Depending on your ceiling, there are other types of ceiling mounted pull up bars available. One is the Ultimate Body Press Ceiling Mounted Pull Up Bar.
If the ceiling is not an option, you may want to look at a wall mounted pull up bar. Similar to ceiling mounted pull up bars, wall mounted pull up bars are generally sturdy as a rock.
3. Freestanding Pull Up Bar
If you don’t want to put holes in your ceiling or wall and a doorway bar isn’t an option, you may need to look into a freestanding pull up bar.
Sometimes called a power tower, these pull up bars are oftentimes found in gyms.
They rest on the floor and extend upwards. The bar itself is located at the top of the tower.
Some of the pros of a freestanding pull up bar include:
- Easier to move because it is not mounted to a surface
- Fairly sturdy, although not as much as a permanently mounted bar
- Often include parallel (dip) bars making it a convenient place to do dips as well (another great bodyweight exercise)
Some of the cons of this bar include:
- It is bulky and takes up more space than other types of pull up bars
- Assembly may be more time-consuming than a standard doorway bar
- More expensive ($100+)
- They don’t work in low ceiling applications
I personally do not own a freestanding pull up bar, but I have used several in gyms over the years. Some are rickety pieces of junk, and others are great.
A popular choice on Amazon seems to be the Stamina Power Tower. This bar has over 1000 reviews and comes at an affordable price point.
I have not used this pull up bar personally so I cannot fully endorse the product.
4. Calisthenics Park Pull Up Bar
This type of pull up bar is most often found on playgrounds or outdoor calisthenics parks, although you can build your own in your backyard.
- Great option if you prefer to train outdoors
- Ample head room above the bar for muscle ups, etc.
- Sturdy as a rock
- More expensive and time consuming to install
- More difficult to move once it’s installed
- Subjected to outdoor weather conditions
If you’re lucky enough to live near a playground or calisthenics park that has an outdoor pull up bar, definitely take advantage! I personally love these types of bars because they allow room for muscle ups, etc.
There are many DYI tutorials online if you are interested in building one of these in your backyard. Here’s a good one.
There’s No Excuse For Not Having A Pull Up Bar
If you don’t have access to any of the above pull up bars, don’t worry. You may just need to get a bit creative.
First, look around at your environment. Is there anywhere you can hang from?
Here are some places to look:
- Sturdy doorframes
You can also hang a broomstick from a tree with rope.
If you’re really struggling, try the “bedsheet over a door” method (although I would recommend this only as a temporary option).
With so many options, there’s simply no excuse to not have a place to hang from.
A pull up bar doesn’t need to be fancy to get results. You can build a very strong back using any of the above methods.
If you enjoyed this post, drop me some love below in the comments section.