How to Choose the Right Pull-Up Bar – The Ultimate Guide

convict conditioning pullup bar

As home exercise programs become more and more popular, the availability of home exercise equipment grows along with it. From push-up stands to grip training devices to an endless assortment of ab workout machines, it’s easy for the average person to get overwhelmed by such a selection of gadgets. So – which of these tools are must-haves, and which might you be better off saving your money on?

Those of you doing the Convict Conditioning program know that most exercise equipment available on the market is unnecessary. Almost all CC exercises require only a floor, a wall, and the occasional table and chair. The only piece of equipment I found myself needing to buy was a pull-up bar, because even though the Coach says you can easily find surfaces to grip and hang from, this was not the case for me. I didn’t feel comfortable grabbing ceiling beams and rafters at my house (and I had few available to choose from), and I didn’t have any other things at home I could easily grip and hang from. I would have had to find suitable bars/surfaces either at the gym or a park, and this would totally defeat the idea of a home workout program! Additionally, I didn’t want things like the summer heat, winter chill, outdoor pollution, or rainy weather preventing me from going outside and giving me an excuse to skip a workout. Add to that how most pull-up bars are cheap, easily available, durable, and easily assembled, and I had no reason not to get this one piece of equipment from which I could reap continual benefits!


What Kind of Pull-Up Bar should I get?

Let’s get down to the technical question, then: what type of pull-up bar should you get?

There are two basic types of designs for pull-up bars: over-the-doorframe bars and ones you have to drill into the wall. I prefer the former, as they are easy to assemble, portable, and do not leave holes in your walls should you ever move or decide to relocate your bar. For these reasons, I’ll limit this article to discussing this design alone.

Doorframe bars are sold in a wide variety of stores, including most any sporting goods store and even general retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. They come in pieces, so some assembly is required, but this is very easily done as most kits come with all the parts, tools, and directions needed. These pull-up bars typically cost anywhere from $20 – $60, so let’s talk about what sorts of features account for these differences in price.


Types of Pull-Up Bars


Basic pull-up bars

basic pullup bar

basic pullup bar

These are bars that, once placed onto the doorframe, hang approximately six inches below the top of the doorway. They are built to fit a standard size US doorframe (approximately 30 inches in a modern-day US home). They typically offer you three grip positions: close grip, wide grip, and neutral grip (thumbs facing you):

  • Pros: The most basic doorframe pull-up bars cost around $20, the cheapest price you can typically find for a bar like this. These are a great investment if all you are looking for is a surface from which to do pull-ups at home. This was the first type of pull-up bar I had, and I used it successfully for several years.
  • Cons: The grips hang below the door surface, so most people will have to tuck their legs back as they hang from the bar. This is not a problem for doing basic pull-ups, but if you want to do other exercises that require your body to hang straight (such as hanging leg raises for the abdominal muscles), your best bet is to invest in a bar with more features, such as …


Elevated pull-up bars

I’m making this name up, but it’s an appropriate label for this kind of pull-up bar. These are bars that offer all the features of

elevated pull up bar convict conditioning

elevated pull up bar convict conditioning

the basic pull-up bar, but with an additional set of grips that rise several inches above the more common model. I personally use the GoFit Elevated Chin-Up station pictured below, and I absolutely love it.

  • Pros: Many people will be able to hang completely clear off the floor on this bar, and even taller folks will only have to tuck their feet back ever so slightly. Increased range of motion opens up the possibilities for more types of exercises you can do on this pull up bar.
  • Cons: Price is higher on these sorts of bars, given the additional features. The GoFit bar above is available for $40 online, twice the price of a more basic bar. It also requires a little bit more assembly than the simpler basic models. Currently, I only know of two models that are available for sale of this type of design (the GoFit brand and another one that I have not used), so this design is also harder to come by at stores.


Wide pull-up bars

wide pull up bar convict conditioning

wide pull up bar convict conditioning

These bars are suitable for the wider doorframes (30 inches or more) commonly found in office buildings or commercial settings. They typically range from $30 – $60, and should only be purchased by individuals needing a pull-up bar for a large doorframe. Like the basic pull-up bar, these offer a variety of grips that hang below the top of the frame. Unlike the basic one, though, these can also be harder to come by at retailers.

Any of these types of bars will rest comfortably on the doorframe and should support anywhere from a 250-300 lbs hanging load (the box should tell you). They will NOT damage your doorframe, because they are designed to evenly distribute your body weight across the frame. Not only is your weight driving the bar DOWN into the doorframe, but as you hang from any one of the grips, most of the weight is being drive INTO the doorframe as well. This distributes the load efficiently and ensures that your doorframe won’t be ripped out (and you fall along with it) as you exercise. The only note of caution is to make sure your doorframe trim is thick enough to allow the pull-up bar adequate surface area on which to rest on. This means trim of around 1/2-3/4 inches thick. If you do not have this thick of trim, you can install it, or you might consider a pull-up bar that you drill into the wall.


3 Things to Consider when Purchasing a Pull-Up Bar

Given all these choices, it’s wise to follow three steps when purchasing any pull-up bar.

1. First, be sure to measure both the width of your doorframe and the thickness of its trim. This will help you determine if your frame can accommodate a pull-bar bar as it is, and if so, whether you should go for the standard kind or a wider variety.

2. Second, ask yourself what exercises you want to do with your pull-up bar. I recommend going for the bar that allows you to do the most movements to not limit your exercise options, but if you’re a pull-ups only kind of person or on a limited budget, you can’t go wrong with a basic pull-up bar.

3. Finally, make sure to keep your receipt. If the pull-up bar doesn’t work out, most stores should allow you to get a refund. I recommend purchasing your pull-up bar at an actual retailer so you can return it more easily and not have to worry about disassembling the bar and paying for return shipping.


So where do you do your pull-ups from? What type of hanging surface or pull-up bar do you prefer?

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Mike Escobar

Mike Escobar is a teacher, fitness enthusiast, and martial artist. Exercise and nutrition are two of his biggest passions. He holds a second degree black belt in a mixed martial arts system and a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

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