Pull up bars are definitely one of the cheapest and best ways to build strength, tone and definition in your back, arms and shoulders, but before you part with your money here’s what you need to know about door frame pull up bars:
- Different types of bars for your doorway
- Alternative types of bars – not for your doorway
- How a doorway pull up bar works
- Doorway bar weight limits
- What a pull up bar will do for your body
- Workouts you can do on a doorway pull up bar
- Some reasons why you might not want to buy a doorway pull up bar
- Potential doorway damage
- Doorway pull up bar installation
- Understanding how to find the best pull up bar for your specific needs
What Are The Different Types of Doorway Pull Up Bar?
Door Frame Leverage / Over the Door Pull Up Bars
Door frame leverage bars like this go over the top of the doorframe and your weight causes them to stay in place as the bar pushes against the wall in both directions. They will typically come in multiple pieces which you assemble with a throw away spanner provided. This assembly is very simple and should take you no more than 15 minutes.
Once assembled you hook the bar onto to your door frame and can start using it immediately, when you’ve finished your workout the bar unhooks and you stow it away as one piece; somewhere like your bedroom cupboard or under your bed.
Telescopic Door frame Pull Up Bars
Telescopic pull up bars (or doorway chin up bars, the name is interchangeable) twist to extent and wedge themselves between the uprights of your doorframe, they stay in place either from pure friction or with cups, which you attach onto the doorframe to support either end. There’s no need to do any assembly of the bar, you’ll simply need to decide if you want to use the mounting cups or not, if so these will need screwing into the frame.
See below for more on the installation and why you might want to chose to use the provided fixing cups. The telescopic bar will also be removed from the doorway after each use.
The promotional images for either of these types of bars will often show them being used for all sorts of other workout activities like, doorway sit ups, push ups or dips (see the Iron Gym Extreme images for example) – you can use them for this, but quite honestly they shouldn’t be the reason you’re going to get one of these bars. You don’t need a door bar to do sit ups, or push ups and the range of dip movement you’ll get with them is so small it’s not really worth your effort, but….
they are spot on at accomplishing their core purpose: they are great for doing pull ups
What Are the Alternatives To Doorway Bars?
The doorway pull up bar is just one type, here are some other types of pull up bar to also consider:
Wall Mounted Pull Up Bar
Wall pull up bars mount directly to a brick wall or to the studs in a plaster board (dry) wall, so the bar is parallel to the ground. All you’ll need is an area of wall with enough space underneath for you to workout.
If mounting onto studs you’ll probably want to get yourself something like this stud finder, so you can hit the studs first time.
Ceiling Mounted Pull Up Bar
Ceiling pull up bars all mount onto the joists (studs) within your ceiling, there are two types available, those which mount onto the bottom of your ceiling studs like the Stud Bar and those which mount onto the side of an exposed joist or ceiling step, like the Ultimate Body Press.
Free Standing Pull Up Bar
As the name suggests Free Standing Pull Up Bars don’t need fixing to anything, they work by having a steady enough foot print to support your weight. These can typically be used for other exercises such as push ups, sit ups and dips.
Other Pieces of Gym Equipment
There are various other pieces of gym equipment which have pull up bars built into them, power racks for example, which you use to help you support weight while bench pressing or squat lifting, typically have a pull up bar integrated.
How does a doorway pull up bar work?
Over The Top Leverage Doorway Bars
Once hooked through the doorway; the top of the bar rests on one side of the door trim and the base of the bar rests against the door trim on the other side, which keeps it in place:
Telescopic Doorway Chin Up Bars
The telescopic bars widen as you twist them, so they wedge against the inside of the doorframe. If they are tight enough as your weight pulls down the friction between the bar and the door frame stops it from moving. They do also come with safety caps which will also further support the bar and stop it from slipping.
Door Pull Up Bar Weight Limit - Are You Too Heavy?
Telescopic chin up bars have a max weight limit of around 250lbs, though may start to bow in the middle if you’re anything over 220lbs. The wider the doorframe (or even hallway) the more likely the telescopic bar is to bend under your weight.
Over the top doorway bars have much more structural rigidity, their design relies on your weight to lock them tight in position, as such they are generally rated with a weight limit of 300lbs. With the over the top type, it really comes down to how strong your walls are and that’s your walls not the actual doorframe trim.
The trim is used for support to help keep the bar in the right place but is not where the weight is placed.
What does a door pull up bar do for your body?
Using a door pull up bar will give you a great body weight workout, which uses and strengthens a combination of muscles in your back, arms and chest.
The degree to which you focus on one muscle group more or less than another can be tailored based on your grip. Generally a wider grip will use your back more and a narrower grip will use your arms and chest more. For a more detailed look at the differences between grips see pull ups vs chin ups.
Door Pull Up Bar Workouts
This is a great quick 5 minute workout you can do any time of the day.
This simple workout uses 4 reps of 10 pull ups, it starts with a focus on your back and gradually moves more towards your arms as you tire:
- 10 X wide grip pull ups (palms away from you)
- 10 X neutral grip pull ups (palms facing each other – only possible with over the top leverage bars as telescopic bars don’t have neutral – palm facing grips)
- 10 X narrow grip pull ups (palms away from you)
- 10 X narrow grip chin ups (palms facing you)
Try to do 10 full lifts with each rep, if you struggle as you tire and find you can only do 4 or 5 on the later reps then simply jump yourself up and sloooooowly lower yourself back down for the remainder of the 10.
If however you can’t yet do 10 pull ups to start with, head over to the 10 pull up workout challenge, which will help you go from not being able to do a single pull up to rocking out 10.
Reasons for NOT buying a doorway pull up bar
You might have non standard doorways
Although you can get yourself a wide door pull up bar, the wider the bar the more likely it is to sag in the middle. The first bar I bought was an an iron gym and despite my house having 7 main doorways, it would only fit on 1:
- Lounge - Double doors made the doorway too wide
- kitchen - Not enough space around the edges of the doorframe
- Cloak room - Built as part of an extension to the original house, means this wall was originally an external wall and is 5 times as thick as a normal internal wall
- Bathroom - As this is fully tiled up to the doorframe there is no lip for the top of the bar to sit above the frame
- Bedroom 3 & Bedroom 2 - Have doorways in a corner at right angles to each other, both meaning there isn’t room either side
- Bedroom 1 - Success!!! The wall is a standard internal thickness, there is space either side of the frame, there is room for the bar to sit on top of the frame and I can even easily store it under the bed out of the way then pull it out for a quick workout when passing
If in doubt have a read of Will the Doorway Pull Up Bar Fit My Doorway?
Door Pull up Bars Are Not Suitable For Every Type of Pull up
While a bar in your door is ideal to start learning pull ups there are some type of pull related moves you might want to try, that you just can’t do in a doorway.
You Can’t Use a Doorway bar for Kipping
Kipping is really popular with guys who do CrossFit and involves rapid pull up repetitions where you swing your legs to generate horizontal momentum then use this to help you generate vertical momentum pulling up at the same time, making the act of pulling up easier. Instead of just lowering yourself down again you push away from the bar, which helps start you back into the horizontal movement again, maintaining your momentum all the time.
Because of the design of over the top door frame bars / leverage bars, as soon as you start swinging too far you’ll find yourself laying on your back on the floor as this will dislodge the bar, it works by the downward force of your weight pulling it in tight to the wall, change the direction of this weight and it will no longer stay in place.
Telescopic bars do not use the same leverage design to stay in place, however they are also one of the weakest designs for weight support and while you may only weigh 150lbs vs the 220lb limit, as soon as you start kipping on it you’re rapidly generating increased force in alternating directions much more likely to dislodge the bar.
Kipping is not the same as a standard pull up, the use of the momentum reduces the downward force of your body weight effectively making it like you weigh less. If you goal is to be able to do 10 or 20 full proper pull ups, the best way to start to learn is with Australian pull ups and jumping negatives (explained in the 10 pull up workout challenge). This will develop your strength more than kipping, however kipping does provide a great high intensity workout, the effort is shared among many muscles in your body and is great if your goal is more towards cardio than pure strength building.
Please don’t try it with a doorway bar, grab yourself a really sturdy bar like the Stud Bar, it was specifically designed with the CrossFit community and is personally recommended by Greg Glassman the CrossFit Founder.
You Can’t Use a Doorway bar for Muscle Ups
Muscles ups are one of the most advanced pull up techniques.
- Once you’ve pulled your chest up to the bar you then quickly rotate your grip so your wrists are now above the bar
- Push up till you straighten your arms – This pushes your whole upper body up over the bar so your weight is in line with the bar
- Lower back into the normal pull up position with your chest up near the bar
- Finally lower back down again
- A over the top leverage bar will get knocked off (and probably fall on some’s head) if you leave it in place and someone inadvertently closes the door or walks into it.
- A telescopic bar is often ideal height to blindside someone walking through the doorway first thing in the morning or during the night.
You Can’t Leave A Door Pull Up Bar in Place All The Time
Will a doorway pull up bar damage or break your door frame or wall?
Over The Top Pull Up Bar Damage
It is possible that over the top leverage doorframe bars may cause some minor damage to either your wall or door trim.
In the vast majority of cases you wont see any damage at all
You may only see damage if you have very thin walls or very soft door trim, but if you are worried about it, here’s the potential damage that might be caused and how you can prevent it.
- The pressure on the top of the bar pushing towards you against your wall may crack thin plaster board (dry wall)
This happens because the bar at the top which makes contact with your wall is relatively thin, so you put a high amount of pressure on a small area. Slip a thin piece of plywood or other sheet of wood in between the bar and the wall, this helps to spread the force over a much larger surface on the wall, making it much less likely to crack.
- The pressure of the base of the bar pushing away from you may damage the trim, even though this is minimized in design with foam on the area of the bar which pushes against the frame, if your door trim is particularly soft it may still get dented
Put any cushioned piece of material between the bar and the doorframe to soften the pressure against the trim – a pair of socks or a couple of small towels are ideal.
Telescopic Doorway Chin Up Bar Damage
Telescopic pull up bars can also cause minor damage to your frame as either you need to screw in the fixing caps to the frame, this requires screwing holes in the frame, while the holes are small they can be unsightly if you decide to stop using the bar – you’d need to fill the holes and repaint if you decide to take the caps off again.
You can use the telescopic bars without the caps, but you’ll want to make sure it’s very tightly twisted so it’s wedged against the door frame tightly (see video below), if you have soft door frame this can cause them to be dented.
It’s also possible a telescopic bar may cause cracks in the corners of your frame, as you tighten it to stop it falling, you’re pushing the frames away from each other, on older / weaker structures you may find this causes some gaps to open in the corners. If this does happen, these cracks can be filled with a flexible decorating material like decorators cork and repainted.
Doorway Pull Up Bar Installation
The over the top doorway leverage pull up bars are the easiest thing in the world to install. They all come with a small metal safety clip which sits in behind the door frame, this isn’t structural in anyway, you’ll see this as soon as you pick it up as it’s so light and springy, it’s simply there to help you not knock you bar off accidentally when not using it. When you are on the bar the way it’s engineered ensures it doesn’t slip off. It can take a minute to get a chair and slip the safety clip behind the frame, but this is a one time job, once that done the actual “installation” of your bar is literately a 1 second job.
- Pass the top through the doorway horizontally, keeping the bottom on the other side
- Lower the base of the bar and raise the top to hook it on to the top of your doorframe, behind the safety clip
- Start using
To take it down again just lift the bottom of the bar and bring it back through the doorway again.
If you want to install a telescopic doorway pull up bar it’s really simple too:
- You can just use the friction of the bar against the inside of the doorframe to hold it in place….though if you do be careful, please don’t do this….
If you want a more secure attachment just use the cups that they all come with, here’s what the JFit Deluxe Manual says:
Which is the best door pull up bar for you?
Now you know the options available to you and understand the pros and cons of a door pull up bar vs other types of bars, go use the EasyBuyPal pull up bar pall to help you narrow down your choice to one specific bar that’s best for you.