DIY Pull-up bar + Superhuman pull-ups

Pie Man and the Cupcake Kid Javier Volcan via Compfight

Ahhhh… “The pull-up” Probably my favorite exercise in the world. Next to dead-lifts of course (I don’t say it out loud, dead-lifts are very sensitive and might get their feelings hurt.) What makes them one of my favorites is that they are just down right fun. You can do them on a door, in a tree, or traditionally of course. There are also tons of variations.

  • Chin-upsAre usually a bit easier for most and are done with your palms facing you.
  • Pull-ups: To me are the traditional way with palms facing away from you.
  • Kipping pull-ups: Made most famous by Crossfit. Allows for higher repetition volume and an added endurance aspect to it. Just be careful not to do to many or you won’t be able to wash your back the next day.
  • Butterfly: Another Crossfit style pull-up designed to increase speed when doing them for time.
  • Muscle-ups: A combination of a pull-up and a ring dip. More of an advanced movement that requires some technique and skill learning.

They work a ton of muscles

Aside from being fun pull-ups offer some serious bang for your buck when exercising. They work the large muscles of your upper back but also require a bit of core strength and utilize the biceps, shoulders, and forearms. In terms of muscles building and fat loss pull-ups really are king.

However, they can be one of the hardest exercises to perform and take some serious practice. I know a ton of folks that can knock out push-ups like no tomorrow but get them on a pull-up bar and it’s sorry Charlie.

That’s the motivation for this post. How the heck can you work on your pull-ups with limited time (one of the biggest excuses to working out), limited equipment, and a limited attention span… I know I do at least.

So lets dive in shall we. How to make a homemade pull-up bar, do your first pull-up, or get better at them if you already dominate.

How to make a pull-up bar

There are tons of variations to making your own pull-up bar. Heck, some of you might just want to purchase one that goes in your doorway. But I like more space than that and love getting my fitness on outside… hooray for vitamin D! Below is how I made a pull-up that fit my needs.

Step 1: Survey your stomping grounds
Walk around the house and survey your stomping grounds. Where would a good place for a pull-up bar be? The garage is an excellent choice. For me I decided on an over hang in my back yard that is about 8 feet off of the ground. You’d  have to jump to the pull-up bar, use a chair, or box to reach it. This gives you plenty of room to lower yourself as you are performing pull-ups.

Step 2: Buy your equipment
I love the smell of Home Depot so any excuse to go there and I’m on it! Here is what you will need. If you have a hard time finding some of the gear just ask one of those trusty fellas or ladies in an orange coveralls. They are more than happy to help you find everything.

1. 4 foot by 1 inch black nipple pipe. Usually found in the plumbing section.

2. Two (2) 4 inch pipe extensions. Usually found in the same aisle as the 4 foot pipe.

3. Two (2) 1 inch black elbow pipe joints. Again, found in the same section.

4. Two (2) 1 inch flanges (love that word).

5. 1/4 inch hex bolts. You’ll probably need eight of these to go in each hole of the flanges. Make sure that the bolts are long enough to go all the way through the wood, concrete, or what ever else you are hanging your pull-up bar from.

6. 1/4 inch hex nuts. Eight, to go on each hex bolt

7. 8 lock washers to go in between the hex bolt and hex nut. Not necessary but adds some strength to it.

You’ll also need a drill and a long enough 1/4 inch drill bit that will go completely through the object you are hanging your pull-up bar from.

Quick tip: Check your house for any of the materials mentioned above. Lets just say hindsight is 20/20 :D

Total cost should be at or under $50 bucks. Less than the pull-up rigs you would otherwise find at Rogue, Stud pull-up bar, or various other outlets. Now with that said, both are excellent pieces of equipment and each company makes terrific products. Sort of a back-handed compliment from me but I think you know what I mean.

Cool man! Got my stuff. How do I put it together?

Step 1: Lay out all of your materials. Pick you the 4 foot nipple pipe and attach the two (2) elbows to each end. Make sure to twist them on fairly tightly.

Step 2: Take you 4 foot pipe with elbows attached and twist in the 4 inch extensions. These extensions will go into each elbow.

Step 3: Take your two (2) flanges and twist them on to each extension.

You should now be ready to install that bad boy! For me this was on an overhang in my back yard. All that is left to do is drill the eight (8) holes for your flanges and hex bolts. Make sure to mark where you will be drilling by taking your DIY pull-up bar and holding it up to the location it will be attached. Then grab a sharpie and mark where you will be drilling.

Take your drill and long 1/4 inch drill bit and go all the way through the wood. Then simply run your hex bolts through the flanges and wood and attach your hex nuts to the back in order to secure your pull-up bar. Continue this for all eight (8) holes.

BOOM! There you have it. DIY pull-up bar. Hooray!

So now I have a pull-up bar to bad I can’t do any… or Dude, I’m a pull-up pro! But I want to do more

Now you have a pull-up bar and it’s at your house. You’ve got no excuse to knock out a few during commercial breaks, first thing when you wake up, or while you’re goofing off on Facebook…. I’m on to you :)

I break the pull-up gangs into four crews. Decide which crew you are rolling with and apply some of the tips. Great thing about these crews is that there is a way out and it’s not by death. All you have to do is more pull-ups. Whewwww!

The ICDOP crew (I can’t do one pull-up):

Don’t trip chocolate chip. You’ll be doing them in no time. Chances are if you are new to this fitness thing then you have not been working out consistently in order to build up the strength to do a pull-up. Some basic pulling exercises like 1-arm rows and inverted rows will help. Try adding these in during the week to your workouts

  • Monday: 1-arm rows, 3-4 sets x 8 tough reps so choose a weight that is very challenging
  • Wednesday: Inverted rows, 3-4 sets x AMRAP (as many reps as possible).
  • Friday: 1-arm rows, 3-4 sets x 8 tough reps

Then on monday you will start with the inverted rows and follow the same pattern. Try and challenge yourself a little more each week. If inverted rows are to tough you can bend your knees instead of keeping them straight. This will reduce some of the weight you use as you pull yourself to the bar.

Try and touch your chest to the bar on every rep if you can or at least get as close as possible. Pretend that there is someone behind you trying to mug you and you want to elbow them in the gut as heard as possible. This will force you to bring those elbows behind you explosively. When you lower yourself down try to take 2-3 seconds to get your arms full extended.

*If you don’t have a piece of equipment like a smith machine at the gym to do inverted rows on try using a table at home, the bed of your truck, or extend a 1 inch pipe like the one we used for the DIY pull-up bar. Run it across two chairs and that should give you a good and sturdy spot.

This last tip might hit home a bit but it’s honesty time. If you can’t do a pull-up yet it might be because you need to lose some fat. After consistently exercising and eating real food you’ll be able to knock ‘em out in no time. Just ask Ami here. He couldn’t do a single pull-up. He lost 30 pounds and now he’s crushing them.

The I can do one to five feeling alive crew:

So you can do a pull-up and maybe even 2 or 3 in a row. Hell, maybe you can even do 5 strict ones in a row. But that’s not good enough for you. You want more. Cool! I got you and your crew covered.

You’ll just need to build up some more strength. That can be done one of two ways.

If you can already do 1-5 pull-ups with the 5th one being fairly difficult you can add in some assisted pull-ups using a partner holding your feet (I used a box here) or a resistance band. Here is an example of a workout you can perform on you back/pull-up day.

Pull-ups, 4-5 sets of 1-5 reps (on your own). After each set you will grab your resistance band and try to knock out 5-10 more. Use a resistance band with enough resistance that you can only do about 5-10 more reps. I like the iron woody bands found here (not an affiliate link).

The other option is a trick I learned from one of my heroes, Charles Poliquin. I spent some time learning at the Poliquin institute a year ago and improving pull-ups was a topic we discussed. They mentioned that at least 30 strict repetitions should be performed each workout in order to see significant gains in pull-up strength. So the idea here is to do at least 30 strict pull-ups (without assistance) per workout. An example is below.

Set 1: 6 pull-ups
Set 2: 3 pull-ups
Set 3: 3 pull-ups
Set 4: 3 pull-ups
Set 5: 2 pull-ups

So far you have done 17 pull-ups. You would keep going until a total of 30 repetitions has been reached. It may take you 10 sets or more. But so be it! The idea is to do at least 30 reps. Try to not rest more than 3 minutes max between attempts.

My favorite record Mauricio Balvanera via Compfight

The I can do five to ten crew:

So now you are amongst the pull-up elite. Knocking out pull-up after pull-up with ease. If you are looking to make it a little more challenging than try adding in some weighted pull-ups. This can be done with a weighted vest, tree climbing belt (check eBay for a cheap one), or a standard dip belt.

If you can already do 5-10 you probably have some good muscular endurance but a little more strength might be needed. Or you just want to be awesome and do pull-ups with more weight attached to you. Either way it’s all good. Make sure you are lowering yourself nice and smooth to a count of 2-3 seconds to make it a little more difficult.

The I’m not sure why I read this post I can do like a million pull-ups dude:

Well thank you pull-up god for sticking around to read this post in its entirety. I am honored and humbled by your willingness to stick it through.

If you are knocking out 10 strict pull-ups or more on a regular basis set after set then definitely add some weight as mentioned above but also try negative pull-ups.

To perform do a pull-up and get your chin completely over the bar (this should always be done BTW). Take at least 5 seconds to lower yourself down until your arms are fully extended. Do another pull-up and repeat. See how many you can do following this 5 second negative tempo.

If you can do more than 7 with east then try increasing the time to lower yourself. See if you can work up to 30 seconds doing multiple reps. No joke! A warning though, you will be sore as all get up!

*Insider tip on this: Make sure that you lower yourself at a consistent speed the entire time. The 5 seconds should be nice and smooth through out. No dropping like an anvil on Wil-e-coyote at the bottom part of the movement. Ya dig?

Skeletor / He-man Germán Lagos via Compfight

No equipment today… Master of the pull-up tomorrow:

So in one day you went from doing no pull-ups to having your own pull-up bar and dominating the heck out of them. Kudos to you boys and girls!

Lastly, when doing pull-ups make sure to do them right. If your chin doesn’t get over the bar and your arms are not fully extended at the bottom of the movement it is not a pull-up. Be legit yeah?

Can’t make this pull-up bar at home and need some other ideas? Holler at me or ask in the comments. I’ll hook you up.

Are you a pull-up master and want a crazy pull-up workout to try. Give me a shout or submit a video of you doing some crazy pull-ups.

Live limitless,

Justin

About Justin

I'm inspired by how simple changes made to your nutritional, exercise, and lifestyle choices can effect your overall well-being in such dramatic ways. More energy, improved mood, increased happiness, strength, power, and sheer enjoyment for life is what I do.

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  • http://johnfalchetto.com John Falchetto

    Got some great ideas there for building mine. I always tell myself I can run to the park 300 yards away to do them but having a bar at home means, less excuses not to do them.
    I will keep the park for my Murphs training rounds :)

    • http://www.limitless365.com Justin

      Thanks John. I have to admit. Had you and your Murph in mind when thinking up this one. Having basic equipment really goes a long way in achieving your fitness goals. It’s tough to say you don’t have the time when you can literally walk out back and do pull-ups, push-ups, lunges, and jump rope #fitness

  • http://bryanadair.com/ Bryan

    the only thing easier would be a diy pushup station (yep – just grab some dirt pal). Pullups are a real test of upper body strength. Instead of asking someone how much they can bench, a better question would be “how many pullups can you do?”

    Your training tips were great. Adding weight and negatives are always fantastic for making gains. I’ve used Poliquin’s idea for total reps with success myself.

    • http://www.limitless365.com Justin Miller

      Bryan,

      Haha. I agree. Maybe I’ll do a write-up on how to DIY your own dirt for push-ups. I worked with some of the Poliquin team in Rhode Island and I definitely am influenced by their structural balance and strength methods. But with that said there are about a million ways to skin a cat and when it comes down to it do what you enjoy and works for ya.

      PS: Enjoyed your crossfit write-up on your site.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/maximilian.contreras.5 Maximilian Contreras

    Great article thanks for the plans, one question I have a concrete roof/overhang that I want to put this into the ceiling portion outside. Do you think this would be ok without sending the screws completely through I don’t think I could punch through the roof. I live on base housing USAF in Guam. Thank you

    • justinmiller06

      Thanks for stopping by the site and taking time out to comment. Good question, I’m pretty confident that this would be doable. Have you ever thought of building a free standing one with 2X4′s that might be an option for you a well on the base.

    • justinmiller06

      Hey Max,

      If you can some how get a piece of wood up there that the bolts can run through that would be ideal. However, if you are just talking about a concrete wall where the bolts would not be able to come out the backside I would try this.

      http://www.heaveyduty.com/2013/01/how-to-build-a-pull-up-bar-system-anchoring/

  • http://about.me/akash87 Akash

    Nice article. I’ve been trying to find the right kinda minimalistic pull up bar, if not workout equipment that can go into my room. Would love to post a photo of the place i’m trying to get mine and i’d appreciate if you can help me right the right equipment :)

    • justinmiller06

      Yeah man, just shoot me an email with the photo and I’ll try my best to help you out.

  • John Michael Tangbaoan

    Hi sir, how about for a concrete hanging slab? how can i mount it to the edge of it? Thanks.. I want to put it in my roof deck overhang but im not sure if those bolts will work on concrete..

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