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-ups: Are 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
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.
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?
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.