Updated: October 6, 2015
Best Pull-up BarsIf you are into working out at home, one of the key pieces of equipment you need is pull-up bars or chin-up bars. If you want to work out your bicep and back muscles, you need to be doing pull-ups. Setting up pull-up bars at home means finding a door frame to put it in, or if you have a basement you can attach or hang a bar there. But most of the pull-up bars you find out there are meant for door frames. There are basically 2 types of pull-up bars - those that have to be installed with hardware to sit inside your door frame and require permanent installation of either the bar or the mounting hardware, and removable pull-up bars that use your own weight as pressure to lock themselves onto the top and sides of your door frame, and come down when you are not using them. In this guide we will take a look at the various styles and most popular brands of pull-up and chin-up bars, including prices, things to look out for, and our recommendations. One note -- if you are going to start doing pull-ups, consider adding P90X to your workout routine -- it's an incredible system and is heavy on pull-ups.
Different Types of Chin-up BarsLet's start with the type of bar I like best, the removable kind that you place above and inside the door frame and is held in place by your weight. If you haven't seen these, check out some of the photos above. But basically, they are curved and look like a bike rack or something you might put on the back of your car. There is generally a bar or rod on one side that pivots up over the back of your door frame, resting above the frame. The rest of the thing sticks out through the top of the door frame, with bracing bars that rest upon and fit snugly against the door trim on the edges of your door frame. So as you hang, your weight pushes the front bar down and against the edges of the door frame on the front, while the bar in the back above the door frame is thrust forward against the wall, essentially locking the bar into place. Some have just a single bar in the front to work out with, some offer a variey of handholds and positions and pads. These come in a variety of styles and flavors, ranging from cheaper and more cheaply built types to more expensive solid pieces, but in general the prices range from about $25-$80. Be sure to read the details and specs on any pull-up bar before you buy it - some are only for certain width doors, most only fit walls that are 4" thick, not 6" thick as some exterior walls are. So measure your door opening, measure the wall, and see if you have any obstacles around the edges of the door you want to use -- cabinets, walls, etc. -- that would get in the way of the bar. Also, check that the bar you buy has enough padding on the bars that will come into contact with your door trim to avoid scratches and scuffs. Amazon.com carries a number of this style pull-up bar: the Creative Fitness Door Gym sells for $46, the Everlast Multi Function Chinning Bar sells for just $35, or browse more pull-up bars here.
One of the least expensive models is called the Door Gym, which sells for $25-$45. Set up is easy on this one, no tools or screws required, just place it into the door frame you want to use and start pulling up. It fits doors 24" to 32", and there are optional extensions you can buy to fit doors up to 45". You can check it out and order direct at DoorGym.net for $45, but we've seen it as low as $25 at other online stores - do a search for "door gym" and you can find other retailers as well. If you are looking for something more solid, check out PullupBar.com and their Universal Door Mount Pull-up Bar (UD-6 or UD-5 for smaller doors). The larger one sells for $79 and only fits doors 28" to 36", and it also installs in seconds with no tools or mounting hardware. These bars offer a very wide grip option and they have lots of foam on the part that comes into contact with your door trim -- they won't damage your door. They are also more solidly built with some welded connections instead of just bolted together, making them stronger. So while these cost a little more, they are a very solid pull-up bar. The one we have been using recently is the BeachBody.com (the makers of the popular P90X workout DVDs) chin-up bar. It sells for $49 and like most of these, you have to put it together with a number of screws and nuts -- make sure you tighten everything, use it gently, then re-tighten everything. Beachbody does something a little different with theirs and offers two metal hooks to install above your door jamb that helps hold this pull-up bar in place. So you can remove the bar when you are not using it, but 2 J-hooks will be left above your door jamb -- some people don't like having to damage their walls (especially if you are in an apartment or something), so consider that before you opt for the BeachBody pull-up bar. Other than that, installation was pretty simple - just measure and drill a few holes, insert the molly screws and put the hooks in place, and you are ready to go. This bar gives you a variety of pull-up hand positions, lots of foam padding on the grips, and has good padded protection to keep your door trim from getting dinged up. We ordered online from their website, but found that their support by phone and live chat was really lacking - we just wanted to ask the dimensions of the bar, but no one there knew, no one had access to a packaged product to read what it said, etc. Plus both call and chat were directed to India, where we got a lot of verbatim reponses like "how was your weekend" (while we are waiting, waiting...) and "I have noted your feedback" and other canned lines. So not overwhelmed by their support staff, but the pull-up bar works great and is very solid once put together and installed correctly.