You are one lucky person. Really, given the size of the total universe, and the breadth of the internet, you searched for pull up bars and you ended up here. Why so lucky you ask? Well simply put, you have embarked on the exact same journey we embarked on over 2 years ago.
My name is Brandon. My friend’s name is Cyril (Yes, his grandparents are from the Ukraine). Two years ago we were both in our last year of university, broke and spending our weekends playing beer pong and being hungover. It wasn’t until one spring after a long winter of eating waaaaay too much we both realized we needed to change our bodies.
Whether you’re a full time student like we were, or you have a full-time job, it can feel impossible to find the time to get into a real gym (let alone afford it!). That’s why after pouring over dozens of Youtube fitness videos we found out about body weight exercises, or calisthenics, and eventually the humble pull up/chin up bar.
The pull up bar is the Swiss army knife of exercise equipment. It’s cheap (it can be free if you make it yourself!), it’s durable, it’s simple, and best of all, it works all the muscles in your upper body.
So, after a year and a half of regular pull up work we both proudly sport mini-wings are lats are so developed. Okay, we’re not that ripped, but we look way better than before and we owe it all to the humble pullup. We’ve decided to write down everything we learned and share it with you so you can embark on the same journey. All of this is why it is your lucky day. Read on to gain everything we learned without going to a million sites to research the best pullup bar for you!
Types of Pull Up Bars
“Just give me a damn pullup bar!” you may want to shout. Well hold your horses there for a minute. You don’t want to go about wasting your money on a bar that doesn’t serve your needs or work within your environment.
A few things dictate what type of bar you want to buy. These include:
- Your budget
- Your living situation
- Your total space
- Your long-term goals
If you’re on a super tight budget you will look at different bars than if you have a full-time job. Additionally bars come in all shapes and sizes. For example some can fit in your closet so you can store them when you’re not using, while other free standing types are like massive pieces of furniture that are pretty much impossible to hide, yet can provide more versatile workouts.
So first, decide how much money you have to spend on a bar. Second, know exactly how much space you have. These two drivers will dictate the categories you’ll want to do your shopping in.
Below are the 4 main types/categories of pull-up bars on sale today. We’ll touch on each bar type, it’s pro’s and con’s and then link to even more specific reviews of each type. By the end you’ll probably (hopefully?) know exactly which bar is best for you.
Doorway-mounted bars are the cheapest and most readily available bars on the market. They are small, light, and can be put together in just a few minutes. Obviously there are two parts to this type of bar, one is the pullup bar/grip unit itself and the other is your doorway. These bars require a strong sturdy doorway to function properly, unlike the bars below.
So, take a look at your apartment/house/parents house and evaluate your door frames. Most bars only work on standard interior doorways. The standard width of interior doors is 34 inches.
So make sure you have a STANDARD WIDTH interior doorway if you’re considering this bar. Cool? Great, you’re good to go.
A few things to consider about this type of equipment:
- Small Size/Easy to store away
- Doesn’t Require Drilling/Construction
- Sometimes not as durable
- Not quite as stable as other types
- May not fit your doorway
If you’re looking for something that’s extremely versatile, can’t be drilling in your walls or have limited space this is probably the type for you.
Read our review of the top doorway-mounted bars here.
Extending (Telescoping) Pull Up Bars
Extending or “telescoping” bars are perhaps the smallest size and simplest design of all the types of pullup bars available on the market. They’re also some of the trickiest. Why? Well, simply the way they are engineered. A bar that only has mono-directional friction supporting it is almost always a more “interesting” proposition than bars with multi-directional support.
Extending bars look like one solid bar, but usually are actually composed of two or three bars that slide within each other. Because of the design, it makes for a super convenient and portable chinup/pullup solution.
Here are a few of the total pros and cons to consider when considering purchasing this bar from Amazon or your local sports shop:
- Simple, minimalist, beautiful design aesthetic
- Super portable
- Occasional questionable quality
- Limited grip options
- Awkward bar circumference
The extending pullup bar is a bit like a little sports car. When done correctly they’re minimalist design is a thing of beauty, but when done incorrectly they’re actually quite dangerous. Read more below for our reviews of the top extending pull up bars on the market.
Free Standing Pull Up Bars
Free standing pull up bars or “stations” as they’re sometimes called are a more flexible platform when compared to other bar solutions because many offer various accessories for different exercises and they don’t require a wall or doorway to use.
Obviously then, because these bad boys can stand all on their own they will take up a lot more space, won’t be as portable (if portable at all short of hauling it with a truck) and are usually quite a bit more expensive. However, what you get for all these drawbacks is one of the most versatile and thus overall “best” pullup platforms on the market.
Free standing pullup bars are the types you see in parks that are literally just upside down “U”s. They are often home-made, welded contraptions. There is another variety that isn’t’ welded but instead stands on the ground with legs. These types are often found in gyms and can double as dip platforms, leg raise/captains chairs, amongst other things.
To summarize briefly, the benefits and disadvantage of stand-alone pullup bars include:
- Strong and durable, built to last
- Doesn’t require doorway or wall
- Can often perform a multitude of body-weight exercises with them
- Costly, these are the most expensive types of bars you can get
- Not very portable
- Requires a little know-how to assemble
Check out the multitude of serious stand-alone pull up bar setups here.
Wall-Mounted Pull Up Bars
A wall, a bar bolted onto it, an ambitious human. Wall mounted pullup bars are considered “the classics” because they are A. the simplest and B. the oldest form of pullup bar (if you exclude cavemen using branches on trees of course!).
Wall-mounted bars are simply that, a series of bars fastened to a sturdy wall, whether it be concrete or wood; to provide a stable platform for performing pullups.
These types of bars are ubiquitous with garage and basement gyms, high school gyms and old school bodybuilding gyms. There’s a reason the “old school” types love these bars: they’re simple and they look cool!
A bar that’s in fixed place, unlike other portable options, usually designates a “workout zone”, a place where mentally the individual is prepared to put in a good workout. Other types of bars can be found in bedrooms, kitchens, parks etc. While this works for some, others prefer to have a designated space to workout, kind of like reading.
No one type is better than other other. If you prefer working out in a park great. If you prefer the seclusion of your basement with Metallica turned up on your stereo, that’s great too.
If you’re considering this type of bar, there are a few benefits and weaknesses to remember:
- Old-school, timeless form
- Super sturdy
- Creates a “gym” feel
- Simple construction
- Not portable at all
- Requires a wall that can be drilled into
- Can only perform pullups/chinups/powerups
We’ve analyzed all the top wall-mounted type bars for you to help make your choice easier if this is the bar for you. Check out the in-depth coverage here.
So What Is the Best Bar for Me?
Sometimes life is just too full of options right? Who knew something as simple as a pullup bar could have so many variations. Ultimately, choosing the perfect bar for you comes down to your individual needs, living situation and budget. This is very similar to choosing a car actually, as sedans, vans, trucks, sports cars, all fulfill very different needs at very different price points.
Ultimately, we don’t know how much money you make, what your house looks like, or even how committed you are to getting in shape (although we sure hope you are!). However, from our experience trying all types of pull up bars over the years we can tell you simply this: the best pull up bar is the one you’ll use the most.
That’s it. That’s the secret. Money and location aside, the choosing the best bar comes down to thinking about which one you know you will use the most because at the end of the day, it’s not about the equipment, it’s about the exercise.
With that said, check out all of the different types, look at the units, check the prices, look at the reviews on Amazon, and choose something that will help you achieve your fitness goals. After all, a pullup bar is just a tool right?
So you don’t have to scroll all the way up again, here are the main categories of different pull up bars to consider. In each category we look at the bars we like the most (and some we don’t’ like) and list out detailed reviews to make your research just a bit easier.