In today’s article, we’ll be talking about how to do your first pull-up or multiple pull-ups if you can already do some. Plus, I’ll show you how to make a DIY pull-up bar for home workouts.
The pull-up is one of my favorite exercises. What makes them one of my favorites is that you can do them in creative places. On a door, in a tree, or traditionally on a pull-up bar.
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. It allows for higher repetition volume and an added endurance aspect to it. Just be careful not to do too 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.
Ok, let’s get on with how to make your DIY pull-up bar and do more pull-ups.
PULL-UPS WORK A TON OF MUSCLES
Pull-ups offer some serious bang for your buck when exercising. They work the large muscles of your upper back, require core strength – And use the biceps, shoulders, and forearms.
However, they can be one of the hardest exercises to perform. And that’s the motivation for this post.
To teach you how you can work on your pull-ups with limited time, equipment, and a short attention span. You’ll also learn how to make a homemade pull-up bar, do your first pull-up, or get better at them if you already dominate.
How do you make a home DIY pull-up bar?
There are tons of variations to making your own pull-up bar. Some of you might just want to purchase one that goes in your doorway. But I like more space than that and love training outside. Below is how I made a DIY pull-up bar that fits my needs.
- Total cost: $40-50
- Time: 30-45 minutes
Step 1: Survey your area
Walk around the house and survey your area. Where would a good place for a pull-up bar be? The garage is an excellent choice.
I decided on an overhang in my backyard 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’re performing pull-ups.
Step 2: Buy your DIY pull-up bar equipment
Here is exactly what you’ll need for your homemade pull-up bar.
- 4 foot by 1-inch black nipple pipe.
- Two (2) 4-inch pipe extensions. Usually found in the same aisle as the 4-foot pipe.
- Two (2) 1-inch black elbow pipe joints. Again, found in the same section.
- Two (2) 1-inch flanges
- Eight (8) 1/4 inch hex bolts.
- Eight (8) 1/4 inch hex nuts.
- Eight lock washers
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 whatever 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
These will 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.
The 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.
How to put the DIY pull-up bar together
Step 1: Layout of 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 your 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 onto each extension.
You should now be ready to install that to your overhang. 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.
How to do your first pull-up. Or better pull-ups
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 broke pull-ups into four levels. Decide which level you’re in and apply some of the tips. The 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.
Pull-up benchmarks to shoot for first
To make this a little fun I thought I would give you some cool benchmarks to shoot for. This is a great way to measure progress as you’re using your DIY pull-up bar and working on building up your pull-up strength.
Bar hangs are great for all levels of fitness, and improve grip strength, shoulder mobility, and decompress the spine. All important for progressing to pull-ups.
Goal: 2-3 sets, of 30-60s hangs
Scapula pulls are the first movement in a pull-up so it makes sense to work on it. From a hang, pull your shoulders straight down, pausing 2-3 seconds at the top.
Goal: 2-3 sets, or 8-10 reps
Inverted rows do a great job of simulating a bodyweight pulling movement. Progressing from a higher angle to a lower angle is a great way to progress with bodyweight pulling strength.
Goal: 2-3 sets, of 10 reps
Chin over bar hang
Chin-over bar hangs are a wonderful way to continue improving grip, scapula, lat, and shoulder strength. This is also a great way to create tension in your pulling muscles. The more tension, the more stimulus on the muscle fibers
Goal: 2-3 sets, of 10-20 second holds
Band assisted pull-ups
Want to do more pull-ups? Well, it makes sense to do more pull-ups and band-assisted ones are perfect.
Goal: 2-3 sets of 10 reps (use thinner and thinner bands)
The best way to get better at pull-ups is by doing more pull-ups. But you may not have the strength to pull your chin over the bar. You can overcome this challenge with negative pull-ups.
You start in a flexed hang with your chin over the bar and lower yourself to a straight arm hang/bar hang with head underneath the bar.
Level 1: I can’t do a pull-up
If you can’t do a pull-up some essential pulling strength training movements are the first place to start.
Exercises like 1-arm rows and inverted rows will help build strength in the upper back too. 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’d start with the inverted rows and follow the same pattern. Try and challenge yourself a little more each week. If inverted rows are too 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. You can also increase the angle up or down to increase or decrease difficulty.
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 hard 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 fully extended.
If you don’t have a smith machine at the gym to do inverted rows. 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.
I can do 1 to 5 pull-ups already
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 covered.
You’ll just need to build up some more strength. That can be done in 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 your back and 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 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).
30 pull-ups per day challenge
Another option is a trick I learned from strength coach Charles Poliquin.
I spent some time learning at the Poliquin institute years 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.
- 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.
I can do 5-10 pull-ups
If you’re looking to make it a little more challenging, 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.
Another way to challenge yourself, improve form, and increase strength is by focusing on tempo. Try taking 3 to 4 seconds to lower yourself in the pull-up. Pause 1 second at the bottom with arms fully extended. From there, pull up and pause for 1 second with your chin over the bar.
Can you get ripped with just a DIY pull-up bar?
What exercise replaces pull-ups?
- Lat pulldowns with a machine or resistance band
- Rows with a machine, barbell, dumbbells, or resistance bands
What can I use if I don’t have a pull-up bar?
If you don’t have a pull-up bar at home there are a number of alternatives. Obviously, dumbbell, kettlebell, and barbell rows would be your best bet. But here are a few not-so-common alternatives if you do not have those pieces of equipment.
- towel row (1-arm, isometric)
- towel pull apart and pull-downs
- band rows, pull apart and pull-downs
- ring and Trx rows
- door pull-ups
- inverted rows (table, chairs with a bar across)
How to do pull-ups at home without a bar
I shot a quick 4-minute video for you on YouTube (my apologies for the quality but it gets the job done). In the video, I go over the following exercises.
- Doorway rows
- Corner tucks
- Isometric towel pulls
- Towel rows
What are some pull-up bar workouts I can try
The best way to use a pull-up bar is by adding it to your current workouts. Pull-ups or band-assisted pull-ups could replace your cable lat pull-downs.
If you’re trying to improve your pull-ups you can add them to the beginning of your workout as a way to focus on them.
Every minute on the minute (EMOM) is another way you could add pull-ups into your routine.
- Set a timer for 10-minutes.
- Minute 1 complete 1 pull-up, rest the remaining time
- Minute 2 complete 2 pull-ups, rest the remaining time
- Minute 3 complete 3 pull-ups, rest the remaining time
- Continue this pattern and see if you work up to 10 pull-ups in the 10th minute
No equipment today. Master of the pull-up tomorrow
In one day you went from doing no pull-ups to having your own pull-up bar and dominating the heck out of them.
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.
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.