The Pull Up Bar: The Poor Man’s Home Gym

Want to get in the shape of your life? Got a doorway and a few extra dollars? Then you’re good to go. A doorway pull up bar is all you need to pack on solid muscle, ramp up your strength levels and even lose bodyfat.  Let’s investigate how this one simple piece of inexpensive equipment can transform your doorway into your own personal home gym.

Doorway pull up bars come as either over the top door frame leverage bars, which have a bracket which sits on the top of your door surround, or as a telescopic bar which twists to wedge themselves between the uprights of your door frame. While both versions will allow you to perform a range of hanging bodyweight exercises, the over the frame leverage bar offers a greater exercises range due to it’s ability to be used separately from the doorframe for further exercises.

Pull Ups: The Core of Your Routine

The pull up is to the upper body what the squat is to the lower body. It is the one compound move which works every muscle group from the latissimus dorsi, to the biceps, the triceps, the deltoids, forearms, pectorals and even the abdominals. There is simply no other exercise that will work your upper body so completely.

The ideal male upper body shape features a “V” taper from the shoulders down to the waist. It is created by developing the width of the latissimus dorsi (lat) muscles of the back. The pull up is the exercise that will create that “V” taper. At the same time it will directly stimulate your biceps, especially when you perform close grip and reverse grip pull ups.

Want thick, muscled forearms? Pull ups will give them to you quicker than any other exercise. The muscles around your shoulders and neck (the trapezius, rhomboids, deltoids and scapulae) are also directly hit by pull ups. But pull ups will do more than pack on quality muscle mass. They will also improve your endurance and stamina. You will be amazed how quickly you’ll be able to add reps to the movement, recover between sets and get stronger.

As a major compound movement, pull ups are also a fantastic move to burn calories. Most people don’t realize how effective compound resistance exercises are at burning calories. If you perform 4 sets of pull ups, supersetted with a plyometric exercise such as burpees, you will get more cardiovascular and calorie burning benefit than if you ran on a treadmill for the same length of time. In other words, the pull up will allow you to build muscle AND to lose fat.

Auxiliary Hanging Bar Exercises

With your doorway pull up bar in place, you are now able to perform a whole range of hanging bodyweight exercises that will give you a great workout. In addition to standard pull ups, wide grip pull ups, chin ups, and more advanced moves like muscle ups you can:

  • Target the lower abdominals with hanging knees raises
  • Hit the entire abdominal wall with hanging leg raises
  • Focus on the ‘love handles’ at the side of the waist with the around the world exercise
  • Work the rhomboids and trapezius with scapula pulls
  • Zoom in on the mid back and abs with front lever pulls
  • Work the entire abs and core with windshield wipers

Not sure how to perform some of these moves. Check them out here, along with six more advanced exercises that you can perform on your doorway pull up bar.

Other Exercises

Most over the top doorframe leverage bars allow you to detach a portion of the frame to use as the basis for other exercises. By placing the “J” shaped bars face down on the floor you are able to perform such exercises as push ups and dips. Wedging the apparatus through the bottom of your doorway opening allows you to do a range of abdominal exercises that require you to anchor your feet.

Push Ups

Second only to the pull up as a developer of strength and muscle mass, the push up directly stimulates the muscle groups that are secondary workers on the pull up; the pectorals and the triceps. This makes it the perfect complement to the pull up in your workout routine. A pull up bar allows you to get a whole lot more out of your push ups.

When you perform a conventional push up, your range of motion is limited by the distance between your body and the floor. However, when you do the exercise on a pull up bar, you allow yourself an extra 6-8 inches of movement. This extra distance is critical to allowing you to maximally stretch and contract the pectoral muscles. In effect it allows you to perform a ‘flye’ movement while you are doing your push up, working your chest twice as effectively.


Triceps dips are a great way to add mass to your upper arms. The pull up bar allows you to do them very effectively. Simply sit on the floor with the apparatus directly behind you. Reach behind and grab the tops of the curved bars. Lift up until your arms are straight. Straighten out your legs in front of you. Your body should now be at a 30 degree angle. Keeping your elbows in at the sides of your body, bend at the elbows to bring them down toward the bar. Then push back to return to the start position.

Feet Anchored Abdominal Exercises

By placing the pull up bar between the gap at the bottom of your doorway you will have an anchor to perform abdominal exercises. Anchoring your feet allows you a stable position from which to resist gravity. Sit ups, crunches and their many variations (twisting, sideways, reaching, clapping, etc) all directly stimulate the lower and upper abdominals and are a great way to develop your six pack.



You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a functional, complete home gym. Everything you need to work your entire body, build muscle, get strong and lose body fat is all wrapped up in an inexpensive doorway chin up bar (see this article to learn about the best doorway pull up bars currently available). So, now that the money barrier no longer exists, don’t you think it’s time you invested in your health and picked up a doorway chin up bar. It could be the best investment in yourself you ever make!

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  1. Chris on October 4, 2016

    Great article, got to work on my pull ups.