Few exercises are as convenient and effective as the pull-up for building upper body pulling strength and muscle mass.
Now, not everyone can do this exercise due to a lack of sufficient upper strength. But that’s perfectly ok… you can still utilize this handy tool to work your way up.
And we’ll show you exactly how to do this, but we’ll also talk about the muscles worked, and of course, we put together a list of several pull-up bars you should consider for staying on your fitness track come the new year…
Can’t Stay Long? Check Out The Editor’s Pick…
X Mark Multi-Grip Pull-Up Bar (XM-9025)
This is a fantastic option for getting in your pull-up training. It’s also a wall-mounted, design that sticks out a good deal from the wall and the thick, knurled grips support performance, while the grip angle options are plentiful.
You can do exercises using a neutral, angled, or pronated grip.
The bar measures 48 inches for easy setup and it’s welded rather than bolted together for maximum strength to hold up a lot of weight!
We definitely recommend this bar as a very solid and diverse training tool.
What Muscles Does The Pull-Up Work?
The primary target muscle during the pull-up is the back, and more specifically, the latissimus dorsi or the ‘lats’.
But this non-negotiable exercise also hits the rhomboids, erector spinae, and traps of the upper posterior chain (upper backside of the body), along with biceps, and even the forearms as well.
Anytime you pull, you heavily engage the biceps and it’s quite obvious that gripping the bar to pull yourself up will train your grip strength and forearms.
But back to the lats being the primary stimulated muscle group, one ACE study took 19 young, healthy males and had them perform several back exercises to see which was superior for targeting a specific area of the back. (1)
Well, the pull-up showed much higher activation of the lats than the bent-over row, inverted row, chin-up, seated row, lat pull-down, and TRX row when compared to other muscle groups which were less activated.
Now, there are other variables to consider when determining how well an exercise works for an individual. But we think this study shows good evidence that the pull-up definitely has its place and should be utilized frequently for back training.
Check Out These Bars!
Bodyrox Door Gym
This top-notch pull-up has a locking mechanism to ensure no slipping or spinning during your most intense pull-up workouts.
It’s made from a very strong steel frame and adjusts from 25″ to 36″ to fit most door frames. The bar can support up to 300 pounds with proper installment and you can either opt for the standard or extra secure installation with the included hardware.
The bar also has a quality foam grip to ensure optimal comfort. Not to mention, you also get a handy exercise guide as well.
Garren Fitness Maximiza Pull-Up Bar
This heavy-duty chrome steel pull-up is a great option when you need to get in a good workout at home and with just a door.
It’s adjustable to fit doorways between 26-39 inches and you get two sets of heavy-duty door mounts, in addition to one medium-duty door mount.
You won’t slip with this rugged bar and the foam grips are great for preventing pain during your training sessions.
Titan Fitness Wall Mount
So, this bar is a little different from the ones you attach to the door because you attach it to the wall instead which makes for an excellent setup!
It comes with everything you need to get set up and it’s also a more versatile option due to having more space and options to do what you do best… to train like a beast.
So, if you’re handy, then this is a definite must-have for your home gym.
Ultimate Body Press Pull-Up Bar
You’ll have to mount this bar above your door to use it but it’s a very sturdy and rugged steel design that gives you plenty of options beyond the simple Pull-up.
It’s curved, ergonomic design allows for easier use if your wrists, elbows, and even shoulders tend to bother you from these types of exercises. But, variation in grip angle is the other benefit of the bar’s design.
The 1.25” thick bar even sticks out 4.25 inches from the wall for a better range of motion and with a 36” bar, well… the possibilities are endless.
Not to mention, you can use the bar as a very stable anchor to do other exercises including bodyweight movements using bands.
MS Sports Joist Mounted Pull-Up Bar W/ Neutral Handles
This is a really neat joist-mounted pull-up bar which has an angled down wide bar plus knurled grips for the different hand positions to ensure your training doesn’t get disrupted by the breakdown and slipping of the typical rubber handles.
But an awesome feature is the neutral grips which are excellent for doing narrow pull-ups which also work your grip strength and forearms big time.
So, it definitely doesn’t hurt to have more than one option for your workouts.
The bar is 47 inches long and it too is a versatile option.
Kit4Fit Wall Mounted Pull-Up, Dip, and Multi-Use Setup
If you’re looking for a home gym that attached to your wall then this is it!
The Kit4Fit Multi-station setup allows you to do pull-ups (also neutral grip), chin-ups, dips, leg raises, push-ups, TRX Training and more.
It’s an uber-cool design made from very high-quality steel that can support up to 200kg/440lbs so there’s little that this beastly piece of equipment can’t do. And there’s plenty of padding for comfort during the wide range of exercises possible with this system.
Also, you can remove it and store it when not in use.
Yoleo Adjustable Power Tower
Now we’re getting into the towers which are a good piece of equipment for not only pull-ups but for the other typical bodyweight exercises as well including dips, leg lifts, push-ups, etc.
A lot of training towers are unstable and just seem to be more frustrating than anything. But the Yoleo power tower is made from reinforced steel and it has extended curved bases with powerful suction cups at the bottom, and multiple anti-skid plates to ensure you stay in place during activity.
But one attractive feature with this tower is that it’s height-adjustable which makes for a very comfortable, and of course, versatile design.
One drawback is that the weight capacity is about 220 pounds which should support most people who are capable of performing the many exercise options with the tower, although there are larger individuals who may not be able to use this power tower.
But it’s a top-quality workout station for those looking to get in a serious workout.
K KiNGKANG Adjustable Power Tower
The K KiNGKANG power tower is a super-cool workout station that is adjustable for different heights, plus it has suction cups on the base for optimal sturdiness. And the power tower is held together by two reinforced cross-bars.
The high-density handles are made from environmentally-friendly material which is very respectable and durable by the same token. Also, the station has two sets of barbell racks so that you can do squats and other exercises too (pretty darn neat).
Sportsroyals Power Tower
And the last option on our list of best pull-ups bar is the Sportsroyals Power Tower which is made from 14-gauge steel which is apparently very strong as this station can support up to 400 pounds.
It has 8 support points for optimal stability and balance so that you can carry out all of the available functions ranging from the standard pull-up to dips, core work and more.
The power tower is also adjustable from 64.56″ to 88.18″ which is always nice, of course.
This is a viable option for improving your fitness.
How To Improve Your Pull-Up Strength?
The inability to do a pull-up can be due to several factors. One of which may actually be highly dependant on one muscle which you may not have even considered to be the main culprit.
Well, this muscle is the brachioradialis which is located in the forearm (knuckle side) and it also runs up into the upper arm.
Now yes, the back muscles are a big helper during the pull-up but we can’t deny that pulling strength from the arms is very important as well.
But the brachioradialis is more responsible for elbow flexion when the hands are pronated than are the biceps brachii, therefore making it the most important muscle in the upper arm for the pull-up which requires an overhand grip. (2)
So, to get a better pull-up we need to work this muscle and strengthen it to the max.
Well, how do we do this?…
First off, assisted pull-ups are an excellent way to strengthen this muscle. So, you can use an assisted pull-up machine for this which helps push you upward during each rep.
Or, you can wrap a resistance band around the bar at the top and place your knees inside of the hanging portion. The band will help to lift your body up.
But other great exercises are just pulling movements, in general, using an overhand grip (e.g. inverted row, seated row, bent-over row, etc). Not to mention, you can do reverse curls or even hammer curls
whether using a dumbbell, barbell, cable, or even a machine.
Focusing more on these movements will help you a lot toward getting better at the pull-up.
But another common and very beneficial way to improve pull-up strength is to do slow negatives because we’re naturally stronger during this portion of a rep.
And improving strength on the eccentric (negative) portion will undoubtedly improve your concentric (positive) strength.
- To do this variation, grip the bar as you normally would and then jump up to the top of the movements so that your head is near the bar, and simply hold this position while gravity begins to pull you down.
3-5 reps of your choice of sets should be sufficient.
But we’re not quite done… your core muscles are an essential component for every lift because it stabilizes your spine and supports your body during full-body activities.
- So, incorporate more core exercises like the hanging leg raise which allows you to train from the bar, the pallof press, and even the reverse/standard plank.
Then you have scapular stability which must be up to par if you plan to improve and maximize your pull-up capabilities. A lot of people have an imbalance in this area from an overabundance of pushing exercises and not enough isolation on the upper back and rear shoulder muscles.
- The straight arm pull-down is a great movement for improving this area, especially since it mimics the actual movement.
Lastly, the deadlift will definitely improve your pull-up performance as there’s no exercise better for maximizing your pulling strength; due to being able to lift the most amount of weight that your body is capable of.
However, some people cannot physically execute this exercise safely and correctly using a straight barbell.
But… there are other ways around this like using the trap bar, dumbbells and even utilizing the very effective rack pull below the knee.
Tips For Doing a Pull-Up Correctly
We completely understand that everyone has a different body and capabilities. But there are some general form tips which we recommend you adhere to for not only performing the pull-up effectively but safely as well.
- Keep your grip width just outside of your shoulders for optimum strength potential of the contributing muscles.
- When in the dead hang position, always keep your shoulder blades retracted and down to prevent destabilization of your shoulder joint. This will result in poor performance and it’s not healthy for your shoulders.
- Grip the bar deep in your hand. This prevents long-term elbow issues especially if you do the pull-up frequently. Otherwise, a finger-dominant/hook grip can allow you to perform more reps (should be used sparingly).
- Instead of bending your knees and placing your feet behind you which is very common, keep your legs straight and slightly in front of you while tightening your quads and calves; which will increase your ability to do more by keeping your more body stable.
Performing the pull-up
- Keep your eyes on the target… the bar that is. We don’t need to tell you how helpful it is to look at the bar while you’re pulling your body toward it. It makes executing the exercise successfully even more possible when you can see where it is that you’re headed.
- Pull the bar into your body… you’re probably thinking how is this even possible? Well, pretending that you’re pulling the bar into your chest will force you into thoracic extension which allows you to effectively pull yourself up with sufficient strength while properly engaging your scapulae.
- Pull the bar to your chin or chest and lower yourself until your arms are fully extended while remembering to keep your shoulder blades stabilized.
What’s The Difference Between a Pull-Up and Chin-Up?
- As you probably know by now, a pull-up is performed with an overhand grip and hand placement is typically just wider than the shoulder or even wider. This exercise targets primarily the back muscles although the biceps and forearms also contribute to the movement.
- The chin-up, on the other hand, is done with an underhand grip where the hands are positioned about shoulder-width, and sometimes even a little narrower. The biceps are often the target muscle group here although the back, and forearms are involved as well.
Both should be implemented for the benefits in which each offers considering bodyweight movements are some of the most effective options for improving physical fitness.
By now you should be an expert on the pull-up. It’s a must-have exercise in your arsenal for making huge upper body gains not to mention it’s also a functional movement that everyone should learn to do.
And now… there’s no excuse to implement some of the strategies we have discussed to improve your pull-up performance. Of course, people will have their own ways to perform the pull-up better.
But if you stick with the basics, you can’t possibly go wrong.
Now as for the 10 pull-up bar options, choose one based on your goals and budget. Some may require some installation, whole other can be attached to your door frame and if you have extra space, a power tower is an awesome option…