You’re hanging off the edge of a cliff by your fingertips. Your adrenaline is going haywire. The only way to save yourself from certain doom is to pull yourself up by your own strength.
If it could happen to Rocky, it could happen to you.
Ok, so maybe that’s a far-fetched scenario. You’ll probably never find yourself in that situation. Most likely. But wouldn’t it be nice to know that, should worse come to worst, you’re in good hands?
Pull-ups are one of the most complete exercises around, working out many of the muscles in your upper body in a raw test of your strength-to-weight ratio. There’s a reason pull ups are a staple in fitness tests for the military, police, firemen, you name it. (Chin-ups, where your palms face toward you, work slightly different muscles and don’t have the same real-world applications.)
“But I’ve never done a pull-up before,” you respond. Newsflash: If you have healthy arms, you can do pull-ups. Sure, maybe not today. Maybe not within the next month, or not at your current weight. But it is well within your capacity as a functioning human being to do a pull-up. Even for women. There are thousands of articles and Youtube videos that can teach you how to go from zero to pull-up hero, whether you can already do a couple or the thought of even one makes you swoon.
If you find yourself swooning often, you may want to get checked out.
However, for a lot of people, the trickiest part of pull-ups isn’t the how, it’s the where. Unlike push-ups and crunches, pull-ups require some specialized equipment–namely, a bar that will hold your weight–and if you’re not a member of a decently equipped gym, then you may not have easy access to one (unless you’re a ninja that can do fingertip pull ups on door frames).
Assuming you even use doors.
Since getting better at pull-ups requires that you build some muscle, and building muscle requires consistent training, you may need a home solution. Unfortunately, since pull-ups are such a great exercise, you have an overwhelming number of products from which to choose. Allow me to walk you through your options below.
Although I disagree with the name of this product from an anatomical standpoint (pull-ups only work the “pulling” muscles in the upper body, which is about half–still pretty good), the Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar is the gold standard for home pull-up bars. This bar is easy to put together and simply rests on top of your door frame. It features three different types of hand placements so you can mix up your workouts a bit. For example, I prefer to start on the innermost handgrips and work my way out.
Any resemblance to a medieval torture device is purely coincidental.
The grips are made out of a nice, squishy material that stays comfortable for extended use. Speaking from experience, you may find that you need to cover the top part of the bar with duct tape so it doesn’t scratch up your wall paint. Other than that, this bar offers a lot of value with no installation required.
The Perfect Basic Pullup is unique in that it features a swing arm that can be set to pull-up position or swung down for a variety of other exercises, including Australian pull-ups that are done at an angle and help you work up to the real thing. The mounting brackets are easy to install, and it is good for any door between 27-36″ wide. Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, you’ll want to drill pilot holes in your door frame as per the instructions.
Stand-alone steel frame and fitness model not included.
The Sunny Health & Fitness Door Way Chin Up is probably the simplest option in this list, but this bar has some features that set it apart from the competition. The bar goes from 23″ to 32″ in width and extends from both ends so the grips remain in the middle of the bar (other bars of this type don’t do this). It is actually built to be used without brackets, similar to a tension rod for a shower. However, I would recommend installing the included brackets for safety’s sake. Pull-ups are difficult enough as it is without testing how cat-like your falling reflexes are.
If you have the room for it–whether it’s a dedicated workout room, back patio, or backyard–then there is really just one recommendation: the Stamina 1690 Power Tower. This beast allows you to workout your triceps, chest, and abs in addition to offering a steady platform for various types of pull-ups. If you buy this, there’s a good chance I’ll invite myself over to workout with you. ‘Nuf said.
You could probably get away with calling it the Tower of Power as well.
Getting the proper pull-up equipment is only half the equation. The other half is using it consistently. Try to better yourself every week, whether you’re doing negative pull-ups or trying to get up to 20 in a row. To break past the 15-20 rep barrier, you’ll probably have to give weighted pull-ups a try.
If you notice that pull-ups are too hard on your hands, get some weight lifting gloves or try alternating your grip so that one palm is facing out and the other is facing toward you. Keep after it and you’ll be hanging with the Barstarzz before you know it.