Is your pull-up bar mounted in the right place?

In Equip Your Gym, Plan Your Gym by Tim Steward

Last updated on March 9th, 2021 at 02:02 pm

Pull-ups are a fundamental and functional movement pattern. They should also be a part of any well-programmed training regimen. For those of us with home gyms, that means that we need to find a place to put our pull-up bar. It also means we need to figure out exactly how high to mount it.

There is no standardized rule for how high a pull-up bar should be mounted. A good guideline is to mount it a minimum of 20″ (50 cm) below the ceiling and far enough above the floor to allow the user to fully hang with bent knees and not have their feet touch the ground.

I used to hate pull-ups, now I kind of like them!

Of course, as with most things, that answer will depend on a few variables. Where you are mounting the bar, the type of pull-up bar you are installing, and what you are using the pull-up bar for will all impact the answer to this question (check out the handy chart I made at the end of this article!).

Where are you mounting your pull-up bar?

There are typically 4 options when it comes to where you can mount your pull up bar. In my house, I have two bars. One in my garage and one in the doorway of my home office. 

This allows me to do random pull-ups throughout the day and is the number one reason I am able to a decent number of pull-ups now.

Door mounted

The most common placement of a pull-up bar in homes is in a doorway. This is due to the low cost and easy installation of this type of bar. Put it together, wedge it in the doorway (make sure to follow the directions so it doesn’t fall when in use!), and start doing pull-ups! You don’t really have to worry about height as that’s determined by your doorway.

Pull up bar
My office door pull-up bar.

I have two suggestions when it comes to door-mounted pull-up bars. If you are tall (and therefore bigger as well), this one by Ikon Fitness (check it out here on Amazon) will hold a lot of weight and also puts the bar a little higher than your standard door-mounted bar. A really nice touch.

I opted for a multi-grip bar. This way I can do overhand, underhand, and neutral grip pull-ups all on the same bar. This one by Go Fit has hung in my office door for years and sees daily use. It’s also less expensive than the Ikon bar. Check out the current price here on Amazon.

Rack mounted

In my opinion, all home gyms should have a power rack. It’s a critical piece of gear that allows you to train safely with a barbell without a spotter (see my full guide on safely training alone without a spotter here).

Among a power rack’s many benefits, one of them is that one or more pull-up bars will be integrated into the rack itself. You will also have the choice of adding different diameter bars or even multi-grip bars.

My rack mounted bar.

My Titan X-3 power rack (check it out with all of its accessories here on the Titan Fitness site) came with 2 different diameter bars. I very quickly traded those out for a multi-grip bar.

The nice thing about the multi-grip bar is that it sits higher than the standard rack-mounted bars (see image below). As I mentioned before, I’m a pretty tall guy so this added height under the bar is really nice.

But that’s about all the choice in height you have with a rack-mounted bar. Your rack will be a certain height and by default so will your pull-up bar.

Wall and ceiling mounted

These are the two mounting options where you will have to decide just how high the bar should be mounted.

Wall-mounted bars are considerably more common than ceiling mounted bars, but when you are carving out space to train in a garage or basement, you end up having to work within your space. Sometimes one will be a much more obvious choice than another.

If you have a choice, opt for wall mounted.

Wall-mounted will be more stable and is the preferred choice over mounting one from the ceiling. You’ll also have more options to pick from. I really like the two that Rep Fitness makes.

They make one that can be wall or ceiling mounted. It’s well built (supports up to 500 lbs when mounted properly into wall studs or ceiling joists) and allows you to vary how far out from the wall the bar is. See the Rep Fitness wall or ceiling mounted bar here.

If you are going wall-mounted, you should for sure check out their multi-grip bar. I love having the versatility of varying my grip when doing pull-ups and this bar has that in spades! Check it out here on the Rep Fitness site, it’s a really cool bar!

Keep in mind that the goal of a proper pull-up is to bring your chest up to the bar. This means you’ll need a minimum of 20” (50 cm) or so above the bar to keep you from hitting your head.

The Rep ceiling mounted bar gives you 23″ (58 cm), which is perfect. It also allows you to wall mount it 20″ (50 cm) below the ceiling so either way, you are covered for proper mounting height.

Pull up bar variations

You’ll find bars in a variety of diameters and designs. You can find skinny bars, fat bars, and lots of bars in between. You can get angle grip bars, neutral grip bars, and bars that offer several options in one design.

While these are all nice to have, I usually recommend either a standard straight bar or a multi-grip bar as outlined above. My preferred straight bar diameter is 1.25” (3-3.5 cm). This seems to be the sweet spot.

I love having a multi-grip bar.

I would also avoid going super cheap here. As an example, I like Titan Fitness for a lot of things, but this isn’t one of them. The quality of powder coating on your pull up bar will make a huge difference to you. Titan is not known for the quality of their powder coat.

A low-level powder coat can easily chew up your hands. It will crack and chip over time and make your bar unusable. That’s yet another reason I recommend going with a company like Rep Fitness. It’s a quality bar and still a very reasonable price (35% less than the comparable bar from Rogue!).

A final note here is to skip the DIY bar that I see a lot of people recommend. Sure, there are a ton of plans available online or on YouTube that will show you how to go to Home Depot, spend $10, and build your own.

Those bars will invariably be too unstable to use. Not to mention you’ll spend your afternoon building something that just isn’t as good as something you can buy premade. Not to mention, making a DIY multi-grip bar will be a total pain in the you know what.

Pull-up bars aren’t that expensive. In the interest of both function and safety, I’d recommend investing in a decent one. You are, after all, going to use it a ton!

Proper pull-up bar clearances

Before we decide how high your pull-up bar will be mounted, we need to figure out what you’ll be doing with it besides pull-ups. Those additional uses will impact your mounting decisions.

Keep in mind our overall goal and this will be an easy process.

You almost always want at least 20” (50 cm) above the bar for clearance. You also want the bar high enough to allow you to freely hang without your feet touching the ground.

Why 20” (50 cm)? Because the goal of a properly performed pull-up is not to barely get your chin over the bar. It’s to strongly pull your chest to the bar. This puts both your head and part of your shoulders over the bar. You’ll need 20” (50 cm) or more for that.

You have more flexibility with the height of the bar from the ground. Ideally, you should be able to hang freely from the bar with legs extended and not touch the ground. 

It is acceptable to bend your knees to provide more clearance, but straight legs are more effective. In a perfect world, you’ll only need to bend your knees slightly to create clearance, but people with low ceilings may need to bend them more than that.

What are you using your bar for?

Each of the activities in the chart below will require a different amount of clearance around your bar. Those measurements will also be determined, in part, by your height. Refer to this chart as a general guide as to where to mount your pull-up bar.

UseDistance from CeilingDistance from FloorDistance from Wall
Pull-upsMinimum of 20” (50 cm)6” (15 cm) above the top of your head or higherMinimum of 12” (30 cm)
Kipping pull-upsMinimum of 20” (50 cm)Your height plus 2’ (61 cm)Minimum of 20” (50 cm)
Muscle-upsMinimum of 1/2 your height6” (15 cm) above the top of your head or higherMinimum of 20” (50 cm)
InversionMinimum of 18” (45 cm)Minimum of your height plus 6” (15 cm)Minimum of 18” (46 cm)
Place to mount rings or a suspension trainerNo minimumYour height plus 2’ (61 cm)Minimum of 18” (46 cm)

Conclusion

There you have it. It’s not an exact science, but hopefully, this got you started. Pull-ups are one of those things that are really hard for people at first, but with some regular work can become a valuable part of your regular training.

I can’t imagine having a home gym without one and now hopefully you’ll be able to find a spot for one too!

Additional Questions:

What if the bar will be used by people of different heights?

Install your bar in an appropriate height for the tallest person that will use it. If it works for them, it will work for the rest. You may want to keep a plyo box close by to allow the shorter people in the group to be able to reach it.

Should I wrap my bar with tape?

I don’t recommend this. Tape is just a little too rough for most people’s hands and may cause skin damage where you grip the bar. This is especially true of those doing kipping pull-ups. If grip is an issue, try using chalk instead.

What if I can’t do any pull-ups at all?

Start by using bands to assist you. Attach one end of the band (or bands) to the bar and loop the other end under a knee or foot. Use as much assistance as you need so that you can complete 3-5 pull-ups.

Keep doing this until you can do the same number of reps with fewer bands. Eventually, you won’t need them at all!

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