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How to Use a Doorway Pull-Up Bar Without Tearing Down Your House

Pull-ups AND an undented door frame? Hell yeah, man.

The doorway pull-up bar is a classic piece of at-home exercise equipment. It checks all the boxes: Cheap. Detachable. Easy to stash in the closet when you realize exercise really, really sucks.

But despite its convenience, the doorway pull-up bar does have one foible: It can demolish your doorway, especially if you weigh more than a penny. The good news is, there are a couple simple ways to prevent doorway damage, and doorway pull-up bar alternatives for you extra heavy kings (most door frames can support between 250 and 300 pounds, which isn’t enough for everyone). Here are some things to keep in mind…

Shop Quality, and Install Properly

Decorated personal trainer Jonathan Jordan is a big fan of at-home pull-up bars and says pull-ups are a great way to achieve the coveted “Dorito physique,” but he explains that some are more durable than others: “Rogue and Perform Better provide most of the equipment you see in commercial gyms. They have the best-quality professional stuff that’s built to last.”

Neither of these companies offer a detachable doorway pull-up bar, but instead sell ones that are meant to be mounted above a doorway or on a wall. While this makes them less convenient — you can’t take them off whenever you like — it does make them much more stable. “The Rogue Jammer Pull-Up Bar is a good option,” confirms Cooper Mitchell of Garage Gym Reviews. “It bolts to the studs above your doorway and can take about anything you can throw at it.”

But before purchasing any at-home pull-up bar, Bailey Carson, head of home improvement at Handy, says, “Know the dimensions of your door frame so you can choose pull-up bars that fit. Measure the width of the door, the distance from the door to any adjacent walls and the depth of the door frame on both sides.”

Know Your Door Frame

If you prefer a detachable pull-up bar, knowing what kind of wood your door frame is made of can provide some insight into how much weight it can hold. “The softer the wood — pine instead of oak — and heavier the person, the [higher] chance of it denting the trim over time,” says Scott Behrends, American Ninja Warrior athlete, owner of Ninja U and founder of Backyard Ninja Kids. “I weigh about 150 pounds, and I noticed it on pine trim after a few months of pull-ups. I haven’t noticed it after a few months on oak trim, however.”

If your doorway is on the softer side, Behrends says you can cram some cushion between the wood and your pull-up bar, but be extra careful in doing so. “One thing you can do to help is put some towels between the door and bar to make sure it has some extra protection,” he explains. “Just be cautious, as it also changes the angle of it hanging, so I always recommend a few pillows below you, just in case.” You may also want to perform a test hang from your reinforced pull-bar before you go straight into rapid pull-ups.

Carson approves of this method as well, but offers a few more sophisticated ideas. “Simple solutions, like slipping old socks or rags in between spaces where the door frame meets the pull-up bar work, but investing in foam pads, rubber spacers and even small pieces of plywood can work as a barrier to distribute the pressure between the bars and the door more evenly,” she says. “In the long run, this can prevent paint chipping, scuffing and denting.”

If all of that fails, you can always make quick repairs to your door frame when necessary. “Sometimes even the best preventative measures can fall through the cracks, so it’s important to keep an eye out for any damage, no matter how small,” Carson says. “If there’s chipping or discoloration, simple fixes like a quick coat of paint can get the job done. Scuffs can be removed with a washcloth, soap and water.”

Divorce From Your Doorway

If you’re ultra heavy or don’t feel like drilling into the wall, there are other options, too. “You could get a squat stand with a pull-up bar at the top,” Mitchell says. “This is great, because it can double as a squat rack that can be used for squatting, benching and other barbell-based movements. The downside is, it takes up more floor space than a doorway pull-up bar, obviously. Another option is a power tower. These typically have a  pull-up bar on one side and dip bars on the other. This will take up a similar amount of space as a squat stand, but be cheaper, although less versatile.”

If none of that sounds right for you, Jordan says TRX suspension trainers, or resistance bands, might be your best bet. “You can’t do a traditional pull-up, but they’re far more versatile and can easily hold a 350-pound person,” he explains, suggesting inverted rows to target the same muscle groups that pull-ups do.

The other advantage of TRX suspension trainers is, much like the detachable pull-up bar, they do a great job of taking up space in your closet while you eat Doritos on the couch.

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