Are Door Pull Up Bars Safe? It Depends!

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
October 22, 2022

Not everybody has time to drive to the gym just to get their workout in, leading dozens of fitness equipment companies to develop various at-home exercise equipment that even the busiest of people can break a sweat with.

One of these is the ever-convenient door pull up bar, a detachable piece of equipment that can be installed within or around a doorframe so one can perform pull up and chin up exercises from the comfort of their home.

As convenient as this type of equipment is, there are concerns as to the risk of injury that it presents, as well as to whether it can even potentially damage the door that it is affixed to. 

Depending on the brand and whether the pull up bar was installed correctly or not, there is indeed a risk of damage to your person and your house, and we prompt possible door pull up bar buyers to first review this article, prior to making their purchase.

What are Door Pull Up Bars?

Door pull up bars are a form of resistance equipment that allow the exerciser to suspend themselves from an elevated position by their arms, with the bar itself usually hooking around a doorframe or within the frame itself so as to distribute the weight of the exerciser equally.

door pull up bar

The design of a door pull up bar can range from a simple pole with friction-inducing pads on either end and an internal spring, to a complex multi-handled device with suspension springs and multiple points of contact along the door itself.

Generally, the most common type of pull up bar will both suspend itself within the frame of the door while simultaneously hooking around the doorframe opposite to the handle, providing a more stable and safer bar to hang from.

Because of such a variability among designs and brands, it is impossible to truly assess whether each individual door pull up bar is safe to use - and instead, we have elevated to tackle door pull up bars as a whole.

What are Door Pull Up Bars Used for?

Door pull up bars allow exercisers to perform the pull up exercise from any door in their home.

However, they are often made in such a way that they can be repurposed for other exercises as well, like for the performance of hanging leg raises or chin ups - all of which require that the exerciser suspend themselves from a bar so as to achieve vertical clearance of their lower body.

Certain brands of pull up bar can even have their handles switched out, or feature multiple handles at once - allowing for even more exercises to be performed, such as neutral grip pull ups, dips and even bodyweight rows.

How do Door Pull Up Bars Work?

Though door pull up bars can vary in function and design, they will generally require that a door or door frame be present, and an appropriate amount of stability is achieved by way of friction, springs, frame mounts or other mechanical attachment points.

Depending on the design, one or a combination of these features will allow the bar to bear a certain amount of load - usually more than what most individuals weigh - so as to account for poor door construction, slipping of the bar itself or the exerciser kipping during their pull ups.

These various methods of ensuring that the bar does not collapse while being used are quite important, as falling in such a position can quickly lead to injury or destruction of the door itself.

Types of Door Pull Up Bar Designs

Bidirectional Pole

The simplest and most affordable door pull up bar design, bidirectional poles function by way of an internal spring exerting constant force in both directions - trapping it between the two inner sides of the doorframe or corridor.

bidirectional pole

This particular design is often the weakest and the most likely to slip and fall, as they rarely feature any other method of remaining suspended other than the aforementioned inner spring.

Frame Mounted Bar

This design of door pull up bar will usually mount on the outside of the door frame, either by hooking around the frame itself or by squeezing around the frame in a manner that suspends the bar on the outside of the door frame.

door frame pull up bar

While safer and more stable, frame mounted pull up bars are generally less convenient to adjust and install, and will often be bulkier than the aforementioned bidirectional pole design. 

Nonetheless, for heavier exercisers or those with the budget for it, we suggest purchasing this type of pull up bar for its greater level of safety.

Drill or Bolt-in Frames

Absolutely the most stable door pull up bar design, pull up bars created in this manner will require the usage of power tools and some damage be made to the door frame or its surrounding walls. 

This, unfortunately, will mean that home-renters or those with homes constructed from more fragile materials cannot use this particular pull up bar design.

Otherwise, door pull up bars made in such a manner will generally require the exerciser bolt or drill the frame itself into the door or any surrounding material, ensuring that it remains stable but also making it difficult to remove if the exerciser desires so.

We generally advise against purchasing these types of door pull up bars unless you are pressed for space, as there are a number of alternatives to door pull up bars that will both cost less and will be easier to relocate if needed.

Can Door Pull Up Bars Damage the Door?

Unless the design of the pull up bar requires drilling of some sort, it is unlikely that a properly installed door pull up bar will damage a door in any significant manner. 

Door pull up bars are manufactured for maximum convenience and adjustability, and are meant to be compatible with a variety of different kinds of doors and materials.

If installed in the correct way, the most damage you can expect is a scratching of paint in the event that the bar slips while attached to the door.

How to Make Door Pull Up Bars Safer

Don’t Install the Bar Too High

Though this article is about door pull up bars, certain brands are designed to be used in closets or hallways as well - places where the maximum elevation of the bar can actually be quite high, potentially resulting in serious injury if the bar breaks or the exerciser falls while using it.

We advise that exercisers refrain from installing their door pull up bar too high, with the ideal elevation being that of sufficient ground clearance by several inches, even when hanging from the bar at nearly full arm extension.

If you have to make a large jump just to reach the bar, it’s likely too high and unsafe.

Slow and Controlled Repetitions

Though most pull up bars are designed to withstand momentum and shock, “kipping” your pull up repetitions by swinging wildly or dropping too fast can result in the bar falling, or simple exercise-related acute injuries.

It is both good exercise practice and safer to perform pull ups in slow and controlled movements, maximizing time under tension and ensuring that you are getting a full range of motion with every repetition.

Choose a Sturdy Door

Not all doors are built the same, and generally plastic or plywood door frames are not as stable as solid wood or concrete. 

It is best to install your door-mounted pull up bar on a robust and solid door, avoiding damage to the frame itself and ensuring that the bar is given as much support with which to distribute weight as possible.

Place a Mat Beneath You

In the event that you or the bar unfortunately fall, it is a good idea to have something cushioning the floor. 

While it is best to avoid this occurrence entirely, taking the precaution of placing a mat or foam pad beneath you as you train will ensure that any injuries sustained are not as bad as they could have been,

Ensure That the Bar can Bear Your Weight

Not all bars are built as sturdy as each other, and some are rated to only withstand a certain amount of weight before breaking. 

If you’re an individual who is particularly heavy, it is best to purchase door-mounted pull up bars that are designed to bear loads at least twice your bodyweight, thereby reducing the risk of injury or damage to your home.

Safer Alternatives to Door Pull Up Bars

In case you feel as if the potential risks of a door pull up bar just aren’t worth it, there is no reason to give up entirely on pull ups themselves. 

Plenty of other fixtures or types of fitness equipment can allow you to perform pull ups outside of the gym, some of which can even surpass door-mounted pull up bars in every way.

Outdoor Playground Equipment

One possible alternative to the standard pull up bar is the variety of similar bars found in playground and park equipment. 

calisthenics park
Calisthenics Park

These are usually elevated high enough for an adult to achieve a full pull up range of motion, and it is not uncommon to see calisthenics athletes training with such equipment during their workouts. 

In fact, quite a number of other exercises are also made possible with these outdoor fixtures, allowing for a full bodyweight workout to be achieved without the presence of exercise equipment or a gym membership.

Drill-In Home Pull Up Bars

A sturdier and more work-intensive version of the door pull up bar are the various types of home pull up bars available on the market, many of which are meant to be drilled to a wall or affixed between two sides of a corner so as to create a far more stable platform than door pull up bars.

These particular home pull up bar designs excel in terms of stability and will not crowd a doorway the same way door pull up bars will, but are otherwise more labor intensive to install and generally suffer from the same drawbacks as screw or bolt mounted door pull up frames.

Pull Up Exercise Machine

The most expensive alternative but also the most convenient, purchasing a stand or machine specifically meant to be used while performing pull ups is the surest way to get a pull up workout in without worry of injury or other factors getting in the way.

These machines offer benefits that are not otherwise possible without them, such as pull-up assistance, adjustable handle angles, the capacity to add additional resistance or even range of motion control, depending on the design.

However, these types of exercise machines are usually quite heavy, will take up space, and can cost a significant amount of money at the higher levels of quality - meaning that purchasing one should be considered with careful thought and planning.

In Conclusion

So, are door pull up bars safe? Yep, as long as you use them how they’re meant to be used, and keep your pull up form in accordance with proper cues.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should go out and buy one just yet though, as there are still quite a few disadvantages and characteristics to consider when purchasing one. 

Go over the pros and cons of owning a door pull up bar, compare it to your needs, and then make a decision based on your conclusion. There’s always more than one way to get your pull-ups in.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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