Exercises for Doorway Poles and Bars

Shoshana Hebshi-Holt
Doorway Pull-Up Bar

One of the simplest pieces of home workout equipment to purchase is a pull-up bar that can be mounted in a doorway. These bars may seem intimidating, especially for women who may recoil at the thought of doing a pull-up, but they are a great way to build strength using a variety of exercises that target muscle groups mostly in the upper body and core.

Pull-Up Bar Exercises

Pull-Ups and Assisted Pull-Ups

Depending on your level of upper body strength, there are many ways to do a pull-up on a pull-up bar.

  • Free-Standing: The most rigorous option, requiring the most amount of upper body strength is a free-standing pull-up. First, stand beneath the bar with feet hip-distance apart. Jump to grip the bar with an overhand grip, arms straight. Bend your knees and cross your ankles. Leading from your chest, pull yourself up to level your chin with the bar. Lower your body until your elbows are straight. Repeat in a slow and controlled manner.

  • Using a Box: One way to gain strength and stamina is to stand under the bar on top of a wooden box for support. This will give you less distance to cover in your pull-up. Follow the instructions for a free-standing pull-up above or hold the finish position at the top of the bar.
  • Help From a Friend: Human assistance can be quite useful in working to master the pull-up. Have your partner gently hold the tops of your feet, giving you a little lift as you pull-up to the bar.
  • Jumping Pull-Ups: Using a box or a bench to stand upon that allows your knees to remain bent as you grip the bar, continue to bend until your elbows are fully extended. Jump up to the pull-up position then slowly lower back to the box.
  • Chin Up: A chin up is a pull-up made easier by the position of your hands. Instead of having the hands draped over the bar, they hold it from below, with palms facing you. This exercise uses bicep strength more than the back and shoulder strength typically used in a regular pull-up.
  • Negative Pull-Up: A good way to build more strength is to start at the top of the bar and slowly lower to straight arms. Use a box, chair or bench under your feet to help you rise back above the bar.

Core Strengtheners

Toes Above Bar

Hanging from the bar, keep your legs straight as you lift your feet to touch the bar. Slowly lower and repeat. If your toes can't reach the bar, bring them as far up as you can, maintaining control on the way up and down. Start with three to five reps and build from there.

Knee Raises

A good beginner exercise, hanging from the bar, contract your abdominal muscles and bring your knees to your chest. Slowly lower your legs until they are straight. Repeat slowly with control for three to five reps and build from there.

Windshield Wipers

A great exercise for the obliques, stand hanging from the bar with your legs straight and your core engaged. Rotate your legs together to the left, then to the right. To make it a little easier, try it with your knees bent, but make sure to go slowly from side to side for the greatest results. Try this exercise for 10 to 15 seconds, going longer as you build strength.

Other Options

Alternate Hand Position

Where you place your hands on the bar can work different muscles in the upper body.

  • Bring hands closer to isolate the rhomboids, which stabilize your scapulae.
  • Hands set further apart will work the latissimus dorsi, the large, v-shaped muscles of the mid-back.
  • Palms facing inward will work the biceps.
  • Palms facing out will utilize the upper back.

Adding Weights

For higher intensity try incorporating plate weights or a weighted belt into your exercises.

Exercises as Part of a Routine

Incorporating pull-up bar exercises into an exercise routine is a very accessible way to build upper-body strength and execute some different moves to target abs, but it's hard to build lower-body strength with this method. For total body conditioning, use the pull-up bar as part of your routine, focusing on other exercises to target the lower body.

Exercises for Doorway Poles and Bars