Whether you’re an athlete, a Crossfitter or just someone getting ready for the beach – pull-ups should be a staple in your training program. They are, in my opinion, the most effective upper-body exercise for building strength and muscle.
If you’re working out in a home gym like a garage gym, then figuring out the correct height for your pull-up bar is critical.
If the height of your pull-up bar is too low then your feet are going to hit the ground between reps which is incredibly annoying. Sure, you can try to bend your knees and work around it, but its something you want to avoid if at all possible.
Set the height of your pull-up bar too high and it can be a pain to jump up to your bar for each set. Or, even worse, you end up banging your head into the ceiling on your first rep before realizing it’s a problem.
In this article, I’m going to give you some tips and specific examples on how to find the best pull-up bar height for you and your gym.
Best Pull-Up Bar Height for Pull-ups
Let’s start with the main reason most of us are going to use a pull-up bar and that’s to, well, do pull-ups. I’m going to give you my best advice for figuring out the proper height from both the floor and the ceiling (don’t forget about the ceiling!)
From the Ground
The best way to find the optimal height for your pull-up bar from the ground is to stand next to a wall. Stand on your tip toes and mark the height where your palm touches the wall.
Whatever height this is is going to be the optimal height for your bar. If you’re installing a wall-mounted pull-up bar then this should be pretty straightforward.
However, if you’re buying a squat rack that will include your pull-up bar, getting that exact height will be much more difficult unless you get lucky. Power Racks can range in height anywhere from 6 feet to over 9 feet with the average being around 7 1/2 to 8 feet tall.
(I actually created a Squat Rack Database that has the complete specs of over 100 different squat racks if you’d like to do a quick comparison.)
So, now, you’ll have to decide – do you opt for something slightly lower than your ‘ideal’ height or something higher? Here are a couple of things to consider:
- Do you actually go all the way down on your pull-ups? I’m 250 pounds and I will be the first to admit that I rarely do a true full range of motion pull-ups.
- You can always stand on plates, a box or even a bench if you need a little extra height to reach your pull-up bar.
The answer, also, may come down to what makes more sense based on your ceiling height.
From the Ceiling
This will be a little different for everyone based on size, but generally speaking, you want to give yourself at least 15″ from your pull-up bar to your ceiling to not put your head through it.
To be on the safe side though, I would give yourself an extra 6″ if possible. I’ve been in hotel workout rooms with low ceilings and having your head an inch or two from the ceiling each rep is a very unnerving feeling. Maybe that’s something I’d get used to if it was my own gym, but I doubt it.
The Best Pull-Up Bar Height For Ring Pull-Ups
There are many different ways to hang gym rings at home, but one of the most popular ways is to simply hang them from your pull-up bar.
Most gym rings are about 9″ to 10″ inches in diameter. Add about 6″ for the strap to hang freely from the bar and you’re looking at about 16″ total.
If Ring Pull-Ups are going to be staples in your training, then you have to decide if you’re okay with keeping the knees bent while doing them or opting for a taller pull-up bar. If you go for a taller pull-up bar then you’ll also need a box or something similar to get yourself to the bar for regular pull-ups.
There is no wrong decision. It’s all personal preference but something you definitely want to consider.
Best Pull-Up Bar Height For Muscle Ups
If you’re doing Crossfit, then chances are you’re going to be doing muscle ups (or at least attempting to do muscle ups).
For Muscle-Ups you’ll need more height above your pull-up bar. This is going to be even more dependent based on size, specifically arm length.
To figure out how much room you need, hold the measuring tape in one hand with your arm straight down by your side. With the other arm extend the tape to the top of your head. I get about 42 inches when I do this but your measurement may be vastly different. Once you have your number, add an extra 4″ to 6″ inches.
What you’ll realize really quickly is that you need some pretty high ceilings to be able to do muscle ups. If you have anything less than a 10-foot ceiling then you may be out of luck.
If you simply can’t don’t have enough space to do muscle-ups, here are some muscle-up alternatives you may be able to try instead.
What If I Don’t Have Enough Space?
So, you’ve done all the measuring and you’ve come to the conclusion that you don’t have high enough ceilings.
You have to start making cuts. What is least important – ring pull-ups or muscle-ups? Or if you have low ceilings it may be both that have to be cut.
If you have really low ceilings then you’ll have to decide how low of a pull-up bar you’re okay with before you decide to ax the idea of doing pull-ups in your home gym completely.
Figuring out the best pull-up bar height for your home gym is something that often gets overlooked, but it’s critically important. Unless you have 15-foot ceilings, just slapping a bar anywhere on the wall probably isn’t going to work.
Take the time to do your measurements, figure out a game plan and then either buy your power rack or drill your pull-up bar into the wall.