Thursday, December 8, 2011

CrossFit Garage Gym: DIY Pull Up Bar

After hanging my Rogue gymnastic rings, the next project for the garage gym was to make my pull up bar. After doing eleventeen million hours of research on the best setup, I came down to three criteria that were important to me:
1. It had to be affordable (read: under $100)
2. It had to support at least two people (my wife and me)
3. It had to be off the ground so a car could park in the garage

completed pull up bar. BOOM!
After those three criteria were established, I realized buying a pull up setup from Rogue, Again Faster, or Stud bar was not going to be affordable (over $100 for just one pull up setup, plus I needed at least two). So once the prefabricated options were eliminated, then I had to decide how to use galvanized pipe. Our box has a great homemade setup (done by Aimee Lyons' dad) with pull up bars running from the ground up and over to the wall, but that would conflict with rule 3. (does anyone else feel like this is "I, Robot" with their Three Laws?) Since I liked the simplicity and design of what Aimee's dad did, I took it and turned it upside down. By lagging it into the ceiling joists, the pull up rig was off the ground, it could support three people, and it was under $100. Sweeeeet. 

"Before" picture. Bumpers are in place though. 
I won't go into the exact details because everyone's situation is going to be a little different, but here are my general specs, all of this can be bought and cut to size at Lowes or Home Depot (cutting was free):
1. I used 1.5" galvanized pipe and flanges from the ceiling down to have a more sturdy support. I probably could  have gotten away with 1" pipe, but I also wanted a thick bar pull up station (the middle lateral section). 

1.5" galvanized pipes from ceiling and across 
2. For the pipes running into the walls, those are 1" thick galvanized pipes and flanges. They are attached to the 1.5" connectors with the elbow, 5" nipple, and reducers shown below. These were each 36" long. Long enough for most people's grip on pull ups, but not too long to bump into the garage door opener. 

detailed view of 1.5" pipe, T connector, reducer, 5" nipple, elbow, and 1" pipe to wall
3. There are 3 sets of lag bolts (6 bolts total) into the ceiling because there are 3 ceiling joints running across the garage, spaced 24" apart. There are 4 sets of lag bolts (8 total) into the walls as there are 4 studs spaced 18" on center. 
4. I forget the exact size of the lag bolts, but I used two different sizes. One size was to connect the flanges to the 2x6 wood supports (about 3/8" x 1.5" long) and another size to bolt the 2x6s to the studs or joists (about 5/8" x 3.5" long)

detailed view of 1" pipe into flange, lag bolted into 2x6 which is lag bolted into wall studs
5. As noted in the How to Hang Rings post, other tools used were a stud finder, electric drill, wrenches, and elbow grease.
6. To give you sense of scale, the ceiling is 10ft. high and the width of the garage is 11ft. In the video at the bottom, I am 5'9" and if I'm on the bars, my feet are just off the ground. (this was planned in figuring out the dimensions of the pull up rig)

Weights are good for more than just lifting
I assembled the pull up bar on the ground, but then had the predicament of getting it up and bolted in. As you can see in the picture above, I had quite a time getting the whole contraption up to the ceiling. While I could have asked people to come over and hold it up as I bolted the assembly in, I am stubborn and like to do things myself. (my wife would agree with me) So I made a pulley system and pulled the 40lb+ system up to the first 2x6 bolted to the ceiling. It worked! 

After my experience, here are some things to take away from it, no matter what your situation:
1. If you have money to spend, or you only need one pull up bar, the Rogue/Again Faster/Stud bar options would be a very easy and reliable system to get. ESPECIALLY if you are not a DIYer. 
2. Doing a lot of research, you tend to run into both the good and bad of any topic. I ended up finding some people wary of using galvanized pipe, since the flanges MIGHT crack. The best way to do it if you can is to put pipe through a solid piece of wood, there are some good posts and pictures of this on the CrossFit boards. There wasn't going to be an easy or cheap way for me to do it, so while there could be some risk, there are a ton of folks who have fine experiences (including our box which has had 25+ people on the same system). 
3. If you can, go from the floor up. This will give you better peace of mind since much of the force would be directed down and into the ground, plus if you space it right, you can use the vertical bars as squat/bench racks. (we do this at CF King of Prussia. John had to drill through the pipes and find brackets strong enough to hold heavy bars, but it's extremely worth it and saves a ton of space). 
4. tape the threads so you don't cut your hands if they get placed over them. Also, if you get your pipes cut, the machine might create some sharp indentations in the pipe, so you might have to tape over those too
5. If you have the ability (or money) to use an impact wrench, it will help get those lag bolts into the studs. I had a heck of a time first using a 36V hammer drill (yeah, I thought that would be good enough too!) but it only got the screws in halfway. The rest had to be done with a manual socket wrench. (Good workout for the arms!)

After all of this, I have a new appreciation for people who have done their own pull up systems. Even though you might look at pictures and think it's easy, it's probably not! But in the end, I have the satisfaction of having a custom pull up bar that I made. Plus, it meets all of my Three Laws. 

Here is a quick video of me explaining the pull up bars and demonstrating the sturdiness.

If you have any questions, hit me up in comments! 


  1. Hey Chris...Love the setup. When you screwed the pipe into the flanges did you just go straight pipe into flange or did you use a pipe compound or tape, etc to help lock it in?

  2. Hey Anthony,
    I considered both compound and tape, but when I researched it, people just said to make sure the joints were tight. The fact that I assembled it on the ground actually helped me get a ton of leverage so those things are in pretty darn good. Thanks for asking

  3. Bro this is perfect! I have the same set up with the crawl space above the garage. Did not even think about the rings! Good stuff. I was going to build a pull up bar just off the wall, but this is great since like you said you can have a few people using it and I really want to get a few people over for some good workouts! Awesome!

  4. Chris,

    How long are the 1.5" pipes that come down from the ceiling? I have 10" ceilings as well and your set up looks like it would be perfect for a guy my height as well. Thanks.

    1. Hm, I guess I never put that measurement in the post! Thanks for asking. I just measured and they are 36" down from the ceiling. I remember thinking that it was a nice even number and then my small sections below the T-joints were custom to how tall I I think those were about 6" each, plus the heights of joints made it a perfect height for me.

    2. Great. Thanks for the quick response.


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