Building Outdoor Pull-Up Bar and Parallel Bars


Pull-ups and dips are among the best exercises for the upper body. So,  I have always wanted to build the necessary exercise equipment in my backyard. Our move to San Jose and this excellent article on HowToMatic provided the critical mass to get me started. This post captures all you need to know to build your own.

Necessary Tools and Materials

I got everything I needed at Home Depot, except for the bungee ropes, which I already had.

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Fig. 1  Tools and materials

 

Building the Equipment

1. Have a plan. Here’s what mine looked like:

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Fig. 2  Equipment diagram

 

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Fig. 3 Final result

2. Dig the 6 holes. It took me about 4 hours to dig all of them without killing myself and I made the mistake of digging them a bit too narrow. Don’t be afraid to dig wide. The holes need to be at least 1.5 feet (50 cm) deep and need to be about 1.5 feel (50 cm) in diameter.

3. Drill holes for the pipes through the wooden beams. Drill about 4 inches (10 cm) away from the end of the beam. Don’t forget to wear glasses / goggles for eye protection. You can either drill al the way through the entire beam or drill just on one side of the beam. In retrospect, I should have done the latter for all holes.

4. Position the beams in the holes. Use small stones and the bungee ropes to ensure that the beams are properly positioned and straight. I decided to make one side of the dip bars slightly wider than the other side – for exercise versatility – so my dip bars are not exactly parallel. Position the pipes into the beam holes.

5. Prep the concrete, following the directions on the bag. I prepped the concrete one bag at a time. Mixing concrete is tough so I recommend the following workflow:

  • Pour all water you need for a full bag of concrete in the bucket
  • Pour half a bag of concrete in the bucket. Mix, until you get a homogenous mixture.
  • Pour the other half – mix again.
  • Work fast – you have less than 5 minutes to mix the whole bag and probably another 5 minutes to pour the concrete into the holes.
  • Use some help – having a second set of hands helps a lot.

6. Pour the concrete into the holes, compressing it.

7. Clean up. Let it cure for a day before using the equipment. Then drill the small holes for the screws to prevent the pipes from rotating.

Frankly, I loved the physical labor, and you will too… It is a surprisingly therapeutic and rewarding experience.

 

Exercises

The great thing about this setup is that you can do all sorts of different exercises that develop strength and agility, using the weight of your own body, for example…

I recommend starting with chin-ups and dips (3 sets each, max repetitions in each set) and progressing from there.

Enjoy!

Comments (43)

  1. This is a very good piece of work. Keeps you fit and one can enjoy doing things like this.

  2. ivom says:

    Yeah, it was a lot of fun.

  3. Loer says:

    Frst of all, awesome work with these,looks great.

    i'm planning to do this next spring but I am wondering if you've seen any rust on the iron, or weather damage on the wood, i'm thinking of using pressure treated lumber and maybe paint the iron

  4. ivom says:

    @Loer:

    No, no rust on the iron. The original article on HowToMatic suggested painting the bars too, but I have done fine without paint.

  5. Big Bill says:

    This is great. Just what I was looking to do. Thanks for the how to.

  6. Eric says:

    Nice work, and I'm hoping to use your instructions for an outdoor pull up bar of my own.  Could you expand a little on how you kept the bar from rotating?  Also, did you consider using the pre-fabricated concrete forms/tubes rather than just pouring the concrete into the hole?

  7. B2 says:

    I guess, you can attach the dip station also to the pull up station and save 2 beams and some space.

    But I dont know if you can get them narrow enough into a V shape.

  8. Alan says:

    How long did this take you to build?

  9. Ivo says:

    @Eric: I drilled in holes in the bar and in the wood and put nails in to keep it from rotating

    @B2: Yes, you can. That was my original plan, actually 🙂 When started digging, I realized that this would block the whole yard, so I decided to keep them separate.

    @Alan: About 12 hours e2e

  10. mark says:

    I know what the diameter of the pipes are.  What about the thickness or guage of the pipes?  How thick do they need to be so that they don't bend?

  11. Ivo says:

    @mark: The thickness of mine is about 1.5-2 mm I think – they are just the regular iron pipes sold at Home Depot. I think anything above 1 mm should be sufficient.

  12. Tony says:

    I am currently deployed and am an avid pullup, muscle up, L's and lots of other type exercises with these bars.  I will use these plans for my back yard gym.  Great job Ivo and thanks!!!

  13. Mark says:

    Thanks Ivo.  And thanks for the informative blog.

  14. Eli says:

    This is a terrible set up. If you actually plan to use this it will not last. All these poor people are responding to this article thinking this is a great plan and are going to have a garbage set-up. I don't feel like posting the plan but I built a great pull up bar (roughly same materials) for a third the price this guy is talking about and it will last 20 years longer. If anyone finds this article and wants some real help with the plans just email me and I'll send you the specs and simple instructions. I think pursuing fitness is great and I'm willing to help out anyone who needs it. exceedthestandard@yahoo.com

  15. Commenter says:

    Eli, why do you say it sucks?  You don't even comment on why it is garbage, and yet you don't even post up YOUR plan…. and we're supposed to email you for them?!  I call that spam, and that's the only thing that is garbage around here.  

  16. Mike says:

    The Eli comment is spam, he's just after people's email addresses and then he'll send you spam. He doesn't have a better solution and he can't even comment why his is better.It's a pointless comment with no content –  Ignore it.

  17. argis shawin says:

    thank you for posting in this site I will bookmark this site and tell my friend about this nice site to blog…

    <a href="http://www.chinupbarsforhome.org/…/">Chin Up Bars For Home</a>

  18. Danny R says:

    The plans are great and simple, but can you please give more details regarding the smalls holes for the screws to prevent the pipe from rotating? how many screws per beam, what side of the beam to drill for this purpose, what size of screws (specs) did you use for this purpose.  The rest is very good.  It will be even better if you can post a close up picture where the beam and the pipe fit together.  Thanks.

  19. Ivo says:

    @Danny R:

    I used 1 screw per beam. In the case of the pull up bar I actually have a screw on only one of the beams — I think I used 3 or 5 mm screws — any screw that's long enough is thick enough to prevent rotation.

    I'll see whether I can upload a close-up of where the beam and pipe fit together.

  20. acumagnet says:

    How could i make the bottom portable instead of concrete?

  21. michael says:

    My pull up bar wobbles a bit. is that normal, because one of the wooden posts isn't completely vertical.

  22. michael says:

    also, is there anything i can do to fix it without building a new one?

  23. Ivo Manolov says:

    @ Acumagnet:

    You could use pipes for a portable pull-up bar. I thought of doing that at first, but decided to drop it, since achieving true portability was not an easy thing to do…

    @Michael:

    That should be ok — mine wobbles quite a bit too. The top of the pull up bar moves horizontally by as much as 10 inches when I do pull-ups. It hasn't been a problem so far.

  24. Michael says:

    thank you for the advice. But does it matter if you do muscle ups? Because it looks like doing muscle ups on a wobbly pull up bar seems pretty dangerous and scary.

  25. Ivo Manolov says:

    It does wobble a bit more when I do muscle ups. Still hasn't been a huge concern. If yours wobbles too much, I'd suggest trying to stabilize the bar with ropes attached to the bar and to the ground. Kinda what they do in the gyms

  26. Brandon says:

    Thanks for the instructions.  I'm hoping to build an outdoor structure like this in the near future.  I have built a few indoor pull up bar systems.  If anyone is interested, they can see some photos here: southpasstrength.com/…/garage-gym-how-to-build-pull-up-bars-overview

  27. Justin says:

    Great post brotha! Going to put my station together today!

  28. Ayman Zaki says:

    hey dude

    the idea of making the bar at home is great

    but I have a small question .. what is the dimension of the wood beam of the pull up bar

    thanks a lot

  29. Ivo Manolov says:

    @Ayman:

    It's a 9 ft, 4×4 beam — see the table and diagram at the top.

    Ivo

  30. Ivo Manolov says:

    @Brandon:

    Thanks for the pointer! These look great.

    Ivo

  31. John Bennett says:

    I used your diagram/instructions and built this in my backyard and it worked excellet.  Thank you so much for the instructions!!!!!!  The only difference for me is that I dug 32 inch deep holes and made them pretty wide (20 inches or so) because I my ground is kind of soft and we are pretty aggressive with various kinds of pull-ups, mucleups, and toes to bar.  So, we wanted it deep and wide enough so that it would never move (and it will not).  The downside is that it took 5 bags of concrete (I think 80lbs) per hole.  I also used a thicker galvanized steel pipe (the size that is standard for crossfit pullup bars).

    100 years from now someone else will live in this house and, the 4x4s and bar will be long gone and someone may be digging and find these huges slabs of concrete.  They will be wondering where the hell the came from.

  32. Ivo Manolov says:

    Hi John,

    Great to hear this blog post helped.

    32 inch deep holes! I should have done that myself. Did you use longer beams. One annoying problem with my setup right now is that I can't use my rings properly. The bar is just not high enough for rings…

    Ivo

  33. Steve Reed says:

    Hey Ivo

    Thanks for a fantastic post, just what I needed. I am going to build this over the winter, and try to integrate one side of the dip bar into the taller upright for the pullup bar.

    I am going to try to build some other equipment myself for me, and the kids. I think having something like this in your own backyard is a great way to get the children exercising.

    Check out my VERY new site at http:///www,thriveful.com for some more ideas and info on building a wonderful healthy life.

    Cheers

  34. Paul C. says:

    Thank you Ivo for sharing this project with the world. I am planning to build something similar. What height do you think is needed for the use of rings?

  35. Ivo Manolov says:

    @Paul:

    Sorry for not responding earlier.

    I think you need another 4-5 feet or so for rings.

  36. Mike says:

    I was planning on building a very similar structure and I am going to include the height for my rings as well. Thanks for the layout, this saved me a lot of time and problem some error as well. Much appreciated!

  37. Kale says:

    Thanks for the detail plans, they helped me get a good estimate for the build I am going for. A few changes I will make is to share 1 post between the parallel bars and pull up bar, and adding a vertical bar mounted to the side of the shared post for "Flag workouts". The shared post will hopefully increase stability and decrease cost.

    Would you recommend using 6×6 post instead of the 4×4 for stability? That is what I was planning on doing, but wasn't sure if it was worth the trouble. I want it to last, and be able to stand up to intense workouts.

    Thanks

  38. Ivo Manolov says:

    @Kale:

    Yes, definitely go for 6x6s for the pull-up bar. 4x4s work fine as long as you don't swing. When you start swinging (which is an exercise of its own), they feel a bit unstable. You don't need 6x6s for the parallel bars — 4x4s work great there.

  39. Kale says:

    Using 4×4 for the parallel bars makes since and will cut the cost significantly. Thanks for the feedback!

  40. Elizabeth 101 says:

    Omg  i whant to see the real gymnastics bar

  41. Elizabeth 101 says:

    Omg i what to see the real gymnastics bar

  42. carl says:

    do you find the pull up bar rotates at all when using it?

  43. Jordan USMC says:

    Thanks for posting this. It's exactly what I needed. And for those of you who've never used this set up it's all you need. There's actually a lot more exercises you can do with them than what's listed so look int that as well. For example, you can hang by your legs from the dip bars and do vertical sit ups. You can also throw a towel over the pull up bar, twist the towel to make a rope of sorts and do pull ups called "grippers" or "clenches" just by only holding onto the towel. You can also do leg lifts while on the dip bars. That's just a few extra I know. There's many more.