The Easiest Way to Do Pull-Ups in an Apartment

Man doing pull-ups

A pullup is a compound exercise in which you hang from a fixed bar and pull your body up until the bar is at shoulder level. This simple movement activates all of the muscles in your upper body. You can strengthen the back muscles stabilizing your shoulders – an area of the body that tends to be neglected in resistance training. To do this exercise in an apartment requires a pullup bar, which you can buy or build. If the conditions of your apartment can’t support a pullup bar, you can do other strengthening exercises for your upper body which simulate a pullup.

Invest in Home Equipment

The easiest option is to buy a pullup bar that attaches to a door frame. In some apartments, the door frame may be too narrow or the molding isn’t strong enough to support an attachable pullup bar. You can purchase a freestanding or portable pullup bar, but the device will take up more room in your apartment. If you have the space and desire, you can set up a knee-raise station, or a piece of equipment that allows you to perform multiple exercises for your upper body and abdominals. A knee-raise station typically has a backrest and forearm rests that form a chair, parallel handles for dips, pushup handles and a pullup bar. If you have a strong beam in your apartment, you can build a pull-up bar with rope and a handle as if you’re making a swing. Toss two pieces of rope over the beam and attach them to each end of the handle.

Use a Broomstick and Chairs

If you don’t have the resources to purchase equipment, you can put a solid broomstick, dowel or dumbbell rack across the backs of two sturdy chairs. Position the backs of the chairs so they face away from each other and allow enough room for you to lie between them. Take hold of the broomstick with arms bent and forearms parallel. Pull your body toward the broomstick, drawing your shoulder blades together. Hold the peak position for a second before returning to starting position. Because you don’t have to lift your entire body weight, this exercise isn’t as challenging as a pullup, according to “Fundamental Weight Training” by David Sandler. However, it will give your back extensors a good workout.

Rely on a Door and Rope

Another exercise that will strengthen your back muscles can be performed with a rope, towel or belt. Open a door and loop the rope around the door knobs. Take hold of the rope ends and then straddle the door. Leaning back, fully extend your arms and press your heels into the floor. Your feet will provide the pivot point for the exercise. Pull your body weight up to the door. Alternatively, lie on the floor and have a partner straddle you. Grab your partner’s hands and pull yourself up, keeping your legs and body straight. Although these exercises are not as difficult as pullups, they can provide a substitute until you can get to the gym.


If you buy or build a pullup bar for your apartment, test it first to make sure it can hold your body weight. Use a chair to do an assisted pullup first. If the bar comes crashing down, you have a safe landing pad under your feet. Otherwise you risk falling flat on your back with the bar coming down on top of you. Avoid any kind of piping or beams that aren't well secured. If you are doing pullups from a pipe, perform them close to their anchor points so as to minimize the load on the pipe.