Want to get a killer workout at home that will benefit you in the pool? Here’s a breakdown of my favorite doorway pull up bars that swimmers will love.
The standard pull up is a classic exercise in the dryland workouts of most competitive swimmers.
Why Swimmers Should Use Pull Up Bars
The applications of pull-ups are fairly obvious: The movement of the pull up closely resembles the pulling pattern of most strokes in the water. The ability to do pull ups, done properly and with correct form, have been linked to faster swimming.
One study found that the fastest swimmers in a cohort of 12 competitive swimmers weren’t the ones who could do the most reps, but who had the best form. Which should make sense—the stability and control required to perform one pull up properly will always beat out the athlete who needs to cheat with form to struggle to two pull ups.
Elite athletes, like Nathan Adrian, Natalie Coughlin, Katinka Hosszu, and Michael Phelps all regularly used pull ups (usually weighted with a plate/dumbbell dangling from their hips or a weighted vest) to power their performance in the water.
Here is a quick video of Coughlin performing a slow count pull up…
Adrian, in particular, is a monster in the weight room and regularly performs weighted pull-ups with upwards of 60 kilograms (132 pounds). His strong early vertical forearm and catch is a byproduct of this particular lift, making pull-ups an essential for swimmers who need to recruit a lot of power at the front of their stroke.
“This exercise helps increase my strength to weight ration in a movement that directly translates to the pool,” Adrian says.
Phelps, the greatest swimmer of all time, could reportedly perform over 30 pull-ups consecutively.
So, yeah. You could say that this exercise kicks a ton of chlorinated butt!
Below are some of the best doorway pull up bars that I have tried over the years.
Iron Age Doorway Pull Up Bar
Swimmers tend to be tall and lanky, making your usual pull up bar a little problematic. With out knees brushing the ground at the bottom of each rep we end up having to cannon-ball our legs. Not always ideal for maintaining good form.
The Iron Age Doorway Pull Up Bar solves the dilemma of the tall knee-grazer with their bar that mounts at the top of the doorway, with the actual pull up bar several inches above the door frame. (Half a foot higher than your prototypical doorway pull-up bar.)
Despite the unorthodox design, it is far sturdier than most pull-up bars, able to prop up over 400-pounds of weight.
The only downside with this pull-up bar is that you are fairly limited in terms of grips—sure, you can hit your regular chins and a variety of wide grip pull ups, but no vertical bars for hammer grip pulls (which are ideal for blasting your guns, err, biceps).
Ultimate Body Press XL Doorway Pull Up Bar
This bad boy is not small, so in terms of portability and compactness, not super great. But it’s versatile as heck and is also ideal for the taller frames on your typical competitive swimmer.
Beyond your usual pull up grips on the straight bar, there is the option of hammer grip pulls, and bent handles on the top rack that provide a more natural grip for wide-grip pulls. Combine that with comfortable padding for a secure grip, and you have an awesome pull-up bar in terms of versatility and comfort.
If you have a family of swimmers of different heights, this pull up bar is a good go-to. From short to tall everyone can get a grip on the bar and perform pull ups without having to bounce their knees off the ground or have to jump into the air and catch the bar.
(Do not jump to get a grip on a doorway pull-up bar. You should be able to test your weight on the bar while standing. Fumbling for a grip while jumping to grab the bar will also likely dislodge the bar from it’s position atop the doorframe. Learned this lesson the hard way.)
The Iron Gym Total Upper Body Pull Up Bar
If you are looking for a no-frills doorway pull up bar that will take a heaping pile of pull-ups and smile back at you, this low cost, highly-reviewed option is good to go.
You got all the major grips covered: pulls, chins, hammers. The bar can also be placed on the ground and used for dips (to power up your triceps, aka, the finishing movement of your pull) and push-ups.
The Iron Gym Pull Up Bar accommodates swimmers up to 300 pounds and fits doorways between 24 and 32 inches. With over 3,300 five-star reviews on Amazon and that low-cost, the Iron Gym bar kicks many butts and blasts many lats.
More Dryland Gear:
5 Pieces of Dryland Equipment Swimmers Can Use to Train at Home. Stuck at home and want to stay in swimming shape? Here are my favorite dryland tools that swimmers can use to train at home.
Best Stretch Cords for Swimmers. When it comes to swim-specific training stretch cords are about as good as it gets.