Build a Pull Up Bar: Anchoring



Continuing the homemade pull up bar series… if you missed the overview, materials, design or tools posts, be sure to check those out.

 

Ok, today we’re going to get into the nitty gritty – anchoring.  This is a very important topic, it’s what keeps your structure affixed to the ground, ceiling and / or wall!  The three most common materials that pull up bars are bolted into are: wood, concrete and brick – each with unique nuances.

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Wood

This is probably the most common structural element and definitely the easiest to work with.  If you’re bolting into wood, it’s likely ceiling joists or a drywall / plaster wall supported with 2x4s.

Lag Bolt

Lag bolt example

Ceiling joists are typically large pieces of wood, greater than 4″ in each dimension, which means that you can bolt a speed rail flange directly into them.  Go to your local hardware store, procure some lag bolts and washers are you’re good to go.  I typically use the lag bolts with 1/2″ hex head and 2 1/2″ long.  It’s way overkill, especially with four in each flange, but I like to be conservative… don’t want these things ripping out of the wall.

homemade crossfit rig

626 Garage Rig, affixed to 2 x 10 mounted to the walls and ceiling joists.

The other common wood mounting need is onto a typical wall built with 2x4s.  The best option I’ve found for this arrangement is bolting a large piece of wood onto the 2x4s.  I think you could do with much less, but I’ve commonly bolted 2x10s into the studs with lag bolts (longer than those recommended in the ceiling joist section above – usually 3″), then I use lag bolts to affix the speed rail flange directly into the 2×10.  Rock solid.

homemade pull up bar

Not the best example, flange is off center due to some issues that popped up last minute.

 

Concrete

The two 626 systems I’ve built were kept entirely off the floor and (at least for most people in the U.S.) that means no concrete.  The CFP rig I built was quite massive and also designed for adjustable height bars in the back row – both of which contributed to the need for fastening the structure into the ground.  The floors in most commercial gym spaces will likely be concrete slab.  Though it isn’t as simple as wood, dealing with concrete is relatively straightforward.

Example of concrete anchors – click picture for amazon listing.

The easiest solution I’ve found for mounting into a concrete slab floor are hammer-in anchors (pictured above).  With this style anchor, you drill a hole into the concrete (the size of which is dictated by the specifics of your anchor), hammer the anchor into the hole (these anchors have the bolt built in), slide the speed rail flange over the top, add on a washer and finally tighten a nut on top.


The easiest way to do this is to align your speed rail flange on the floor, mark the four holes with a sharpie, remove the flange and drill all four holes at once.  You will need a hammer drill and masonry bit to do the job (see tools).  Next hammer the anchors in one at a time, ensuring that they are straight (perpendicular to the ground) – otherwise your speed rail flange will likely not fit over the top, add your washers on top and then tighten nuts down on top of each bolt with your socket set.

 

Brick

If you are unlucky enough to have to deal with brick, please make sure you read this section.  The primary mounts for my final system were into 100 year old, 16″ thick brick walls.  I learned a lot from this rig and had to tear down and repeat my work numerous times until I got it right.  I’m going to outline each method I used and discuss the troubles I ran into with each to provide some background and also provide numerous techniques.  Though most didn’t work for me, they may for you depending on the specifics of your brick wall.

Anchors I used unsuccessfully in brick


In the first iteration of my brick mounted rig, I anchored pieces of 2×10 into the brick wall and then lag bolted the speed rail fittings into the wood pieces.  This technique held up for a while, but slowly the lag bolts pulled out of the brick wall and the 2x10s began to split down the middle.  This mounting technique was flawed from the start because the walls were not straight which prevented the 2x10s from mounting flush with the wall.  Unless you have straight walls and newer brick to mount into, I’d avoid anchoring wood into the bring and flanges into that wood.

Mounted into brick wall

Mounted into brick wall

Next I attempted to anchor the mounting bolts for the flange directly into the brick.  I struggled with this technique as well.  The difficulty was due to the age of wall I believe.  The mortar joints were all breaking down and the anchors simply wouldn’t “bite” into the wall.  Again, with a newer brick wall you may have greater success than me.

Final System in Brick Wall

Final System in Brick Wall

The winning technique ended up being for me to drill through the entire thickness of the 16″ brick wall, insert a piece of 1/2″ threaded metal rod that I cut to about 20″ in length and bolt it down on the inside and outside of the building.  Though this was a lot of work, it is by far the most secure.

 

Final Thoughts

Anchoring is one of the most important facets of a custom pull up rig.  Please make sure you take care when affixing your flanges to the walls and floors.  If they don’t seem well mounted at first, they likely will not hold up over time with a bunch of people kipping or performing weighted pull ups on your rig.  If anything is unclear or you want me to expand on any of the topic areas above, let me know in the comments.

 

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