The Only Piece of Gym Equipment You Need to Build Muscle

Man using iron gym workout bar to do pull-ups and push-ups
The push-up/pull-up bar is forever king of the upper body.

You don’t need a lot of equipment to make major gains in the gym. If you don’t believe me, watch the 300. It can certainly be motivating to have somewhere to go to where other people are striving to reach the same goals. I have a membership at a local gym. But the fact is that anyone can get swoll from the comfort of their own home. Let’s be real–most people who lift weights are in it for the upper body. That’s what people see. That’s what people like. There are a lot of good reasons for lifting legs, but I won’t get into those now. If you want a muscular, shredded upper body, then there’s only one piece of equipment you need: a push-up/pull-up bar. If the treadmill is king of cardio, then the push-up/pull-up bar is king of upper body.

Graph of muscles worked by pull-ups
Pull-ups target biceps, back, chest, and shoulders.

Pull-ups as pictured on the right target biceps, back, chest, and shoulders–four of the most visible muscle groups. Pull-ups also work the abdominal muscle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up with sore abs from a pull-up routine. You can also turn your hands around so that your palms are facing you instead of facing away from you. This variation of the pull-up is called the chin-up. I’ve found that it works approximately the same muscles as the traditional pull-up with a little more stress on the biceps. In my experience, it’s easier to bang out more reps doing the chin-up variety. Pull-ups, it follows, are a complete upper-body experience. If you did nothing but pull-ups, and you did enough of them, you’d be jacked in no time.

Graph of muscles worked by push-ups
Push-ups target chest, triceps, shoulders, and abs.

Push-ups are by far the most popular upper-body exercise known to mankind. Push-ups work chest, triceps, shoulders, and abs. Unlike pull-ups, push-ups are something you can reasonably do with zero equipment. However, having a push-up bar can be extremely useful. A bar adds resistance by enabling you to go deeper down where the ground would otherwise stop you. With no equipment, I can easily bang out 50-70 push-ups. When doing this many reps, it takes a relatively long time to tire out the muscles enough where real growth takes place. Most bodybuilders swear by the 8-16 rep-range for optimal muscle volume. Having a push-up bar can be very useful for anyone already capable of doing more than 10 reps with no equipment. If that’s not already you, it will be within a few weeks of beginning a push-up routine.

I’ve used one push-up/pull-up bar for the last 4 years. You can get it at Amazon on the cheap: Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar. Apparently, you can also use the bar to do crunches and dips, although I’ve only ever used it for push-ups and pull-ups. Iron Gym hasn’t modified their product at all in 4 years, and I don’t think they’ll ever need to. The nice thing about the workout bar is you can modify your grip rather easily. I like rotating between wide-, narrow-, and straight-grip pull-ups and push-ups for maximum adaptability. I also like doing push-ups with my feet on an incline (a sofa or bed) for increased resistance. Exercise common sense.

Take a look at some photos I took of the equipment. As you can see, there is some wear on the grip being as old as it is. It still works perfectly fine, and I probably won’t buy a new one for a while. Good luck and happy gains.

My Iron Gym Workout Bar:

Iron gym workout bar in the pull-up position
Iron Gym workout bar in the pull-up position.
Iron gym workout bar in the push-up position
Iron Gym workout bar in the push-up position.
Iron gym workout bar in the push-up position with an incline
Iron Gym workout bar in the push-up position with an incline.

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