Why Women Can’t Do Pull Ups

Why Women Can’t Do Pull Ups

Tonight I read this article from The New York Times that my friend Dean Somerset posted on his Facebook profile.

“Why Women Can’t Do Pull Ups.”

You can read the article by going here.

Reading this made me smile.

Here is a pic of our trainers at HWTC.  They can all do pull ups and chin ups.

“The Marines say a male recruit should be able to do at least 3 pull-ups or chin-ups, but women are not required to do them.”

“In school, 14-year-old boys can earn the highest award on the government’s physical fitness test by doing 10 pull-ups or chin-ups: for 14-year-old girls, it’s 2.”

And here are two important paragraphs from the article:

“To find out just how meaningful a fitness measure the pull-up really is, exercise researchers from the University of Dayton found 17 normal-weight women who could not do a single overhand pull-up. Three days a week for three months, the women focused on exercises that would strengthen the biceps and the latissimus dorsi — the large back muscle that is activated during the exercise. They lifted weights and used an incline to practice a modified pull-up, raising themselves up to a bar, over and over, in hopes of strengthening the muscles they would use to perform the real thing. They also focused on aerobic training to lower body fat.

By the end of the training program, the women had increased their upper-body strength by 36 percent and lowered their body fat by 2 percent. But on test day, the researchers were stunned when only 4 of the 17 women succeeded in performing a single pull-up.”

I know that most females untrained can never do a pull up, and even stranger is that most women who lift weights and train at most gyms can’t do a pull up.

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They lift. They train hard.  So why can’t they do pull ups?

At Heavyweights Training Center we have at least 30+ females that can do a full pull up or chin up.  As well at least 15 girls that can do 10 unassisted pull ups.

If they are lifting weights, if they are hitting the focus muscle groups like lats and biceps why aren’t they able to do a pull up?IMG_4688

Here are 5 tips I use with all my clients to get them doing pull-ups, especially my female ones:

1. Grip Strength

It doesn’t matter how strong your lats are.  If your grip is weak on pull-ups you won’t be doing many.

Grip strength, hand toughness, mental toughness…all of this starts with your grips.

It’s why I don’t like seeing gloves at HWTC.  Your hands connect you to the exercise.  It’s important.

Without this basic step and focus, your not going to go very far on pull-ups or chin-ups.


2. Drive Your Elbows To Your Sides

Instead of focusing on pulling yourself to the bar focus on driving your elbows to your sides.  This will engage your lats a lot more than just trying to pull yourself up to the bar.

In order to engage your lats, focus on driving your elbow to the side.  I also like to use the visualization of “ripping the bar to you.”  You don’t think of pulling yourself to the bar.

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3.  Get Strong On Pull-Ups NOT Pull-Downs

Pull-downs won’t translate very well to doing a pull-up.  Forget pull-downs and DO pull-up variations like band-assisted, grip holds, pause holds, and negatives.  NOT pull downs.

Pull-Ups will help your pull-downs, but pull-downs will not help your pull ups.


4.  Use a regular grip not a false grip

After testing with my clients and in my own training, I found that you tend to develop more overall power and grip on everything using a full grip vs. a suicide grip or as I call it a cup grip.  I find for anything using a bar, dumbell etc., I always want a THUMB AROUND Grip.

Strength starts with the grip.


5. Focus On Improving Lower Core

Your lower abs and pelvic area plays a big role in pull up and chin up strength.  It’s a big factor that doesn’t get noticed especially in women.  This area is commonly weak in females and doing pull ups and chin ups its a big stabilizer.  When first doing pull ups most of my female clients talk about sore abs.  This is why.

The lower core has to stabilize the legs. With females their legs are usually heavier compared to men so they need to stabilize their lower body.  This is core strength.  Stronger core equals less energy leaks and improves body control and strength.

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So there are five tips that will play a big role in improving your pull ups and chin ups female or not.

I really wish more people won’t base their training around pull ups and chin ups.  They are an essential FULL body exercise, not just back and biceps.

Here are a few of my female clients at Heavyweights Training Center on Pull Ups & Chin Ups


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