It’s no secret that pull-ups are my favorite exercise. They work your entire upper body, plus they’re cool looking and fun!
While learning to do pull-ups is hard for anyone, the task can be especially daunting for females. However, it is possible for any able bodied woman to perform pull-ups, as long as she’s willing to put in some work.
It almost goes without saying, but if you are overweight, pull-ups may not be realistic for you, so make sure you get your diet in check first.
Chin It To Win It
Pull-ups can be done with many different grips, though it’s usually best for beginners to start out with an underhand (chin-up) grip as this will allow you to utilize your biceps more.
Though the muscles of the upper back have the potential to become incredibly powerful, your arms are more likely to be developed and will be able to compensate in the meantime. With enough practice, the disparity between overhand and underhand grips should even out.
The best way to learn to do a pull-up is to start with assistance. Have your trainer or training partner give you a manual assist by placing their hands on your back. A good spotter can give you just enough help to get you through a full range of motion without doing too much of the work for you.
If you don’t have anyone to assist you, use a stretch band, or stand on a bench and assist yourself by using your leg(s). You’ll have to use the honor system with this method – pull as much as you can with your arms and only use your legs to make up the difference.
Just like an assisted pull-up is easier than the free-hanging variety, the Australian pull-up will allow you to train a similar movement pattern without having to bear your full weight. The Australian pull-up will also get you used to keeping your core engaged, which is a key aspect of performing pull-ups.
As I mentioned in my guide to learning to do a pull-up, holding a flex hang (the top position of a pull-up) for time is a great way to build up to doing the full range of motion. Try to work up to a 30 second hold. By then you should be able to get off a rep or two.
Female One Arm Pull-up?
I’ve heard urban legends of female circus performers who were capable of this feat, but as far as I know, there has never been legit video showing a woman doing a one arm pull-up. I’d like to believe it’s possible, but until I see it with my own eyes, I am skeptical of such claims.
If there are any women out there who can do a one arm pull-up, please send me the video! I’d love to see it and feature it here on my blog!
In the meantime, check out this video of my friend and fellow trainer, Jessica Rumbaugh demonstrating that women can grind out pull-ups without turning into a dude.
For more information about pull-up training, make sure to pick up a copy of my book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics.