Pull-ups: Can Women Do Them Or Not?



October 25, 2012, 12:01 am
Why Women Can’t Do Pull-Ups
By TARA PARKER-POPE
This column appears in the Oct. 28 issue of The New York Times Magazine.

While the pull-up has been used by everyone from middle-school gym teachers to Marine drill instructors to measure fitness, the fact is that many fit people, particularly women, can't do even one. To perform a pull-up, you place your hands on a raised bar using an overhand grip, arms fully extended and feet off the floor. (The same exercise, performed with an underhand grip, is often called a chin-up.) Using the muscles in your arms and back, you pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. Then the body is lowered until the arms are straight, and the exercise is repeated. 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.

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.

"We honestly thought we could get everyone to do one," said Paul Vanderburgh, a professor of exercise physiology and associate provost and dean at the University of Dayton, and an author of the study. But Vanderburgh said the study and other research has shown that performing a pull-up requires more than simple upper-body strength. Men and women who can do them tend to have a combination of strength, low 
body fat and shorter stature. During training, because women have lower levels of testosterone, they typically develop less muscle than men, Vanderburgh explained. In addition, they can't lose as much fat. Men can conceivably get to 4 percent body fat; women typically bottom out at more than 10 percent.

So no matter how fit they are, women typically fare worse on pull-up tests. But Vanderburgh notes that some men struggle, too, particularly those who are taller or bigger generally or have long arms. This is related to an interesting phenomenon: if you compare a smaller athlete to an athlete who has the same exact build but is 30 percent bigger, the bigger athlete will be only about 20 percent stronger, even though he has to carry about 30 percent more weight.

"We're a combination of levers; that's how we move," Vanderburgh said. "Generally speaking, the longer the limb, the more of a disadvantage in being able to do a pull-up. I look at a volleyball player and wouldn't expect her to be able to do a pull-up, but I know she's fit."







Ok, what’s wrong with this picture (or words)? This article suggests that women are pretty much incapable of doing pull-ups. As I do agree to a certain peak about the levels of strength compared to men and women, it still pisses me off that this article doesn't really know a damn thing about Pull-up training. First things first, if you're going to do pull-ups what do you do, you do pull-ups dumbass. Can't expect someone to lift weights using arm and back exercises and have them do pull-ups for a test. I’m sorry but that’s just flat out dumb.






Yes it’s proven that women aren't as strong as men and our testosterone levels are much higher but that doesn't mean a woman can’t be strong at something. To overcome this notion that a woman is incapable of doing pull-ups, you don't listen to bullshit like this and if you really want to do pull-ups, do them and make it happen for you, the mental game is just as important as the physical. Its people who wrote this article don’t know the real capabilities of both men and women. Don't ever feel that as a woman you are weak and not worthy to become strong. You are more than just a beautiful person, you’ve got heart, will and brains to become something that nobody can use against you. You have 2 eyes, 2 arms, a torso, a neck, 2 legs, 2 ears, hair, 5 fingers, 5 toes and 2 feet, what makes you think can’t do some of the same things as a man can? I've seen women overpower men much bigger than them and are stronger in some cases than they are.






My personal take on it is that out of all the scientific crap thrown in this article they messed up on more than 5 different things one of which is about doing what you need to do to do pull-ups. He talks about how they used weights and Isolated the arms and back, hate to burst your bubble pal but crap like that doesn't carry over to pull-ups, if you want to get strong in pull-ups you do exactly that, common sense don't you think? Another is how he talks about men struggling as well, you can't do pull-ups very well if you're this big or have long arms and this and that. I'm more than 240 lbs. This article suggests that because I'm too big I’m not capable of doing many pull-ups but yet I've surpassed 10, where is your logic now? Structure has some factors but if you trained in pull-ups with the right amount for your level of fitness you have the capabilities of doing plenty of pull-ups and it may take you a long time or a short period but in the end, if you are willing to pull yourself (pun intended) you will do one or more pull-ups.






Don't ever fall for crap like this. I realize this was a test for schools and such but if you can't train someone to actually do pull-ups how are they suppose to be able to do them in a test? Women aren’t very capable to do pull-ups, please, look at Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, whether it was her or a stunt woman, a woman was doing pull-ups or the other chin-ups. One other thing this moron talks about is that pull-ups are a back and arms exercise…Wrong it’s Back, Shoulders, Abdominals, Arms, Grip and Chest in other words the entire upper body, an exercise of that caliber needs multiple muscle groups to even stabilize the muscles let alone pulling yourself up.






Women are more than just beautiful people; they are more than capable to pulling off strength feats. I firmly believe that pound for pound, ounce for ounce women in some cases are stronger than men. I once saw a woman press up more than half her bodyweight with a kettlebell with one arm. Even if a woman can do more than one pull-up or chin-up that still proves that crap wrong that women are more than capable of doing pull-ups with the right training instead of isolating them. This is an article that is incapable of showing any real logic or common sense and still tries to put women down. Women are strong in more ways than people like this give them credit for. Testing on something while training a completely different thing isn't going to help your cause, that’s like asking a baseball player to train for football in baseball season; he’s not going to get any better at baseball and might even diminish his levels, so why test a woman on pull-ups if you're training them in weights? To do well in pull-ups, you train in pull-ups plain and simple.
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