Whether you are a woman in the military or have wanted to improve your training at the gym or at home, one of the most crucial exercises that is the test of strength is the pull-up.
At least, that’s what we’ve all been taught.
It’s no secret that pull-ups are incredibly difficult to accomplish, even for fit and healthy women who are cutting down on body fat and training like mad. Don’t sweat it!
According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, the average woman should be able to do at least one pull-up and up to 4 to 6 for intermediate levels.
Advanced and super strong alpha females should be able to do between 7 to 9 repetitions of a pull-up. However, if we’re being honest, most women might find it difficult to do even one pull-up.
What Is a Pull-up?
No, they are not diapers. Pull-ups are actually a type of exercise that involves the use of several muscle groups, including your arms, upper shoulders, and trapezius muscle that sits in between your two shoulder blades, and your core.
The core is able to keep the body upright and tight as you perform the pull-up. To perform this exercise:
1. Use only a pull-up bar that is safely secured, either on your doorway or a stand-alone pull-up bar.
2. The bar should be above you by at least a foot, if not more (the higher off the ground, the more difficult it will be to start the pull-up).
3. Put your hands onto the bar in an overhand position, meaning your palms are facing away from you and the back of your hands are toward you while grasping the bar.
4. Use your trapezius and combined shoulder and arm strength to pull yourself up, while keeping your core tight during the movement.
5. Pull yourself up over the bar until your chin is over the bar.
6. Lower yourself down slowly, and repeat the motion again smoothly and not too fast. The most important thing is to keep control of yourself going over the bar.
Why Are Pull-Ups So Difficult?
The exercise steps above might seem like they’re relatively simple; however, there are many things that can hinder your ability to complete a pull-up. These include:
- Size. It’s much easier for children to do pull-ups and move across monkey bars. It’s a sight we see every day, simply because children are stronger and have the ability to lift themselves easily.
- Natural ability. If you are a naturally strong person and are trained in calisthenics, or exercises that focus on lifting your body weight, it will be easier to adapt to pull-ups.
- Age. As we get older, our joints such as the shoulders and elbows begin to wear away due to the loss of cartilage in between. This can lead to painful conditions such as osteoporosis, which can make it difficult to even walk and complete normal activities, let alone do pull-ups.
- Length of limbs. Generally, the longer your arms are, the more effort it will take to be able to lift yourself up, leading to worst pull-ups.
- Gender differences. Experts believe that women might have more difficulty doing pull-ups since they have a higher amount of body fat percentage and less testosterone. These, combined, make it difficult to do even a single pull-up, let alone several to compare with men.
Benefits of Pull-ups
Despite being a bit difficult to perform, there’s no denying that pull-ups have many benefits to the female physique and strength.
For starters, doing a pull-up requires lots of upper body strength.
The more you do, the more you’ll feel your upper back muscles, shoulder muscles, and triceps muscles getting toned.
All of these muscles are used during the execution of a pull-up, so this is one of the best exercises to get that lean back you’ve always wanted.
Pull-ups, like any other muscle-building exercise, also help you get rid of stored body fat, burn calories, and aid in weight loss.
The benefit is that the more weight you lose, the easier it’ll be to do more pull-ups, leading to a positive cycle of transformation and gaining strength!
Last, but certainly not least, like all other exercises, pull-ups help you raise your heart rate, grow stronger, and burn off excess levels of cortisol in the bloodstream.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, and too much of it can lead to symptoms such as:
- Weight gain around the belly area
- High blood pressure
- Mood swings and irritability
With regular exercise and a weight-loss regimen, you can reduce the level of harmful cortisol in your body so you can feel less stressed, improve your overall health, and enjoy a thinner midsection.
Standards for Women in the Military
If it’s difficult for women to do pull-ups, does that mean women in the military don’t have to do any pull-ups? Not necessarily.
In the Marine Corps, women are expected to perform as many as 4 pull-ups if they are between the ages of 26 and 30 years old.
However, though it was once a requirement and could be replaced with a flexed arm hang, women now do push-ups (yay?)
Neither one of these exercises is completely easy. Push-ups are still quite difficult to master, especially since many people get the form wrong!
Yet, this just goes to show that even some of the strongest women in the country still aren’t able to do pull-ups. That’s not a bad thing, however.
There is always room for improvement, and room to grow your confidence in your physical abilities!
How to Improve Your Pull-up Count
The best way to improve your ability to do pull-ups is to practice them. Like all exercises, pull-ups do take a little bit of getting used to to get the form right.
Chances are you’ve never worked the muscles necessary to do a pull-up if you’re a novice.
By practicing your pull-ups, you’ll be able to get your body used to doing the compound movement. That’s the first step.
As mentioned before, losing weight will also make it easier to do a pull-up, since there will be less weight to carry.
This is the idea behind calisthenics, one of the most popular exercise forms that doesn’t require any equipment and only requires people to use their body weight to develop strength.
Combining a calisthenics regimen along with a weight-loss routine (along with diet) can help you get to the best size for maximum pull-ups.
In addition, some Marines are also finding that the best way to improve their pull-up score is to be assisted during the pull-up.
To do so, have a partner hold on to your legs as your upper body holds on to the pull-up bar.
If you’re unable to pull yourself all the way up, have your partner help push you up so you can complete the movement.
Pretty soon, you won’t need a partner’s help, and will be able to do the movement on your own!
Pull-ups are notoriously difficult exercises, with even the strongest females in the military only able to do 4 pull-ups, and the average woman only able to do about 1 to 3.
If you’re one of the many women that can’t do a single pull-up, this has nothing to do with your strength levels.
In fact, with a little bit of practice, patience, and help from a partner, you can improve your ability to do pull-ups and incorporate them into your exercise routine.
So long as you have some sort of physical activity, that makes all the difference between health and a good life.