How to Increase your Strength to do Pull ups or Chin ups

Less than 1% of all females can do a complete pull-up. This is your chance to be above average! The reason why women are unable to do pull-ups has to do with their lack of upper body strength in relation to their body size. Most women actually have fairly strong legs and carry a lot of muscle (and fat) in their lower halves.

Maybe your'e thinking, "if most women can NOT do a pull-up, then I'm in the majority, why bother?" Here's why you should bother:

Increasing your upper body strength improves your posture, your stamina, and protects against fractures from osteoporosis. It makes you a better fighter (and better able to defend yourself and your children). It will make you a faster runner and make daily living easier. So you have to carry 40 lb bags of water softener salt? No biggeee - grab one in each hand and carry them out of the store.

Need to lift an 80 pound child and carry them up to bed. What-Evs. Need to restrain your out of control teenager - better get some upper body strength!!

Everyone should have the goal of attaining enough upper body strength to do at least one pull up! Imagine - you're hiking in Hawaii with your family. You slip and are dangling over the edge. You need to be able to do at least one full-forced pull up to save yourself. You only need to do it once!

But of course, you will probably feel so great after doing one, that you'll want to do more. My personal goal is to do 3 sets of 20 pull-ups.

I'm up to 6 - but I started at zero. Real Zero. 3 years ago I couldn't even do "girl push ups." How embarrassing. But I went from abysmal upper body strength to coming close to walking on my hands. And I'm old.

Even after a lifetime of weakness, it's possible to build enough strength to do pull-ups or chin ups. So how do you get started?

Do pull ups. WTF?? How do you do pull ups if you can't do pull ups? I highly recommend you get a doorway pull up bar, but if you don't have on you can use playground equipment or any other bar strong enough to hold your weight.

If you can do at least one pull up, then keep working until you can do 1 1/2, then 2, then 2 1/2... you get the idea.

If you can't do a pull up, then start with negatives. Boost yourself onto the bar with a chair, hang there, then slooooowly let yourself down to the "hang" position. Then get on the chair and do it again. Building your strength on the negatives will help you build the the muscles needed for the whole movement.

You can and should also tie an exercise band around the pull up bar. Hold on to the bar and hook you knees into the strap. Depending on the strength of the band, you can take a considerable amount of your weight off of the exercise and this "assist" will further strengthen your muscles.

You can also get a friend or "spotter" to help lift your weight in an assist.

If you have none of the above devices, then at least start with lat pull downs (or google other lat exercises you can do with barbells.) Work on doing real push ups, upper body rows, and other back/arm exercises. They'll all work together to improve your ability to "pull your own weight."

Once you are doing any sort of pull up - keep at it. Work at it at least 2 times per week. Let your muscles have time to heal and rest so they can come back stronger the next time. Use the band/assist to fatigue your muscles and push them to grow.

By the way - worried about bulking up? Unless you are a man or taking steroids, don't be. I have improved my strength like crazy and have not increased my size. I am still the same clothing size and in the same weight range I have always been in. I'm just way stronger (and firmer - wahoo!) And you can be too!

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Anonymous said...

That's so awesome@!!! I have always wanted to do pull ups but had no idea how to even start. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

When do you add extra weight?

Anonymous said...


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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate all your tips, advice, and well wishes!


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