Women Struggle with Pull-Ups, Study Finds
The New York Times published a short story this week entitled "Why Women Can't Do Pull-Ups" based on recent research that concluded just that.
The study followed 17 normal-weight women in Ohio who couldn't do a single pull-up at the start of the program. Three days a week for three months the women focused on weight-training exercises that strengthened their biceps and latissimus dorsi (aka your large upper-back muscles) and aerobic training to lower body fat. They also used an incline to practice modified pull-ups, hoping it would help them develop the muscles they needed when it came to doing the real thing.
Ultimately only four of the women were able to complete a pull-up even though all of them lowered their body fat by at least 2 percent and increased their upper-body strength by 36 percent.
“We honestly thought we could get everyone to do one,” Paul Vanderburgh, a professor of exercise physiology, associate provost, and dean at the University of Dayton and an author of the study, told the New York Times.
If you read the story, don't let it discourage you—not every expert agrees with the conclusions.
Jay Cardiello, Fitness-Editor-at-Large of SHAPE, and founder of JCORE, says that the study methodology was flawed.
"You have to train the way you play. Would you expect a volleyball player to know how to play soccer? This study didn't have an optimal training plan, and all that guarantees is that you won't be able to do a pull-up at the end," he says.
RELATED: In addition to pull-ups, be sure your workout includes at least a few of these 22 men's exercises women should do.
One aspect the study didn't address very well, Cardiello feels, is that men and women are different, but that shouldn't impede your ability to do a pull-up.
"Women may not be chemically inclined to build as much muscle mass as men, but there's no reason a healthy, fit woman couldn't learn to do a pull-up," he says.
The pull-up really is a total-body move, Cardiello adds, and you have to work all your major and minor muscle groups in order to perform it properly.
If your goal is to learn how to do a pull-up, here are some moves you can start incorporating into your daily workout:
1. Lateral pull-downs. Make sure you don't have your legs harnessed while doing so.
2. Bicep curls. Do these from a standing position since you want to mimic the movement of a pull-up as much as possible and won't start those sitting.
3. Push-ups. Close-grip, wide-grip, and rolling push-ups with a medicine ball will deliver a total-body strengthening workout.
4. Tricep dips.
"Ultimately, this study does nothing to empower women," Cardiello says. "All this study says is that as women, you can't do this, which is what you've been fighting against for so long."