The pull up exerciseIs This the New Celebrity Diet?. Read more ... » requires a substantial amount of coordinated upper body strength. Girls — particularly those beyond the age of puberty — may find this exercise especially challenging, as they have less upper body strength and higher body fatHow to get rid of back fat. Read more ... » ratios than their average male counterparts. The Marine Corps physical fitnessSee How I Gained 20 Pounds of Lean Muscle with P90X. Read more ... » test recognizes this disparity by using a flexed-arm hang as an alternative to pull ups for female Marines. However, girls are capable of learning to perform pull ups with proper training and regular practice. In his book “The Naked Warrior,” famed strongman Pavel Tsatsouline summarizes his formula for pull up prowess this way: “Specificity + Frequent Practice = Success.”
In his article, “Grease the Groove for Strength,” originally published in “MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes,” Pavel expands on the concept of specificity. Instead of spending a lot of time working on various exercises to strengthen key muscles for pull ups, focus on the pull up exercise itself. According to Pavel, if you are already capable of doing pull ups, you should focus on performing 1 to 6 repetitions of the exercise per set. Perform the repetitions with attention to form and technique. The number of repetitions per set should not approach the maximum possible. If you are not able to do a pull up, start with modified versions. In either case the number of repetitions should not come close to failure.
Frequent practice or multiple sets throughout the day is key to improving pull up performance. Five to 20 sets — 1 to 6 repetitions each — spread throughout the day add up to considerable total training volume. Full recoveryWhat is a Recovery Workout?. Read more ... » between sets allows you to perform each set with consistent intensity. A high volume of quality practice will train your muscles to perform a specific task more efficiently. That means when you do make an all-out effort, you will likely see your maximum number of pull ups increase over time.
Shawna Kaminski is a certified personal trainer who has developed specific programs to help her clients do more pull ups. Her training guide, “Ultimate Pull Program,” provides several pull up modifications that can be especially helpful if you cannot yet complete a full pull up. If you can only perform a partial pull up, you can do sets of “stick ups.” These are done by hanging from the bar and pulling only as high as you are currently able, then lowering back down. Another modification is to stand on a chair and position yourself at the top position of the pull up. Hold this position briefly as you step off the chair, then slowly lower yourself to full arm extension. A third option is to secure a length of elastic tubing to the bar. Place your foot through a loop in the end of the tubing as if it were a stirrup. When you are hanging from the bar, the stretched tubing will assist you in your pull up. This modification allows you to experience the full range of a pull up while lifting less than your full weight. The length of the tubing determines the tension. If you need a lot of help, make the tubing shorter.
Your shoulder is a delicate joint that can easily become stressed or inflamed. Kaminski recommends taking a day off to rest the shoulders if you experience pain with your pull up workout. Maintaining good form and avoiding sudden or jerky movements can reduce the likelihood of hurting your shoulders. To avoid elbow pain, Kaminski advises taking a loose grip on the bar rather than squeezing it firmly during pull ups.