Women CAN’T Do Pull-ups (Guest Post)

IMG_0419 (640x480)Howdy, everyone! I’m excited to bring you a terrific guest post by fellow Beautiful Badass Shawna Kaminski.

Here’s an awesome fact about Shawna – she can do more pull-ups than most men I know. And she’s almost 50. Shawna’s a serious badass!

Got your attention didn’t I?

It’s true. According to the New York Times and a study from the University of Daytona, women CAN’T do pull ups. Researchers came up with all kinds of reasons for the fact that in this particular study, exercise physiologists were unsuccessful in getting their subjects to achieve an unassisted pull up. Clearly if these ‘experts’ couldn’t get this group of 17 women to do at least ONE pull up, it’s fair to assume that NO WOMAN should be able to do a pull up ever. Right?

Go ahead, sit back down on the couch girls. The experts have spoken.

Oh dear, I need to go find my pull up bar and knock out a few sets. Even though I’d be the least likely candidate to be able to do multiple sets of multiple reps of pull ups…

2011 Impact Magazine, Shawna Kaminski

Hi, I’m Shawna Kaminski. I’m nearly 50 years old and I have no business doing pull ups, (according to the researchers at the University of Daytona that is). You can see me doing 20 pull ups HERE, this was after a workout when I was asked to do this video.

The fact is, I CAN do pull ups and I’ve taught several others, including hundreds of women to do pull ups too.

First of all, I applaud the University of Dayton for ‘proving’ that women will be unsuccessful at learning a pull up by training with three resistance training sessions a week for three months. It’s a fact, unless a woman is a freak of nature, it’s unlikely that this workout protocol is going to bring much pull up fame.

But, let me tell you that intense and proper training for a little longer will yield better results.

And if three months doesn’t yield a pull up, then maybe four months will. The point is, it may take a little longer for some, but it’s POSSIBLE.

There’s weight training and then there’s weight training…you need to put away the pink dumb bells and really LIFT some weight if you plan on lifting your entire body weight.

Pull ups are downright empowering for women. If you can do a pull up, you can conquer anything as far as I’m concerned. It takes mental toughness to stick to a pull up plan and that same toughness can be applied to any aspect of life.

I think one of the best ways to motivate a woman is to tell her she CAN’T do something, for many of us this will light a fire under our butts to prove that person wrong. If you’re a woman who currently CAN’T do a pull up, or want to do more quality and quantity of pull ups, let me give you some tips. (After all, us girls need to stick together, if I can do them, so can you.)

Here goes…


Get UNDER the bar. Your goal is to lift your chest under the pull up bar versus lifting your chin OVER the bar. If you focus on getting your chest UNDER the bar, you’re more likely to be pulling with the muscles that count-the stronger muscles of the back versus just the arms.

Scap Retraction – Huh?

You need to learn how to engage the back muscles and scapular retraction can do that for you. Hang from a bar without bending the arms. Imagine squeezing the shoulder blades together. Look up and voila…you’ll notice that you’ll initiate some movement, you should be able to move an inch or two this way.


Get a lil help…

Yup, I said it. You’re gonna need to do assisted pull ups in order to be able to do them unassisted. Don’t expect to do lat pull downs and pull ups on the assisted pull up machine and all of a sudden magically be able to do an unassisted pull up. One of my favorite assisted pull ups is with a resistance band. You’ll see what I mean in the video below. The cool thing about using a band is that it gives you help when you need it most, at the full hang position and eases up on the assist at the top of the movement where you’re likely the strongest.

Get Negative

I mean you need to work the ‘negative’ or ‘eccentric’ contraction on the pull up. So just get UP to the bar anyway you can and come DOWN from the bar with control. It’s this descent that builds strength, so even if you’re doing a band pull up, take as much of your weight on the way down and you’ll see that you’ll build a surprising amount of strength this way.

Cheating is Good

Oh dear, I mean at the pull up bar…Adding a small kip (see the video) is totally fine with the pull up. It’s like a ‘forced rep’. Who cares if you don’t do every pull up rep with picture perfect form with a dead hang in between reps? Let’s remember the PURPOSE of training, which is to increase your strength (and in turn you’re going to have a rock hard physique). Adding a slight kip to your pull up doesn’t put you at risk of injury, so why not?

I need to point out that cheating with loaded movements is definitely a no-no. Remaining injury free is my top priority when training.

Take a look at this video for a summary and demonstration of these tips:

Let’s prove the University of Daytona and everyone else that women CAN do pull ups.

Let me give you a hand.

My program is designed help you even if you can’t get one pull up. There are three levels to progress through. Admittedly, some of my women clients have to repeat the first program more than once, but hey, it’s a great full body plan that even addresses your cardiovascular and fat loss needs.

Check it out here and see if it’s right for you.

Hope y’all enjoyed this article. Give some of those tips a shot in your next workout and start busting out more pull-ups!

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