Women CAN do Pull ups!

I read an article a few days ago that boggled my mind.  It took me a long time to decide whether or not to write about the subject.  Everybody knows I have a soft spot in my heart for our military folks.  They volunteer to do an often difficult job and I’m proud of the work they do.  After finishing the article, however, I wanted to offer up some thoughts about training requirements specifically for female recruits.

Apparently in the Marine Corps, there was a requirement that was to go into place this month for women that requires that they be able to do three pull ups (males must do three or more).  This requirement has been postponed for at least another year because they’re finding that too high a percentage of recruits can’t do even one.

Now mind you, women (in accordance with their wishes and those of men who took up the banner) will be allowed into combat in 2016.

So let’s see, the powers that be want women to be able to go into combat but they think requiring females to be able to pull up their own weight is too much to ask of them?!?  As I said, it boggles the mind.

The following videos show me putting my money where my mouth is!  I  always walk the talk!


It so happens the article I read was specifically about the Marine Corps.  Although I haven’t done any research, I’m willing to bet that the requirements are similar across all the armed forces so Marine or not, military or not, I’m here to tell you women can (and should) learn to do pull ups! It just takes a little concentration and a little work!

There are myriad good articles you can find to help you learn to do pull ups.  I chose to include this method by Stew Smith. I picked it for several reasons.  One, when I’m searching the internet for workout information I often run into his articles regarding fitness training and I’ve used some of his suggestions successfully.    Two, he’s a former Navy SEAL and now dedicates a significant portion of his time to training people who have their eyes on a military career, specifically in the special ops realm.  He’s had a long time to experiment and refine his programs.  He gets immediate feedback regarding the efficacy of his teaching and can tweak things continuously to make his programs even better.  Three, I once had a question that only a Navy SEAL could answer and since I don’t happen to know any I took a chance and sent him an email.  He answered within the hour.  I’m always happy to find those few people who will bother to respond to a stranger particularly when there’s nothing in it for them.

Tips for Better Pull-ups by Stew Smith  

(You can find this article at the following address  (http://www.military.com/military-fitness/workouts/tips-for-better-pullups

Of all the exercises, the one with the largest mind game attached to it is the PULLUP. One thing I have learned is that women AND men CANNOT do pull-ups IF they do not PRACTICE pull-ups.

On the flip side, the common denominator among those men AND women who can do dead-hang pull-ups, are those who practice pull-ups.

In my personal opinion, one of the worst things we ever developed in physical fitness classes were the “girl pullup” or flexed arm hang. At an early age, we have been telling young girls, that they cannot do regular pull-ups because they will never be as strong as boys. Well, part of that statement is true – the strongest woman will NEVER be stronger than the strongest man – but I have seen 40-50 year old mothers of three do 10 pullups. How is that? They practice pull-ups as well as the auxiliary exercises that work the muscles of the back, biceps, and forearms – the PULLUP muscles! Anybody can do pull-ups, but it helps to not be 40-50 lbs. overweight and to follow a program that places pull-ups and the following exercises in your workouts at least 3 times a week.

The Proper Pull-up (Regular Grip)

Grab the pull-up bar with your hands placed about shoulder width apart and your palms facing away from you. Pull yourself upward until your chin is over the bar and complete the exercise by slowly moving to the hanging position.

Pull-ups (Negatives)

If you cannot do any pull-ups, you should try “negatives”. Negatives are half pull-ups. All you have to do is get your chin over the bar by standing on something or having spotter push you over the bar. Then, you slowly lower yourself all the way down – let your arms hang grasping the bar fully stretched. Keep your feet up and fight gravity for a count of 5 seconds. This will get your arms used to supporting your weight.

Assisted Pull-ups

This is the first step to being able to perform pullups. Using the bar that is 3-4 feet off the ground, sit under it and grab with the regular grip. Straighten your back, hips, and slightly bend your knees while your feet remain on the floor and pull yourself to the bar so that your chest touches the bar. Repeat as required. This is a great way to start out if you cannot do any pull-ups at all. You can also do this on a pair of parallel bars that are used for dips. These are also great to do after you can no longer perform anymore dead-hang pullups. This is a good replacement for the Lat Pulldown machine as well.


Using a pulldown machine, grab the bar, sit down and pull the bar to your collar bones. Keep the bar in front of you. Behind the neck pulldowns are potentially dangerous to your neck and shoulders. 
Dumbell Rows

Bend over and support your lower back by placing your hand and knee on the bench as shown. Pull the dumbbell to your chest area as if you were starting a lawn mower. Muscles worked: Back, forearm grip, Bicep muscles.

Biceps Curls

Place dumbbells or bar in hands with your palms facing upward. Use a complete range of motion to take the weight from your shoulders to your hips by bending and straightening the elbows. Keep it smooth. Do not swing the weights.

You can build up your strength and within a few months of this workout, you will have your first pullup in years – maybe ever! If weight loss is needed, naturally find a plan that incorporates cardio vascular exercise, diet and nutrition tips and weights and calisthenics if your next goal is to do a pullup one day! Good luck and always remember to consult with your doctor before starting any fitness program.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle – check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at stew@stewsmith.com.


6 responses

  1. Oh my beautiful spider monkey, no one looks as good as you doing pull-ups! I try them and I look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame having a seizure! That will be my new goal…do pulls-ups like a normal person! Hmmmm, I may need a spotter…

    1. Ah ha…you made me laugh! Hunchback of Notre Dame indeed! Bet you look wonderful and strong when you do your pull ups! I got my 100 per day this week so far. Two more days to go. I will make it (and be very happy). Next week starts the weighted pull ups so that will be a good challenge over the next 6 weeks. I better have some new muscle when this is all done! I NEED big monkey muscles!

    1. Pull ups are one of my very favorite exercises. They have such wonderful effects on all the upper body musculature…and anybody can learn to do them if they give it a little time.

  2. You go young lady. So very, very proud of you!!!

    1. Thank you Mess. I’m always working on my pull ups/chin ups. They’re such a great upper body workout…

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