The Pull Up

I have always wanted to do a pull up, even one. I’m not sure why. The pull up to me has always been extremely intimidating. So, I decided that I was going to stop being intimidated and put it out there on social media, “I’m working on doing a pull up.” I knew someone would ask. I had to try. I’ll be honest,  try is a safe word.

Doing a pull up is not about losing weight or making myself stronger. It is about taking the body that I have now and pulling it up so that my chin clears the bar!! Sure, women do not have the same amount of testosterone as men, so they cannot build as much muscle mass. Yes, women have a lower center of gravity. I even found an article, published by the NY Times,  “Why Women Can’t Do Pull Ups”. No one has ever told me that I can’t do a pull up, but no one has ever told me I can, either. I set out to prove that I can do what I put my mind to.

Here is what I decided to try.

1. For a week, I asked for the help of a random gym goer. It is not hard to enlist the help of a person standing around waiting on their next set. I jumped up, grabbed the bar, curled my legs behind me and asked that my spotter push my legs up as I pulled toward the bar. This did not work too well, because I did not like the attention drawn to myself, while I pulled to the bar. AND, I wanted to try more. I did not want to keep asking the same individual to ‘spot’ me each time.

2. The next thing that I tried was the ‘giant looking’ rubber band. These bands are made to assist you with a pull up. They are about 2-3 inches wide. You wrap them around the bar that you are using to do a pull up. Once it is wrapped around, you put your knee or foot in it to assist the bottom portion of the pull up. I did not like this either. The band is so tight. It took a great amount of effort to stretch it far enough down to wrap around my knee/foot. I did not like the attention from this either. This is a new piece of ‘equipment’ at our gym. Too many people would watch to understand what I was doing. (Too much pressure.)

(Here’s where I made progress.)

3. I shifted my plan. I decided to move on to the flexed-arm hang.  I put a bench under the pull up bar. I stood on the bench, grabbed the bar,  jumped until my chin cleared it and held on for 20 seconds. For the first two weeks, I did 4 sets of 20 seconds, 2 times a week. After each set, I would take 5-10 seconds to lower back down.

4. Last week, I moved on to standing on the floor, jumping up to grip the bar and pulling myself up. I got rid of the bench. Once I cleared the bar with my chin, I held on for 20 seconds and lowered for 5 seconds. I did this 4 times, for 3 days. I am going to start here this week. I will progress to standing without jumping in a few weeks.

The following quote from Military Times confirms what I believe the key to doing a pull up is for women (and men).

 ‘If you want to get good at pull ups, you have to get the hell out of my gym and go out and get up on a pull up bar.’”

(Crazy, she thought. How could she do pullups if she couldn’t do pullups? But she tried. And kept trying.)

“Within a week, I could do one. Within three weeks, I could do five.”

In the years since, the old gunny’s words have become her mantra.

“I just want women to understand they just need to get out on the bar.”

-Jon Anderson, April 3, 2014 “Zero to max: How these women are acing pull-ups–practical advice for anyone.”

Each time I approach the bar now, I repeat to myself, “your arms are strong enough to lift your body. You body is light enough to be lifted.” Then, I picture myself doing a pull up. . . No has ever told me I cannot do (fill in the blank), but no one has ever told me I can either. . . I’m telling you that you can! 

Have you been told that you cannot do something? What are your fitness GOALS for this fall, winter?

What are your fitness DREAMS for 2015?




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