7 Ways Women Can Rock Pull Ups

Yep, that’s me doing pull ups in my new favorite Reebok tank. And, I’m glad the camera is behind me because, no matter how I do these things, they are tough – and it shows on my face! They may not be my favorite exercise, but they sure do deliver killer results. And, if you aren’t doing them, you need to start!

If you’re a woman, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “I’ve tried doing a pull up, and beside busting a few blood vessels, nothing happened.” Or, maybe worse, you didn’t even try. I have to be honest, until recently, the last time I did a pull up was during the presidential test in elementary school. Then, during boot camp, I did enough pull ups to kill someone. After that, they became a normal part of my workout routine – and there is nothing like them.

Most women think pull ups are just for boys, but women can benefit greatly from this traditional exercise. If you do them often, you’ll sculpt a back you are DYING to show off, like Jennifer Nicole Lee does here in this racy white number seen here on SocialLiteLife. Personally, I don’t even know how she kept this dress on, but between conquering dreaded back fat and sculpting that beautiful V-taper that accentuates the waist, I can see why she wants to show it off.

Of course you can’t expect to just jump on a bar and do a pull up out of the blue. Pull ups take a lot of upper body strength, which is something most women have to work on. Whether you want to do a pull up, or just do similar exercises to sculpt the back, these 7 exercises will improve your strength, skill and physique.

7  Ways to Perfect the Pull Up

1. Pull Ups with a spotter. A spotter can give you the boost you need to start doing pull ups right away. You can spot at the feet, knees, hips or waist.

2. Pull Ups using a chair to assist you. Be careful when attempting this one, but a chair is a great way to get a little help when you are training alone. By using only one foot, or putting your feet on the top of a folding chair (that could fall over if you use too much pressure) it forces you to not rely on the chair too much.

3. Pull Ups with a resistance band. I like using a blue Bodylastics band because I can easily loop it around my bar and clip it to the handle, but the band you see in the photo also works well too. Simply put a foot in the handle or band, being careful to point your toe down so the band doesn’t slip off your feet. Beginners may want to use the Orange or Black Bodylastics band, which you can buy separately or in a complete set.

4. Negative Pull Ups make you stronger. Boost yourself up and resist the negative movement down to increase strength. Your body will want to fall quickly, but fight it with all your might with each repetition and watch your strength improve.

 5. Assisted Pull Up Machine. The assisted pull up machine best simulates an actual pull up. You adjust the weight to the counter balance your own weight, assisting you up just like a spotter.

6. Heavy Pull Downs using the cable pulley. When all else fails, you can always do lat pull downs on a machine or cable. Although the same muscles are being worked, it’s not a substitute for the real thing – but a really close second. Go as heavy as you can to build strength.

7. Modified Pull Ups. Although this movement isn’t the same motion as a pull up, it works the back in a similar way. Since I’m a fan of functional training, and love that you can do this exercise in an open environment like this playground, this is a great exercise to incorporate into your back routine. Most people use a barbell on a squat rack to do this exercise in the gym. The more horizontal you are, the harder it will be.

Just because you are a girl, doesn’t mean you get to skip pull ups – it just means you have to be a little more creative! Happy Pull-Upping! SO Go @GetAfterIt!

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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About Bonnie Pfiester

Fitness Columnist and Lifestyle Coach, Resident Trainer for Designer Whey, Fitness Advisor for FitStudio, powered by Sears, FitFluential Ambassador and Owner of Max Fitness Club, home of BCx Boot Camp in Vero Beach, Florida.

Posted on October 2, 2012, in Exercise & Training, PFIT TIPS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Thank you for this! One of my goals is to finally be able to do a real pull-up and now I have a whole bunch of techniques I can try to build up to that.

  2. Great post!!!! I used to do unassisted & then in my late early 50’s decided I wanted to again but I got so wide working toward it that I decided I did not really need to do them anymore – my back was wide enough & I feel strong anyway. BUT I loved the feeling of being able to do a few on my won when I did do them! I do love the exercises above & do some of them. I use Rubberbanditz bands….

  3. I have been attempting the pull up for about a month now… I started at doing only 2 by myself without cheating… now I am up to ten… GREAT for abs too if you do leg lifts, etc.. do you have any exercise suggestions for that?

    • That’s incredible! Do you do toes to bar?

      • My suugestion is the rope climb I just started doing. I hang a thick rope (the one from the bootcamp room) from that long ceiling bar then sit on ground in an L-shape (legs straight out on front of you) and then climb the rope to the top using only your arms while maintaining the L-shape sit position. It’s a great upper body/core exercise 🙂

  4. Will these make a woman’s biceps too large?

    • No keep your arms out wide so you primarily work your back. Women normally don’t have enough testosterone to bulk up but the truth is, you look more Ike you eat than what you do. If you eat like a football player, you’ll bulk up like one 🙂 eat lean, train mean, stay lean!

  5. Great post Bonnie. These are some of my favorite tips I give to help my clients improve their pull ups. Thanks for the reality check that girls can do pull ups too!

  6. I conquered my first pull up about a month ago! Such a great feeling.

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