The dreaded, intimidating, extremely hard pullup exercise. For some women, the thought of performing a pullup is equivalent to flying over a building. They just don’t see it happening. They know what a pull-up is, maybe they’ve tried them at some point, but now it’s just a type of exercise.
I want to change this perception. Pullups aren’t just for muscular men. The benefits of pullups for women are both physical and mental.
I agree pullups are hard. They’re intimidating and that’s what I know I must keep doing them. I know that if I keep practicing them, I’ll not only increase virtually my entire upper body strength but more importantly, I’ll feel something that I chase all the time. A sense of accomplishment.
A big concern for women I want to address right away is the avoidance of getting “bulky.” Pull-ups are great for adding muscle. But they’re also great for adding a little definition, aka getting a toned body.
I’ll discuss this below, but pull-ups can tone your arms, shoulders, and back. And during many parts of the year, women wear clothes that reveal the arms, shoulders, and backs. So, if you’re looking to tone your upper body, and gain a little strength, continue reading.
Before I try to persuade you to get into the habit of doing pullups I want to differentiate a pull-up from a chinup.
Pull-ups vs Chin-ups
The difference between these two might seem like semantics but they actually matter quite a bit. Simply put, a pull-up will be with the palms facing away from your face. While the chinup will be with your palms facing towards you. Another settle difference is that pull-ups tend to have your hands at least shoulder-width apart or wider, and the chinup is typically much closer.
If you’re performing a pullup, the primary muscles engaged will be your biceps and your back muscles. The wider grip pullup also uses the biceps but to a lesser degree. It’s advised to use a wide grip and close grip position, so you’re targeting multiple muscles. I’ll discuss this more below.
Benefits of Pull-ups for Women
For the upper body, many would agree the pullup is the king of upper body workouts. There will always be debates on which is the absolute best, but nobody can argue the benefits of the pullup. For me, the biggest benefit is the sense of accomplishment. I know that sounds a bit corny, but as you get older, you appreciate the sense of accomplishment.
Sense of Accomplishment
Let’s face it, doing a pullup is hard for both men and women. But probably more so for women. Men tend to be genetically predisposed to have stronger muscles. Or at least in my opinion.
I”m not a geneticist and I don’t want to get into a debate about men vs women, so I guess you could say this is just my opinion. But overall pullups are impressive. Especially if you can do several, or sets of them. I know this might not be every women’s goal, but for the fitness enthusiasts, repping out a few pullups, feels great.
When I first tried a pullup I looked like a fish hanging from a fishing line. Wiggling around, out of breath, and looking very uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, the boys could at least get their arms to bend, even if they couldn’t get all the way up.
Once you practice and can do a full pullup, the sense of accomplishment is huge. And it can take a while. Success doesn’t come overnight in the gym. But anything worth having is worth working hard for right…? The bigger the obstacle you overcome the bigger the sense of accomplishment. And for me, that’s the biggest benefit. Now for the other benefits.
Other Benefits of Pull-ups
Works Entire Upper Body
Pullups and chinups work a large number of muscles. Like the squat or deadlift is for the lower body, the pullup and chinup works virtually the entire upper body. That’s what makes the pullup such a beneficial compound exercise.
The major muscles engaged are the back (lats), shoulders(deltoids), abs, biceps, forearms, hands, and even the glutes if you squeeze them during the lift (pretty common). This isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list but just wanted to briefly show that several muscles are being worked during the pullup.
Pull-ups Are Practical
At the gym, there are a ton of different machines you can use to work out different muscles. And that’s great. You put them all together, and you’ll have a well-rounded physique.
Compound exercises are great because they can work so many muscles at the same time. It would take several different exercises to work all the muscles engaged during the pullup. Additionally, unless you’re really dialing down into bodybuilding, compound exercises are very functional.
For example, if you’re lifting your groceries out of the car, you won’t be just using your biceps, or just your back, or just one muscle. You’ll be using several muscles, and you’ll be using them in concert with each other.
Actually, your body will naturally use about as many muscles to make it easy. You would have to mentally concentrate on eliminating the inclination to not use a certain muscle. I can speak more to the mind to muscle connection in a different post. But the functionality of compound exercises fits into real-world usage better than single exercises.
Tapered Back to Small Waist
While I try to focus on the practical aspects of doing pullups, there is no denying that working your back will make you look great in a backless dress. Working the lats will give you a tapered appearance making your waist appear smaller. In no way am I saying having a narrow waist is what you should strive for. Buy adding a bit of definition to your upper back will inevitably make your waist appear smaller.
As a matter of fact, it might not just look smaller, but you could in fact get a smaller waist. According to the CDC, you could burn up to 7 calories a minute by including pullups in your routine. As you know the more calories you burn, the greater chance you’ll burn through unwanted fat deposits. And as women, we tend to carry a bunch of unwanted fat around the hip area.
To really take advantage of that tapered look is to combine pullups, working the upper back, with a strong glue workout. This will give you the ultimate hourglass appearance. A tone and firm upper back, leading down to a narrow waist, followed by a curvy glute muscle, will turn some heads. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Pull-ups Are Versatile
While it may look like your body is just going up and down, there are several variations of pullups you can do, to mix it up. As mentioned earlier, pullups and chinups are different variations. You can even do a neutral grip (when accessible) meaning your hands will face toward each other. The change in hand position alone can work different muscles, and this is a good thing.
Once you feel the need to add additional resistance, it’s easy to hold a dumbbell with your feet, or even attach weight to a weight belt. Others prefer to add a weight vest. There’s a variety of options to choose from and this is what makes the pull-up exercise so versatile.
When you have a strong back, it helps improve your posture. Improved posture leads to more confidence and higher self-esteem. As women, if we neglect our back muscles, it can lead to slumping of the shoulders and slouching. Pullups can counteract this tendency and leave you standing tall with your head held high!
Proper Pull-up Form
Like all exercise equipment, proper form is essential to preventing injury and additional strain. If you don’t use proper form, you won’t be getting the most out of the exercise. And I don’t know about you, but my time is precious, and when I’m working out, I want to get the most out of it.
To perform the pull-up correctly, you want to grab ahold of the bar, and start with a dead hang.
From there, engage your core, and squeeze your buttocks. This will help prevent you from swaying.
Pull yourself up, using your back at first, and then a combination of your arms and back. Once you’re at the top, slowly lower yourself back down.
Beginners might need to use a machine for assistance until they feel like they can move on. Others can do negative, meaning using a chair you start at the top and hold as long as you can and slowly lower yourself down. Both methods are effective for beginners.
The good thing about pull-ups is you can see improvement quickly. After just a couple few weeks, you’ll see noticeable gains in your strength.
I know this is easier said than done, so here is a quick video to show you how to get started. If you’ve never been able to do a pullup before, here are some beginner tips on to achieve your first pullup.
Doing Pull-ups at Home
While there are a few different ways to do pullups at home without a pullup bar, I would recommend just getting a bar. Without an actual pullup bar, you’re likely to break a door, or whatever you’re hanging from, injure yourself, and it all could have been avoided if you just got a bar.
Below are a few pieces of pullup equipment that I would recommend.
1) Wall Mount Bar
- Can be installed on the wall or ceiling mount
- Holds up to 500 lbs
- Has 30″ of clearance
- Powder coating makes it so it isn’t slippery
What we like – The 30″ clearance makes it great for beginners. It gives you room to maneuver and can place your feet on the wall for assistance. The steel construction feels stable and durable. We would recommend using longer lag bolts than what it comes with. Great for pilates workouts too, as you can hang rings or straps from it.
- Foam hand grips for comfort
- Multi-usage including dips, pushups, and knee raises
- 5-year frame warranty
What we like – The power tower gives you access to a few more exercises, that will help you get a well-rounded physique. The foam hand grips provide peace of mind knowing your hands won’t slip reducing the chances of injury. The footprint is small and it’s lightweight which allows you to quickly move it around.
3) Iron Gym Bar
- No Installation needed
- 3 Grip positions available
- Holds up to 300 lbs
What we like – The Iron Gym bar is pretty much the gold standard of home pullups. No drilling of holes in walls, no installation of any sort, and is super compact making it very convenient. The 3 hand grip positions make it a versatile piece of equipment that current users gush over. You can’t go wrong with this one.
Conclusion of Pull-up Benefits
There are a ton of benefits to doing pullups regularly. From feeling the sense of accomplishment to getting that toned upper body that will look sexy in summertime clothing. With noticeable progression in as short as a couple of weeks, you won’t regret practicing pull-ups. For more tips on bodyweight exercises (Bodyweight Burn Review) and how to build muscle at home click here.
What’s your thoughts on pull-ups? Love them, hate them. Leave a comment below.