Skip to main content

Even fit women can't do pull-ups, study finds

You're lean. You're strong. You're in good physical condition. So why can't you perform a single pull-up?

Relax. Scientists at the University of Dayton in Ohio have found that even fit women struggle to do the exercise manoeuvre, which involves gripping a bar overhead and pulling your body off the ground using upper-body strength.

According to The New York Times, the researchers wanted to test whether pull-ups (also known as chin-ups) are a good measure of physical fitness. It turns out they are not.

Story continues below advertisement

The Dayton researchers recruited 17 women of normal weight who were unable to perform a single pull-up. They then trained them for three months, prescribing exercises to strengthen their upper bodies, improve their aerobic fitness and lower their body fat.

All that training produced results: the women's upper-body strength increased by 36 per cent and their body fat was reduced by 2 per cent. But they failed to produce the main result researchers were looking for: only four of the 17 women were able to perform a pull-up.

"We honestly thought we could get everyone to do one," study author Paul Vanderburgh told the Times.

One reason women have greater difficulty doing pull-ups than men is because women develop less muscle and typically have more body fat. But tall, long-limbed individuals are also at a greater disadvantage, regardless of gender.

"Generally speaking, the longer the limb, the more of a disadvantage in being able to do a pull-up," Vanderburg said. "I look at a volleyball player and wouldn't expect her to be able to do a pull-up, but I know she's fit."

Even the Canadian Armed Forces do not use pull-ups as part of their official fitness evaluation.

Try telling that to your bootcamp class instructor.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter