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Dead-Hang Pull-up IM_No Text

Pull-up Tips for Women

(INCLUDING tips to help you train to achieve your FIRST pull-up)

This post is a follow up to my post The Year of the Pull-up” about two Iron Body Studios’ Clients who achieved their goal of an unassisted, bodyweight, dead-hang pull-up. In that post I listed out some of the training methods that helped these women achieve their goal. Since then I have received requests for more detail about some of these tips. This blog post includes detail and video for tips that can help women to achieve their first pull-up and improve at pull-ups if they have already achieved their first pull-up.

As a strength training rule, I always train pull-ups as part of my own personal strength training program. I train both bodyweight and weighted pull-ups. As I have said previously, no matter what one’s specific goal may be, pull-ups are part of a well rounded strength training program, for anyone, desk jockey, athlete, man or woman. I detail my own personal training with pull-ups in the posts How Women Can Train to do Pull-Ups WELL.and “Weighted Pull-up Progress”. As a result of training pull-ups regularly (4-5 days per week) as part of my own personal strength training program, as of November 9, 2012 I now train multiple (3 plus) sets of 8 repetitions of bodyweight pull-ups when I train bodyweight pull-ups and I know that as of November 9, 2012 I can do a max set of 12 bodyweight pull-ups; this may be more as of today December 28, 2012, but I know that I can complete at least 12 consecutive pull-ups, see video below…

November 9, 2012 – 12 Bodyweight Pull-ups

As for weighted pull-ups, as of December 2, 2012 I am able to do a pull-up with an 18kg (39.6lbs) kettlebell around my waist and I am very close to completing a pull-up with a 20kg (44lbs) kettlebell around my waist. See videos below…

December 2, 2012 – Pull-up with 18kg Kettlebell

 

December 2, 2012 – Pull-up with 20kg Kettlebell (almost there!)

 

Whether you have achieved your first pull-up or you are working towards it, in my opinion, it’s important to train for your pull-ups from the core out and from the floor to the bar.

What do I mean from the “core out”? Pull-ups require tremendous core strength therefore it’s imperative to train your core with specific core exercises that will directly correlate to pull-up strength. Some of these exercises include the following:

  • The hollow position; training “floor” pull-ups while maintaining the hollow position.
  • V-ups (both arms and both legs) or one side at a time. Training the TRX Jackknife or Pike is also a good way to train this movement.
  • Ab Wheel Rollouts (both from kneeling and standing). Training the TRX rollout, both kneeling and standing is also a good way to train this movement. Per Pavel on the Ab Wheel as written in Intervention by Dan John:

“I was recently reminded by Pavel of the great value of the ab wheel, but you might miss the point: The ab wheel is the right way to do a pull-up. The tension on the whole anterior chain should be so locked down that the whole body becomes part of the movement.”

  • Hanging Leg Raises (HLR), both L-Sits and straight leg feet to the bar.

 The other item that is extremely important for pull-up success is lean body mass to fat ratio. As written in Intervention by Dan John:

Josh Hillis notes that a woman who can do three pull-ups and three dips almost always has her bodyfat issues locked down. Strength in this movement seems to have an odd correlation with a woman being “rockstar fit”, as Josh says.”

I completely agree with the above statement and I think that achieving success with pull-ups is an encouraging way to verify that not only are you strong, but that you are maintaining a healthy lean body mass to fat ratio. Therefore, if you want to be successful at pull-ups and you’re carrying around a little extra weight and your diet is not in check, then I suggest you start cleaning up your diet as part of your pull-up training program and work towards maintaining a lean body mass that is ideal for YOU.

Overall, while you are training any of these core movements as well as pull-ups, it is imperative to maintain tension throughout the whole body and not to have any leakages. I will demonstrate a bit of what this means in the video for good pull-up form versus bad pull-up form.

Below are video demonstrations of the core exercises that I listed earlier in this blog post, as well as a video demonstration of good pull-up form versus bad pull-up form. I have listed the videos in the order of from the floor to the bar, and from the “core out” so to speak.

  • The Hollow Position & Floor Pull-ups
  • V-ups (both arms and legs & one side at a time)
  • TRX Jackknife or Pike
  • Ab Wheel & TRX Rollout (both from kneeling and standing)
  • Hanging Leg Raises (HLR), both L-Sits and straight leg feet to the bar.
  • Good pull-up form vs. bad pull-up form

The Hollow Position & Floor Pull-ups

Train sets of 5 repetitions for 3 to 5 sets

V-ups (both arms and legs & one side at a time)

V-ups – train sets of 3 to 10 repetitions for 3 to 5 sets

One side at a time – train sets of 5 to 10 repetitions per side for 3-5 sets

 

TRX Jackknife or Pike

Train sets of 5 to 10 repetitions for 3-5 sets

Below are videos of the Ab Wheel & TRX Rollout (both from kneeling and standing). For more detail on these exercises and ab rollouts in general, please read my post entitled The Ab Rollout.

Ab Wheel from Kneeling

Train sets of 5 to 10 repetitions for 3 to 5 sets

Ab Wheel from Standing

Train sets of 3 repetitions for 3 sets

TRX Rollout from Kneeling

Train sets of 5 to 10 repetitions for 3 to 5 sets

TRX Rollout from Standing

Train sets of 5 to 10 repetitions for 3 to 5 sets

Hanging Leg Raises (HLR), both L-Sits and straight leg feet to the bar.

Train sets of 3 to 10 repetitions for 3 to 5 sets

Good pull-up form vs. bad pull-up form

Based upon my dance and martial arts background I am purist when it comes to form for movement, whether it’s a bodyweight movement or a strength movement. If you do not maintain proper form when performing a movement, especially something as challenging as a pull-up then you are just asking for dysfunction and possible injury. Maintain good form and clean movements. I’d rather see someone do 1 perfect dead-hang pull-up with a solid hollow position and no leakage of tension than 10 crappy pull-ups with their knees bent, an anterior pelvic tilt and a kip.

Poor Form and Dysfunctional Movement Patterns = Poor Results

Excellent Form & Stable Fluid Full Range Movements = Excellent Results

So, after reading all of these training tips, there is now no reason NOT to add “Achieve a dead-hang pull-up” or “Improve my dead-hang pull-ups” to your 2013 Goals… ENJOY!