How To Do Pull Ups: A Woman’s Guide To Doing Pull Ups In 12 Weeks
I get asked how to do pull ups by fellow gym-goers nearly every time I train them. In most of these instances I am approached by women, to whom the ability to do pull ups seems like some kind of a superpower. Well, the truth is a few short years ago I was one of those women; in fact at that point I could do ZERO pull ups. Fast forward to today and my record for consecutive pull ups stands at 13, and I routinely train pull ups for multiple sets between 5 and 10 reps. So how did I do it? I assure you that no superpowers were involved. Hang tight with me for a few and I’m gonna lay it all out for you.
I’ll start with general rules to get you oriented, then I’ll go into exactly what exercises I did to get to where I am today. Ready? Let’s go!
Before You Start, Note These Rules
Rule 1: Consistency Is King
Perhaps the most important part in learning how to do pull ups is to stay consistent and patient. No, it’s not a sexy or glamorous headline, but it’s the truth. Building strength takes time. The only way to see results is to be dedicated and keep putting in the work.
Rule 2: Commit To Training 2x/Week
Training twice per week worked wonders for me. I felt that training twice per week gave my muscles enough work to grow and enough rest to recover. More training days are not necessary to make progress and could actually be detrimental, especially if you’re new to pull ups. To clarify, make sure that your training days have at least one rest day in between them.
Everyone’s body is different, but for me I found that training twice per week improved my strength by leaps and bounds. In the initial 12 week span I went from being able to do one chin up to being able to do eight, from being able to do zero pull ups to doing four. Just stay patient and the strength will come.
Rule 3: Work On Chin Ups First
Huh, what? I thought we were talking about how to do pull ups?? We still are, don’t worry.
Chin ups, meaning your grab the bar with your palms facing your body, are a huge stepping stone on the path of pull ups. For most women chin ups tend to be an easier movement compared to pull ups, because they allow you to use more strength from the biceps. At the same time chin ups develop your lats and back strength, which are both absolutely prerequisite for being able to do pull ups.
My Steps On How To Do Pull Ups: A 12-Week Overview
Training To Do Pull Ups: Weeks 1-4
For weeks 1 to 4 I trained, as recommended previously, twice per week. When I started week one I was already able to do 1 chin up, and by the end of the first four weeks I could do four consecutive chins. I was pumped! No worries if you can’t do a chin up yet, though, just giving a brief account of my experience in the first month of working on my pull up goal.
Here are exactly the movements I did to train chin ups during this time:
- Underhand grip lat pulldowns, 3 sets of 10 reps
- Assisted chin ups, 4 sets of 3 reps (increased reps by 1 each week)
- Dumbbell rows, 3 sets of 6 reps
- Dumbbell overhead press, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Dumbbell bench press, 5 sets of 5 reps
- Bicep curls, 4 sets of 6 reps
- Dumbbell rows, 3 sets of 8 reps
- Lateral raises, 3 sets of 12
- Flexed arm hang, 3 sets of 10 seconds (increased hang by 5 seconds each week)
Training To Do Pull Ups: Weeks 5-8
I continued training twice per week during weeks 4 through 8. During week 5 I attempted to do a pull up and could successfully do one rep, then week 7 I took another go at it and I could do two pull ups. Woo!
New movements were introduced in the meantime:
- Chin up clusters, 3 sets of 2-2-2
- Face pulls, 3 sets of 12
- Half-kneeling overhead press, 3 sets of 8
- Push ups, 3 sets of 9
- Bench press, 3 sets of 5
- 3-point row, 3 sets of 6/arm
- Hammer curls, 4 sets of 8/arm
- Chin ups, 6 sets of 2
- Assisted dips, 4 sets of 10
Training To Do Pull Ups: Weeks 9-12
I continued training twice per week during weeks 9 through 12. At the end of week 12 I could do 8 consecutive chin ups and 4 consecutive pull ups.
Here’s what I did during those weeks:
- Barbell push press, 3 sets of 8
- Chin ups, 3 sets of 2 (add one set each week)
- Push ups with a pause at the bottom, 3 sets of 6 reps
- Plank hold, 3 sets of 1 minute
- Bench press, 3 sets of 5 reps
- Lat pulldowns with 4 second eccentric, 3 sets of 12
- Narrow grip bench press, 2 sets of 8
- Chin ups, 3 sets of as many reps as possible
- Barbell row, 4 sets of 6
- Hammer curls, 4 sets of 8/arm
I wish everyone the best of luck in accomplishing their strength goals, and I hope this article serves as a helpful resource in learning how to do pull ups.
One final word here before you go off and try things on your own: be patient with yourself. Your timeline for being able to do pull ups may be faster or slower than mine, either way if you put in the effort and stay consistent you’ll get there.