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Pullup Training for Women

Samantha Mendelson
It always seemed strange to me that women weren???t interested in upper body strength. Sure, great legs are a must, girls, but who wouldn???t also like to have shapely arms, shoulders and backs? Forget those silly curls that you see the spandex-clad gym bunnies doing. The best way to get the whole upper body package is with pullups.
The question is how. Most women cannot do even one pullup. How can you progress to doing enough pullups to build the body you want if you can???t even do one? I???ll give you a hint. It does not involve doing ANY of those outlandish variations on the curl that so many of the gym bunnies are so fond of. Nope.

Jump Stretch

The first thing you're going to need (aside from a pullup bar) is a couple of Jump Stretch bands. You will need them to assist you in doing pullups. I started out using the "light" and the "mini" bands, but you can pick a combination that works well for you.
The question you have to ask yourself is how far are you from actually achieving the pullup? The further you are, the more assistance you will need. No matter how pathetic you may be, a band that can get you over the bar. After all they have bands ranging from the mini to the monster providing a whopping 200 lbs. of assistance. Get your bands and start pulling!

Density Training

When I started on Coach Reeve's Density training protocol I was able to do but three pullups assisted by Jump Stretch's 50 lb. light band. To develop the strength and endurance for the more advanced training, I started by doing a modest 2 pullups per minute for five minutes using the light band. When I was able to do 2 a minute for 10 minutes, I started on sets of 3. I worked at this until I could get out three per minute for seven minutes. For more details on DT see Coach Reeve's post on the forum.

Rest Pause Training

When I was able to get a rep or two using a Jump Stretchs 25lb. mini band, I switched from DT which is more strength-endurance oriented to rest-pause training that emphasizes pure strength. Rest pause training is about lifting a near maximal load at progressively shorter intervals. Instead of increasing the number of reps as you do Density Training, decrease the time you rest between the one-rep-sets. When I started with this protocol, I was able to do one rep every ninety seconds for about five cycles. I increased the cycles until I was able to get ten out. Shorten the rest periods by fifteen seconds each time you can complete your current level. Once you can do it with ninety second breaks, do them with seventy five second intervals, and so forth until you are resting for a mere fifteen seconds. I was able to do my first unassisted pullup after I was able to get out ten sets of one pullup with ninety seconds of rest.

Gravitron Assisted Pullups - PTP style training

The big disadvantage to doing assisted pullups with the Gravitron machine is that you'll have to find one at your local gym. If the thought of being ogled by ogres doing curls in the squat rack is enough to make you lose your lunch, this style of training may not be for you. Not because it doesn't work, but because of logistics. I was making pretty good progress using this method until I quit the gym. I gave up on my pullup quest for several years until we got the bands.
The gist of this method is to do pullups using Power to the People! cycles (wave cycles work best) as detailed in Pavel???s book. If progress is slow, try the Bear method. Keep this up, and you WILL succeed.


There are other methods besides assisted pullups which can be used to achieve the goal of doing a real pullup. One of these is negatives. Essentially, you start at the top of the pullup and lower yourself slowly. Should you not be able to do even this, you can use your handy Jump Stretch bands for assistance in the negatives as well. Many people have had success with negative only training, but I believe you should get your body used to pulling up, so some assisted pullups are in order, even if you choose the negative route.

Grease the Groove

Now that I'm a pullup kind of girl, I am striving to increase the number of pullups I can do. To do this, I do a pullup or an assisted pullup every time I pass the bar. Being a workout fanatic, my husband put our pullup stand in our living room (watch for my upcoming article on how I put up with that). This means I do a bunch of pullups every day.
Watch out on the greasing the groove in the beginning. When you first do pullups, it will take a maximal effort to accomplish your rep. So you can easily burn yourself out and regress by doing too many.

Once the pullups become fairly easy, you can start GTG training in earnest. You can find out all about GTG training on this site by reading Pavel???s article.

Best of luck with your pullup training. When you can do these you will be, pound for pound, stronger than most women you meet. Impress your friends by whipping them all (and maybe a couple of guys) in arm-wrestling!

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