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Why are pullups harder for women?

Why are pullups harder for women

You’ve probably noticed that men can usually perform pullups much easier than woman. The question is why? Here we uncover a few reasons behind it and introduce you to one female Free Athlete who decided gender was one excuse she wasn’t prepared to accept.

Muscular system: men vs. women

Men, in comparison to women, tend to have more skeletal muscle mass in their upper body and can therefore develop more muscle mass, making them naturally stronger in most cases. This dates way back to evolution and their gene pool. Men also have a higher level of testosterone, the hormone responsible, amongst others, for the building of muscle mass and tissues. There’s also mitochondria, the energy producing power plants within a muscle cell, responsible for men being able to lift more weight (and run faster) than women, as the latter have fewer of them in their muscles. However, everyone is different and there are some women who can perform pullups better than men.

It’s the fibers that count

Not just muscle mass but also muscular structure and fibers play an important role. According to the FASEB Journal, there are basically three types of muscle fibers: type I, IIa and IIb. Whilst women have a higher percentage of type I fibers (“Slow Twitch”), beneficial for endurance and conditioning, men belong to the fiber II group. The “Fast Twitchers” are what give most guys more explosive power than women.

But when have we ever told you to settle for natural talent or go with what you’ve been given? Never. With the right training and consistent practice, women can perform pullups too. Don’t just take our word for it, Paola’s story will prove it.

Paola’s pullup success story

39-year-old Paola started doing pullups 3 years ago. At the time she could not do a single one. Now she manages 10 strict pullups no problem. How did she do it?

“I always wanted toned arms and a strong back, so I set myself the challenge of doing a pullup. At first, I used a resistance band to learn the movement and help me get myself up over the bar. The most important thing is consistency. I often take my pullup bar on vacation with me and also have one in the office, so I can practice. I even get my colleagues involved. Team spirit and a motivated group always helps a lot and makes practicing a lot less boring. My tips for girls who want to be able to do a pullup: don’t listen to the voices telling you that you are too weak and also don’t be afraid of the rooms in the gyms packed with men. Work hard and don’t accept failure and you’ll be fine!”

Rather than having one long training session every so often, we suggest practicing a little a few times per day, several times a week. Should you still feel the need for regeneration, Paola suggests stretching properly before and after pullups and always making sure you get enough good quality sleep as well as a healthy diet high in protein. This applies to every kind of workout or sports you do.

beginner exercises in the app

Example beginner training plan - week 1

Week 1
3x per week
ExerciseRepsSetsRest (between sets)
WarmupPassive Hang30 s1-
WarmupShoulder Pullups8-10360 s
-Negative Pullups
Lowering your body for 3-5 seconds
3-5590 s

You can also try out the following beginner exercises in the app to strengthen the muscles required to do a pullup:

  • Assisted pullups
  • Hanging knee raises
  • Hanging leg raises
  • Incline rows
  • Jumping pullups