Still Can’t Do a Pull Up? Here’s Why

I love that women’s desire to do pull ups really seemed to have a surge in the past few years. I still remember how rewarding it was so to go from barely being able to bend my elbow to getting all the way up to the bar.

But, pull ups are hard. And maybe you’ve been working on them for a while, but still haven’t been able to achieve that first real, full pull up. So here’s my top reasons and resources to get you to that first pull up!

You spend too much time on arm work.

So many women’s workouts I see focus a lot on triceps, biceps and shoulders. I love lateral raises as much as the next girl, but if you want to do a pull up — we need to focus on compound movements for your back. I promise your arms and shoulders will still get plenty “toned” focusing on building the back strength necessary for pull ups.

Also, think about this. In a barbell bent over row, your bicep works with your back to pull the bar (45 lbs plus weight) to your belly button. In a dumbbell curl you are curling 10-20 pounds. Which is going to work the bicep harder? The row! Doing more rows (bent over rows, seated rows, dumbbell rows, inverted, etc.) and lat pulldowns is going to allow you to use more weight and therefor use more of the muscle to get you much closer to that pull up.

A lot of your mass is in your lower half / your bodyweight is a little higher than your strength right now.

A pull up is pulling your bodyweight up to the bar. The higher your bodyweight, the more strength you’ll need to have! Please don’t confuse this me saying you need to lose weight. I’m saying you need more strength. Focus on gaining the strength to cable row, barbell bent over row and do a lat pulldown with your bodyweight in pounds (or close to it). This will let you know that you’re about strong enough to do a pull up.

In the meantime you can also use a band to “assist” you and work up to less and less band assistance.

You do too much band/assisted work.

As mentioned above, band assistance can be helpful. However, they are not the only supplemental pull up exercise you should be doing! I find eccentric pull ups to be more beneficial than band pull ups, along with a hefty dose of bent over rows, cable rows and lat pulldowns.

Moral of the story, do some band work but do other things too. Band pull ups once or twice a week for a few sets is plenty. Program your workouts smarter, not harder.

Your attention span is short.

Consistency and patience is key for pull ups. Depending on your starting strength level, it might be a while until you get that first pull up — so enjoy the journey of getting stronger! Track your strength progress with rows, pulldowns and other exercises to keep yourself motivated.

Get comfortable holding onto and hanging from the bar. Do eccentrics and band pull ups with neutral grip and chin up grip. Do a chin up FIRST! They’re easier 😉 Then do one chin up, once you’ve got it, do it as often as you can.


Want more specific help? Send me an email or join our HelloWorkouts Monthly Subscription Training!

Email: hellostrength1@gmail.com

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