Is it true women can’t do pull-ups?

We asked an expert to weigh in on this fitness myth

Is it true women can't do pull-ups?

Source: Best Health magazine, September 2013; Image: Thinkstock

‘Women can definitely do pull-ups, with the proper training,’ says Joseph Alejandria, a certified personal trainer at System Fitness in Toronto and co-founder of Conquer Performance Training.

If you’ve heard otherwise, you may have read a New York Times column entitled ‘Why Women Can’t Do Pull-ups.’ It discussed a study from the University of Dayton, where 17 women trained three days a week for three months to strengthen their arms and back. At the end, only four were able to do a pull-up. (The pull-up is not to be confused with the chin-up, in which your palms are facing toward you as you hold the bar.)

Body composition is a major factor in why pull-ups are so tough. ‘Women have less testosterone than men and more estrogen, which means less muscle mass and more body fat,’ says Alejandria. He also notes that three months isn’t enough time for most women to develop sufficient strength.

If you’re absolutely determined to do one, here’s what it would take: Alejandria suggests a minimum six-month program with at least three strength-training sessions per week, plus regular cardio. Speak to a trainer about specific exercises.

This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!

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