The Richmond Register

Lifestyles & Community

December 2, 2012

Why girls and women can’t do pull-ups

RICHMOND — Pull-ups have been around for years and are used by many groups such as the U.S. Armed Forces and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports as a measure of fitness. Pull-ups are performed by placing your hands with an overhand grip on a raised bar, then using your back and arm muscles to pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. (Chin-ups are the exact same exercise using an underhand grip). After lowering the body down until the arms are straight, the exercise is repeated as many times as possible.

A male recruit in the Marines should be able to do at least 3 pull-ups or chin-ups. A female recruit is not required to do them. On the national fitness test for youth, the President’s Challenge, 14 year-old boys can reach the highest performance level by doing 10 pull-ups; for 14 year-old girls, it’s only 2.

So why can’t girls and women do pull-ups. As it turns out, this is an area of personal interest to me. In 1992, I wrote an entire doctoral dissertation on the subject.

In my study, I recruited college-age women and trained them for 12 weeks. The training was carefully designed to develop the musculature needed to perform pull-ups. Specifically, the training program included machine-assisted pull-ups, lat pull-downs, and biceps curls, among other exercises. I tested their ability to perform pull-ups before and after the 12 week program and here’s what I found. Even after three months of upper body strength training, most women still couldn’t do one pull-up. And yet, their upper body strength as measured by a pull-up actually doubled during that period.

Here’s how I measured that. I used specific joint angles to determine what percentage of one pull-up had been achieved. For example, if the subject’s elbow joint flexed to 90 degrees during the pull-up, but no further, they achieved one-half a pull-up. A 45-degree joint angle meant 75 percent of one pull-up and so on.

At the beginning of the study, the women could do only 40 percent of one pull-up on the average. At the half-way point of the study (six weeks), they were able to do 60 percent of a pull-up. At the end of the study, they reached the 80 percent level. So they doubled their strength but could still not do a single pull-up.

Interestingly, a recent study at the University of Dayton found similar results. In this study, researchers took 17 normal-weight women who could not do a single pull-up and trained them three days a week for three months. On testing day, only 4 of the 17 women were successful at performing a single pull-up.

“We honestly thought we could get everyone to do one,” said Paul Vanderburgh, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Dayton and an author on the study.

One of the reasons women fare worse on pull-ups is that they have generally higher levels of body fat. Males maintain 5 to 10 percent less body fat on average, which means their strength per pound of body weight ratio is higher. The more strength per pound a person has, the easier it will be to lift that weight. Another reason is that because of their lower levels of testosterone, women don’t develop as much muscle tissue as men during training. Strength is determined largely by the cross-sectional area of the working muscles. In other words, bigger muscles equal stronger muscles.

However, just because a woman can’t do a pull-up doesn’t mean she’s not fit. It may just be that the test doesn’t reflect the improvement.

1
Text Only
Lifestyles & Community
  • Brandon-Sears-c.jpg Beef Cattle Association field day is Thursday

    Make plans to attend the Madison County Beef Cattle Association field day on Thursday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The event will take place at the farm of Dr. Eugene Bowling, 1437 Barnes Mill Road in Richmond. Signs will be posted.
    This meeting qualifies as a CAIP educational component.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • 04.23 JessaTurner1.jpg Eat local and eat with the seasons

    This week marks the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, and what could be more important to our survival than clean air, clean water and clean food?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Amanda-Sears-c.jpg Proper care enables planting of Easter lilies

    Did you receive or purchase an Easter lily? If so, be sure to treat it right and you will be able to plant it outside this spring.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lisa Adams.jpg 4-H Camping Season Nears

    Hopefully, we have seen the last of the snow for the year, so now is the time for young people and their parents to begin making plans for an annual summer ritual, 4-H Camp.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dick-Ham.jpg These things cause me concern for the future

    I was just thinking the other day about things that are happening in this country that do not bode well for the future.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • WP_20140419_001.jpg Cruisin’ with the Oldies

    With the sound of classic songs wafting through the air Saturday, hundreds of people took advantage of the summer-like temperatures and turned out for the Kirksville Community Center car show.

    April 21, 2014 9 Photos

  • 04.18 Food .jpg It’s egg party time

    I love this time of the year because eggs really do go down in price during the Easter season. I have some new recipes on how to fix eggs besides the coloring part.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • 04.18 Steaks.jpg Where’s the beef?

    Today, the American consumer has more money to spend on the widest variety of foods than at any other time in our history.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • 4.15 Eggstravaganza 1.jpg Easter bunny's ‛eggbeater’ will fly eggs to Richmond

    Who knew the Easter bunny could fly?

    Skeptics can come to the Easter Eggstravaganza in Richmond’s Irvine-McDowell Park on Saturday to see for themselves. However, the bunny still doesn’t fly in bad weather. But on Monday, temperatures in the 60s with partly cloudy skies were predicted for Saturday.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dick-Ham.jpg We old folks have unique experiences

    A friend sent this to me by e-mail, and I thought my readers would enjoy it.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Raw: Obama Tours Gyeongbok Palace Swimmer Michael Phelps Back in Competition Raw: Obama Lays Korean War Memorial Wreath Obama Leads Naturalization Ceremony in Seoul Calif. School Bus Crash Hurts Driver, 11 Kids Country Club for Exotic Cars Little Science Behind 'Pollen Vortex' Prediction US Proposes Pay-for-priority Internet Standards Wife Mourns Chicago Doctor Killed in Afghanistan FDA Proposes Regulations on E-cigarettes Kerry Warns Russia of Expensive New Sanctions Mideast Peace Talks Stall on Hamas Deal Cody Walker Remembers His Late Brother Paul Grieving South Korea Puts Up Yellow Ribbons Raw: Kerry Brings His Dog to Work Raw: Girls Survive Car Crash Into Their Bedroom Three U.S. Doctors Killed by Afghan Security Yankees' Pineda Suspended 10 Games for Pine Tar Colleagues Mourn Death of Doctors in Afghanistan Ukraine Launches Operation Against Insurgents
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should Richmond rezone the southwest corner of Main Street and Tates Creek Avenue to B-1 (Neighborhood Business) with restrictions to allow construction of a financial services office?

Yes
No
     View Results