Pull-ups For Everyone

Nov 23, 2013

I remember being 6 years old and being asked by my gymnastics coach, Lisa, to do pull-ups for the first time. I remember that most kids couldn't do it but that I didn't think they were hard at all. I don't know how many I could do but I know it helped get me the nickname muscles. It wasn't something I had to learn and it wasn't something I had to work for so when I tell people that everyone can learn to do a pull-up I feel like a bit of a fraud. That being said, I honestly do believe that everyone can learn to do a pull-up.

I coach 4 different ages of kids: 3-5 year olds, 7-10 year olds, 11-14 year olds and then grown up kids (crossfitters). It's really interesting to see the difference at these stages. At 3-5 years old many girls can do pull-ups and if not, then they usually learn them faster than the boys. At age 7-10 a lot of girls can do them or learn them in a few months. By age 11 the girls are really struggling with pull-ups and by the time they are grown up most women have decided that they are too tall and/or heavy to be able to do them. It is completely true that for women as you age, your centre of mass shifts downwards and consequently pull-ups get way harder. However, at every single stage girls can and should learn to do them. Four years ago Babycat set a goal to do a single pull-up. It took a while and I think I learnt 100 times more about how to coach pull-ups than she learnt about how to do them but she made it. Now she can do 5 and she has had to work hard for each and every one. So what did Babycat and I learn that helped her surpass her goal by so much? Here are my top tips:

  1. Get rid of the elastics
  2. Build strength using progressions, e.g ring rows and box pull-ups
  3. Train isometric holds and negatives
  4. Practice
  5. Don't give up

Babycat believes that breaking her ankle in Whistler and subsequently working solidly on upper body strength for 6 weeks also helped her to increase her reps although neither of us would recommend that. So Crossfit Cannuckers, if my lazy old workout partner can learn to do 5 pull-ups then you crazy, hard working, dedicated kids can do the same.