The humble pull up should be incorporated into any self respecting womens fitness program, as it has been the staple of any basic workout system for many years, and for good reason. Toning the arms, strengthening the shoulders and improving upper body strength all in one move, the pull up is an all-in-one exercise that requires very little equipment and can be achieved almost everywhere.
Stretch and Warm Up
As with all exercise, it is essential that you get the blood pumping and stretch the appropriate muscles effectively before beginning the pull up. If you are in the gym, a gentle 5 minute jog on the treadmill or cross trainer should do the trick. As a lot of strain during the exercise is going to be focused on the shoulders and arms, loosen them by rotating your arms in large circles for a count of 10 forwards and backwards. Gently stretch the muscles by pulling your left elbow across your chest using your right arm for a few seconds, until you begin to feel the stretch, and repeat using the opposite arms.
All that is required for this exercise is a horizontal bar that is higher than your head, but not so high you have to stretch to grab it. In any good gym, there should be an area set aside specifically for this exercise, even with differing grips - some wide and others narrow. For this exercise, just a plain horizontal bar is needed.
If you are at home, pull up bars can be purchased easily and cheaply at good health and fitness stores. Even outdoors, a good sturdy tree branch can be just as effective, with the added bonus of offering some fresh air at the same time.
As men generally have greater upper body strength than women, this is seen as more of a ‘man’s’ exercise, but this is absolutely not the case. As with push ups, there are slight modifications that can be made to the traditional pull up in order to make it an effective and enjoyable part of any womens fitness program. The easiest way is to have a partner that can hold your feet or ankles while you grip the bar with an underhand grip, your hands shoulder width apart, taking some of your body weight off of your arms. Working in much the same way as a ‘spotter’ to someone bench pressing with free weights, the partner can adjust the amount of assistance they give you in order for you to complete the pull up. Ideally, they should help just enough for you to pull your chin just higher than the bar, and slowly lower yourself to the starting position.
If you do not have a partner, you can try using resistance bands that will offer the same assistance to you. These are large rubber bands of varying thicknesses that can support some of your body weight as you pull yourself up.
Good form is essential when performing this exercise, as injuries can happen easily if you are not warmed up or stretched properly. Slow and steady is the way forward here and at no time should you ‘snatch’ yourself up at the bar. This is a compound move, meaning that the back, arms, shoulders and neck muscles are all under a tremendous amount of strain for the few seconds it takes to complete a pull up, so take it easy. If you incorporate the pull up into your workout routine regularly, you will see great improvements in your upper body conditioning.