Many women shy away from doing pull-ups because they can’t do one right away. You have to build the muscles and the form up over time to do a proper pull-up. The strength to do a pull-up comes from your shoulders and back, and for most women, even those who are athletes, these can be harder muscles to develop. Compared to men, women have a stronger lower body than upper body. Women can be hesitant to develop their upper body strength because they think it will make them look “bulky”. In reality pull-ups help you build strength and lean muscle mass, which in turn helps boost your metabolism and helps you lose body fat. This exercise will help you tone your upper body and lose inches in your waist since it is so core intensive.

Don’t try and go for a pull-up on day one. You will be discouraged and you could injure yourself. There are many exercises women can do in preparation for pull-ups. In this video, Dr. Danielle Litoff, DPT demonstrates several exercises to build up strength to do a pull-up with proper form. You will need a combo gym with pull-up station, like the one in the video, (if you have a membership to a gym, they will have these) or you will want to buy a door jam pull-up bar from Amazon or Target, or store of your choice.

The power to do a pull up is not arm strength – it comes from your shoulders and your back. The first step is to work on your grip strength and core strength by just hanging with body weight. With the hanging body weight, engage your abs and find your shoulder blades and the muscles underneath in your armpits. Hang there for 10 – 20 seconds feeling those muscles.

Once you have a good grasp of the muscles engaging and grip strength, then you can move on to create a little swinging force to get some movement. You can also modify this using a strong band over the bar, then kneeling down, holding the band with a wide-based grip, and pulling the band down behind your head. You want to feel your shoulder blades moving down your back as you pull down.

When you have that movement down, you can use a box or a chair to jump up and lower yourself down slowly. When you can do 15 or 20 of those with perfect form, then you can do an assisted pull-up with a band, and eventually move to a full, unassisted pull-up. Be very mindful of your form and if you start to shrug or scrunch your shoulders, then you are no longer using the muscles you want to use. Pause and reset. And if your body is too fatigued to keep the form, go back to modification, or just try again tomorrow. The goal is a gradual and progressive build to be stronger than yesterday.