Note from Molly: Today’s post is by my buddy, Tony Gentilcore, who wants to share exactly how he has helped hundreds of women achieve their goals of nailing pull-ups and chin-ups. He’s also going to share some very exciting news with you, so make sure you read through to the end! Take it away, Tony!
I’ve worked with hundreds of women throughout my career as a personal trainer and strength & conditioning coach. I’ve always prided myself on maintaining an agnostic approach when it comes to their training and their goals, and remaining conscientious that the entire process is about them, not me.
Their training. Their goals.
Whether the goal is to “lose a little fat,” or “to tone up,” or “to deadlift a bulldozer,” I’ll run with the punches and write a program that caters to that goal.
However, I’m a tad selfish. Almost always, whenever I start working with a female client, especially if she’s a beginner, I’ll plant the seed into her head that one of my goals for her is to perform a strict, un-assisted chin-up or pull-up.
This is often (not always) met with a deer-in-the-headlights look. Many women hear me say that and immediately start doubting themselves. Some think of it as some insurmountable task like, I don’t know, climbing Mordor or dragging their significant other to the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey sequel.
It’s not lost on me why many women view the chin-up or pull-up as daunting or as something they couldn’t possibly accomplish.
Two Reasons Why Women Think They Can’t
1. Women are socialized and engendered at a young age to think they’re weaker. Part of this mindset that women can’t do chin-ups or pull-ups is rooted in this. All we have to do is recall those old-school National Fitness Tests our gym teachers had us perform in Elementary and High School.
The boys performed chin-ups.
The girls performed the flexed-arm hang—because, you know, they’re girls.
They were told, “You’re a girl. You don’t have the upper body strength to do a pull-up/chin-up, so here’s what you’ll do instead.”
2. The same message continues into adulthood. Many women are told that part of being a woman is being weaker than men.
Girls and women are led to believe that there are such things as “girl exercises” or “girl machines” or “girl workout areas.” How often do you witness a personal trainer coaching clients through progressions or regressions to conquer the chin-up or pull-up? It happens, of course… but it’s the exception, not the rule. Usually what ends up happening is some lame attempt at lat pulldowns—and that’s it.
By adulthood many women have had over fifteen years of being told, “Meh, you can’t do it, so lets do this instead.” And it sucks.
Setting a New Tone
Starting with a new female client on Day #1 I begin the process of helping her recognize the power of embracing performance-based goals… like hitting a strict, un-assisted chin-up or pull-up.
This isn’t meant to discount any of the more aesthetics-based goals she may be aspiring for. However, I’ve found that when it comes to the amount of hard work, effort, and sweat that goes into finally nailing that first chin-up or pull-up, all the aesthetic goals many women strive for— looking good in a bikini, wedding dress, what have you—well, that part just kinda, sorta, happen.
And none of this speaks to the sense of empowerment and “fuck yeah-ness” that accompanies it. It’s always amazing for me as a coach to see the switch flip and witness the excitement that follows.
So, the Secret… What Is It?
Here it is…
If you want to hit your first chin-up or pull-up you can’t make the mistake of only working at it once or twice a week. It’s better than nothing, but will take forever. You must figure out a way to do so, at minimum, four or five times per week.
You can accomplish this with a combination of several approaches:
- Floor-based drills to help build full-body tension and context (Hollow Body Position and progressions, push-ups, roll-out variations)
- Drills hanging from a chin-up/pull-up bar (learning how to hang properly, bent knees raises, straight leg raises, flexed-arm hangs).
- Rowing and vertical pulling variations using the TRX.
- Chin-up and pull-up variations (band-assisted, eccentric only, etc).
YES. The secret to getting better at chin-ups and pull-ups—whether it’s to perform your first one, or to perform several—is to train them more frequently.
I just blew your mind, I know.
It’s important, though, to recognize that for a lot of women (and men, too), the key is to help build context and to understand that while you can’t train actual chin-ups and pull-ups every time, there are plenty of other options available. Check out this video below where I walk you through several of those options.
Note from Molly: did you love that video as much as I did? If so, you’re going to absolutely LOVE Tony and Dean Somerset’s new Complete Hip and Shoulder Blueprint. The CHS is a brand-new resource that contains:
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– 1.1 continuing education credits provided through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
– 60 day money back guarantee
The Complete Hip and Shoulder Blueprint is your go-to resource for learning anything and everything you need to know about hips and shoulders (and core and squats and deadlifts and basically everything else that you want to know about! AND it’s on sale for now through midnight Saturday, November 5th. For more info, click HERE.