goals · strength training

Always wanted to do pull-ups? Why?

The article getting the most attention right now on our Facebook page is this one, Hold on: Why do we want to do pull-ups?

I had to scroll through a lot of dudes doing shirtless pull-ups on Unsplash before I found this image of a woman. It’s a rear view. She’s got long blonde curly hair. She’s thin and white and wearing grey leggings and a black tank.

In the article Casey Johnston, a personal trainer, interrogates everyone’s favorite fitness goal. She’s got a lot to say but here’s part of it.

“Why did it have to be pull-ups? The world of strength is so big, with so many things to do. Why and how did the zeitgeist land on pull-ups as the number one glossy, sexy fitness goal? Of all the “strong” things to do with one’s body, a pull-up is… about the hardest one. This makes them difficult as someone’s strength training entree. I don’t want to discourage, but I also want to appropriately couch. This ultimately does not really matter, because by the time I can get out “Wow, that’s cool, although pull-ups are harder than you might think—” people’s eyes are already understandably glazing over.”

I love the reaction on our Facebook page. Here’s a sample of the comments:

“When I watch a movie and someone is being chased and they come across a wall that they have to pull themselves over, I think ‘that’s where they’ll get me’ 😆”

“Pull-ups were the one thing we were consistently tested on in elementary school and I have no idea why. They never actually worked with us on HOW to do them, or how to get better at them. What a strange measure of strength for seven-year-olds.”

“I try them on a semi regular basis as though this workout will be the one where I can suddenly do a pull up. I do not train to be able to do them. Apparently I’m hoping for magic.”

Image search for magic and you get a woman in the dark looking into sparkles cupped in her hands.

What do you think about pull-ups? Do you train for them? Are they a goal? Why? Why do you think they’re everyone’s favorite fitness goal?

Me, I do assisted pull-ups sometimes either on the gravitron machine or with bands. So if a monster is chasing me and I have to get up and over a wall, they’ll need to be some help available if I’m going to make it.

8 thoughts on “Always wanted to do pull-ups? Why?

  1. Pull-ups are a basic element of my favourite aerial circus activities since they are essentially a fancy version of swinging from the monkey bars. To reduce injury I combine pull up training with handstands to keep my shoulder/back strong and balanced.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pull-ups were my motivation for getting into lifting. When it took me months to get my first chin-up, it felt like an indication that I had been unusually weak or had failed to work hard enough. It was such a relief to me (and a surprise to the son who got me started lifting!) to read the NYT article describing a study in which only 4/17 women were able to get a pull-up in three months of focused training.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe I live a charmed life, but monsters only chase me in dreams. And my dream self can do pull-ups, long jumps, all kinds of parkour, and occasionally fly. I’m good… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. In a world where monsters are chasing me, I feel like getting over the wall with some pull up super strength is not really going to be the deciding factor in survival. There are bigger problems. That said, I have a brief pull up practice before aerial yoga, though I suspect they aren’t “proper” pull ups, however that’s defined.

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  5. When I tore my rotator cuff and opted for rehab rather than surgical repair, I decided it was okay if I never did another pull-up. I was afraid it would tear the rest of the way if I tried. A few (several?) years later, on a really low bar, I did a few. Now that I know I can I have not felt the need to do it again. Rock climbers, on the other hand, have good reason to be able to do them.

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  6. It never made any sense that pull-ups are part of the President’s Fitness Test in U.S. schools when the only time we ever tried them was during the test. Maybe three or four girls in a class of twenty-five could manage them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I did that test the girls had to do an arm hang with our chin above the bar and they timed how many seconds we could stay there. I was good at it, but not great a pull ups.

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