Last week the NY Times published an irresponsible story.

Nothing new there, huh?  I doubt any you of would be surprised to learn our media does a horrible job of producing honest, unbiased work.  But this one, brought to my attention by CFW Instructor, Matt (and maybe linked on the CF main?) was dismissive of women and their capabilities.  Worse, it basically gave all the unfit, lazy, and over weight women in the US an easy out / excuse for not being able to do something that they not only are capable of doing, but was required of all American high school girls only a few decades ago.


Why Women Can’t Do Pull Ups
by Tara Parker-Pope
 While the pull-up has been used by everyone from middle-school gym teachers to Marine drill instructors to measure fitness, the fact is that many fit people, particularly women, can’t do even one. To perform a pull-up, you place your hands on a raised bar using an overhand grip, arms fully extended and feet off the floor. (The same exercise, performed with an underhand grip, is often called a chin-up.) Using the muscles in your arms and back, you pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. Then the body is lowered until the arms are straight, and the exercise is repeated. The Marines say a male recruit should be able to do at least 3 pull-ups or chin-ups, but women are not required to do them. In school, 14-year-old boys can earn the highest award on the government’s physical fitness test by doing 10 pull-ups or chin-ups: for 14-year-old girls, it’s 2.
Read entire article here


Many responded in comments with examples of women doing pull ups.  An article in the Smithsonian, titled Women Can’t Do Pull Ups? countered fairly well.  Either way, the article and the study are absolutely off.  If a women of sound health, devoid of injury, and without excess body wants to do a pull up, they can.  Of course they need a program to get them there.  Using assistant bands, like the ones in the photo on the left, and eccentric (negative) work are both essential tools in a good program.

Here is one…


Sixteen Week Chin Up Program
by Andre Beniot
One of the biggest problems many personal trainers and strength coaches have is not being able to integrate training principles into program design. While it’s great to be able to discuss the pros and cons of linear periodization versus undulating periodization, often that doesn’t translate into how to improve an athlete’s squat or enable them to jump higher or run faster.  Here I’ll share with you a 16-week program to improve chin-up performance. The program is divided into four phases, with each phase building upon the next. I realize that some gyms may not have all this equipment, so you will have to make compromises. Consider this an “optimal” program – what you may actually have to do falls into the category of “reality.”
Read entire article here.


14 thoughts on “NY Times Feature Says Women Cannot Do Pull Ups

  1. Whitney says:

    Being able to do a pull up was a life time fitness goal of mine. I never got it at my old gym no matter how much I worked on the assisted pull up machine. I joined CFW and got an unassisted pull up in about a month. Now I can do a bunch of deadhangs and many kipping. Sparking more than one impromptu pull up contests on the playground when I bring the kids.

  2. Jamie says:

    I can do a few pull ups but I want to get better at snatch and clean. I may do Dawn’s olympic course but I saw that Crossfit Coastal is doing a seminar with USAW coaches this Saturday. Is anyone going?

    • Taylor says:

      Jamie, you should do both. I don’t know anything about Coastal’s course; but I do know that just simply watching Dawn do lifts, over and over, has helped me SO incredibly much. Dawn is simply ‘beautiful’ to watch move some weight. I havent taken her class, but like I said, just watching the girl is an incredible amount of visual learning, inspiration, and education on the lifts.

  3. Amanda W says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Taylor. I think the repetitive nature of the oly class is what will ulimately improve your lifts….not to mention, Dawn has a discerning eye for weaknesses….she will be able to tweak your technique through a few weeks rather than try to adjust it all in one day.

  4. Amanda W says:

    I read this article a few days ago and laughed. He is so behind the times…he may as well have posted an article about why women can’t vote.

    And Taylor…wow. That video is 3-1/2 years old, and you have maintained your incredible physique. That is friggin cool.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I used to workout at Coastal. The trainers there don’t do olympic lifting. Dawn snatches more than the owner and it’s a guy. And ironically, I saw Pat, Coastal’s only decent trainer, in Dawn’s last course. Don’t waste money Jamie. I

  6. Petey says:

    Women can do pull ups and still cook dinner andntake care of kids and housekeeping? PISH POSH don’t. Be silly. Women also have smaller brains……my wife did 14 once.

  7. Cody says:

    Our Olympic Weightlifting course runs 5 weeks long. Being so complex in nature, the Snatch and Clean & Jerk takes hundreds of repetitions in order to improve your technique in the long run. A one day seminar might be beneficial if it is being taught by proven Olympic Weightlifters, but you will see greater improvement on your technique from the 5 week course taught by instructors who have actually competed in and won Olympic Weightlifting competitions before.

  8. Sensei says:

    Agreed on every point with Dawn.

    After drawing hearts and stars around her name on paper, I watch her lift. I watch her teach.

    She doesn’t put up with anything and if you’re willing and coachable, she will get you were you want to be. Not to leave out Tony and Cody who are assisting in the course as well.

    Coastal is Coastal. CFW is CFW and there are reasons for that.

  9. Dawn says:

    Thank you ladies for your compliments means a lot coming from the 2 of you!!!
    Jamie I just looked the CF Coastal’s website and not saying this cause you I want you to take my course, but if you are just learning the lifts I wouldn’t recommend it. They are establishing 1 RM on the same day, as a coach/instructor I WOULD NOT recommend a client to do a 1 RM of ANYTHING they just learned that day. Jamie, I ask you or anyone else who is interested come to my class on Saturday and see what it is all about. If you don’t like it you don’t have to take the course or pay anything for Saturdays class. You will at least know/learn a little about the snatch afterwards.
    My goal for my classes isn’t to see how much weight you can power or muscle up…. it is to get you to move weight efficiently!!!!

  10. Anthony says:

    Take Dawn’s class. She has the eye to note issues with technique, is more than happy to
    let you know what you are doing wrong. With this guidance, and repetition, both of which are key to Oly improvement, you Will see improvement. Focus on your technique, especially getting comfortable dropping under the weight, for optimal improvement.

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