Nine steps toward becoming a pull-up champ

  • By Maggie Fazeli Fard The Washington Post
  • Monday, February 11, 2013 7:51pm
  • Life

Who says women can’t do pull-ups? Certainly not Neghar Fonooni, a Baltimore personal trainer who, in the span of a year, went from doing assisted pull-ups to hoisting her own body weight plus a 36-pound kettlebell over the bar.

“The first time I got a really clean, unassisted pull-up, I jumped down, looked around the gym and said, ‘Did anybody see that?’ It was amazing,” she said.

According to Fonooni, 30, pull-ups are becoming an increasingly common goal among women, even though — or perhaps because — they just seem so hard. Hard, but not impossible.

Here are her tips for getting your first pull-up:

1. Do pull-ups. It might sound like stating the obvious, but you won’t get better at pull-ups without doing pull-ups. Start with assisted pull-ups using a band.

2. Get help. Fonooni prefers using elastic bands instead of assisted pull-up machines to build up strength; bands force you to engage your core and lower body. To use, loop the band around a pull-up bar and place one foot into the band to help lighten the load. Use a box or bench to reach the band.

3. Understand the movement. Form matters, whether you are doing assisted or unassisted pull-ups. Start with arms fully extended, from a dead hang, and pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.

4. Start slow. Beginners should start with assisted pull-ups once a week for three to four weeks, aiming for 10 reps to build up muscle endurance and to get used to the movement.

5. Challenge yourself. As you get stronger, decrease the assistance by using a thinner band with less resistance, lower the number of reps and work up to practicing three days a week.

6. Mix it up. Fonooni suggests practicing chin-ups, with palms facing in, and flexed arm hangs, in which you start with your chin over the bar and slowly lower yourself. Chin-ups allow you to engage additional muscles in the forearms and biceps, making it slightly easier than a standard pull-up, which is a lat-heavy exercise. Combining the different exercises will help prevent overuse injuries.

7. Use your whole body. Pull-ups are a full-body workout. Activate your core — abs, back and glutes — as well as your arms.

8. Don’t lose hope. Progress will be slow, Fonooni says. For many women, it could take weeks, months or more than a year to get that first pull-up.

9. Celebrate. When you finally get over that bar, there’s nothing wrong with doing a little happy dance. Then get back up there and go for a second one.

More in Life

Shrimp and grits, rendered healthful and Italian? We’re in.

This recipe features a sauce made with olive oil, tomatoes and herbs instead of cheese and cream.

UFO at Paine Field playground was left by an artist — not aliens

The flying saucer at community park in Everett is a cosmic attraction.

Chef James Abbott makes Buck’s peanut butter pie at Buck’s American Cafe in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Fur & Feathers: 4 lovable dogs need homes

Meet Lola, Sadie, Scooter and Chance

Sweet baking tips: How to rescue brown sugar that’s turned hard

Soften the rock solid stuff, then try this recipe for chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt.

Valentina Bogdanova, 74, loves working in the gardens that nearly surround the Bakerview Apartments, where she has lived for 20 years. The units are among 16 affordable and subsidized properties leased to seniors by the Everett Housing Authority. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
As real estate booms, those with fixed-incomes need help

When senior citizens get housing, they are able to ‘age in place.’

Harry Potter exhibit marks 20th anniversary of first book

Many of the things Harry Potter fans thought were imaginary were actually based in fact — or folklore.

Visiting Germany’s Lutherland, birthplace of Reformation

The sights include the church where the first Protestant service took place in 1521.

Can you top ‘Hamilton’? Author Ron Chernow is about to find out

The notable writer’s latest book, published Oct. 10, is a lengthy biography on Ulysses S. Grant.

Most Read