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

Beer of the Week: Scuttlebutt’s Night Circus

The Everett brewery’s head brewer had nightmares trying to dial in its new coffee and coconut ale.

Viognier: French white grape gaining foothold in Washington

Viognier, the noble white grape of the northern Rhône Valley of France,… Continue reading

Curries continues home-cooked Indian cuisine at new location

The restaurant, now located on Evergreen Way, also puts an Indian spin on Northwest cooking.

New documentary chronicles Obama’s last year in White House

“The Final Year” doesn’t paint the administration in rosy colors, but it isn’t too critical either.

‘Forever My Girl’ takes a page from the Nicholas Sparks genre

The film based on a novel by Heidi McLaughlin is a well-worn tale of lost love and redemption.

Christian Bale seems to channel Clint Eastwood in ‘Hostiles’

Bale plays a U.S. cavalry captain who escorts a dying Cheyenne chief to his tribal homeland.

A visit to the nursery helps put you in the mood to garden

Not ready to get back into gardening? January is still a fun time to poke around a garden center.

Plant of Merit: Hybrid oriental hellebores, Lenten rose

What: Oriental hybrid hellebores, with the common name Lenten rose, are a… Continue reading

International guitar tour led by Lulo Reinhardt stops in Edmonds

International Guitar Night, now in its 18th year, is Jan. 24 at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

Most Read