Awhile back, I received an email from a young lady who told me her story of training herself from zero pull-ups to 10 strict reps.
She wrote, “I just found your article: “How Many Pull-ups Should I Be Able To Do?” and I felt compelled to tell you my pull-up story/journey as you truly seem like someone who would appreciate it. And I especially loved your Totally Unofficial Pull-up Standards Quiz.”
I thought her story was inspiring, and there are some lessons buried in there for those who look. So, I wanted to share it here.
Here’s her story in her words…
“On February 12th, 2016, I started doing pull-ups. And today, I hit a milestone… 30,000 pull ups!! It took me one year three months and nine days!
My personal best was 300 pull-ups in one training session. And my pull-ups are in addition to strength training and cardio. My Pull-Up one year Anniversary, February 12th, 2017, I did over 24,000 pull-ups.
I’ve done the majority of these at home, usually in the dark around 4am or 5am, on my pull-up bar, in boxer shorts and a t-shirt.
I tell very few people about them as no one quite understands and I am not one to brag. I do pull-ups because I LOVE them. I like to think pull-ups found me, I didn’t find them.
The times I’ve popped into some different gyms over this year, I feel like I’ve been the circus act. No one knows what to make of me. Although an Equinox in NY offered me a job on the spot to be a personal trainer, even though I’m not certified.
I don’t post what I do on social media. I don’t use Facebook or Instagram or Blog about them. I just do them because I love them and they make me feel strong, powerful and confident. I am gritty and determined, but I am not a spectacularly gifted athlete. I don’t do CrossFit. I always workout alone and I am happiest swimming in the ocean and hiking in the Santa Monica mountains. I get no validation/recognition for doing pull-ups except from a few guy friends who understand what I am pulling off, (pun intended).
I’m a former dancer, turned triathlete, threw in marathons, Ultra races, 10K swims. A solid mid-packer. I’ve always loved training more than racing. I recently lost my mom and I literally swam miles a day to mitigate my grief, the rhythmic breathing became a form of meditation.
When women tell me they can’t do pull-ups, I tell them, I couldn’t do them either, until I could. Instead of using the Assist Machine or bands around the bar, I just had a friend spot me whenever he came over – as that’s the way my brain works, I had to DO them to understand HOW to do them. I started doing reps of one, waited a minute, then did another one, until I hit 10. I honestly think there’s a massive mental component to them. I just had to BELIEVE I could do them, to do them.
I live in Santa Monica. A few months ago I went to the huge Fitness Expo at the LA Convention Center. At the Marine Recruiting Station, there was a pull-up challenge, divided into Mens/Women division. One pull-up gets you a pen, two a sticker, etc and etc, until 10 got you the super cool Marine tech fabric t-shirt. Surrounded by the fittest bodies assembled… I was the only woman able to do 10 pull-ups to get the t-shirt. And, I may add, that was after doing 260 pull-ups during my morning workout. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do ONE, let alone TEN, but the power of the cheering Marines in uniform gave me the energy. They were my favorite 10 pull-ups I have ever done.
They gave me the option to do chin-ups, but no friggin way. I do classic, over-hand pull-ups, and if I may say so, with perfect form that I attribute to my days as a dancer.
So… whoever said that women can’t do pull-ups… should talk to me.
Note from John: Agreed. And they should watch this: Women CAN do Pull-ups. Now, before we wrap this up, I wanted to tell you that the young lady has now completed 30,400 pull-ups over 307 sessions with an average of 99 reps per day. Outstanding!
Update: Jan 1st, 2018 – Just heard from this young lady that she has hit 40,000 reps! Onward and upward!
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About The Author
John Sifferman is a health-first fitness coach who has been teaching, coaching, and training people in various capacities since 2006. John is the author of The Pull-up Solution, the complete pull-up and chin-up training system that helps people rapidly increase their pull-up numbers in three months or less.
You can get a free copy of John’s 3-month pull-up training program and download more of his premium pull-up training resource as part of his free 5-day Pull-up Training Crash Course.