I love when science proves that I'm not a wimp. In a study performed by the University of Dayton, out of 17 women who specifically trained for three months to complete a single pull up, only 4 succeeded. "We honestly thought we could get everyone to do one," Paul Vanderburgh, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Dayton, tells the New York Times."
In what sounds like a rather grueling regime, the women, all average weight and college-aged, pumped iron on an incline three days a week to gain muscle mass, and also did aerobic exercise to slim down. After 90 days, they were leaner and stronger: the average participant lowered her body fat by two percent and increased her upper body strength by 36 percent. Still, when it came time to do the dreaded pull up, most of the women failed.
Vanderburgh explains that women not only develop less muscle than men (whose body composition is fueled by testosterone), the proportion of women's limbs makes performing a pull up tough. "We're a combination of levers; that's how we move…" he explains, "I look at a volleyball player and wouldn't expect her to be able to do a pull-up, but I know she's fit."
The Marines don't require female recruits to do pull ups, but the Presidential Fitness Test says that teenage girls should be able to execute one pull up to score within the 50 th percentile-two for girls under 14. While I'm awe of super women who can crank out a few pull ups, for the rest of us, maybe it's time to lower the bar.