Some of you may know that in place of a New Year’s Resolution my husband and I entered 2015 with a 3 month fitness challenge. My challenge was to do 1 pull-up while my husband’s challenge was to double his consecutive (single set) pull-up count (with professional massages on the line if we met our goals!). The ability to do a pull-up is in my opinion one of the most empowering displays of one’s physical strength and mental will; the task being to lift one’s body weight off the ground high enough to get your head over the bar. So what exactly is a pull-up and how is it different from a chin-up? Good question!A pull-up involves using an overhand grip on a bar high enough to reach with arms completely straight and pull oneself up so that one’s chin is higher than the bar. A chin-up is different in that it requires an underhand grip on the bar. Due to the differences in grips on the bar each of these exercises actually uses very different muscle groups! A pull-up relies primarily on your back muscles as well as shoulders, chest, and arms, whereas a chin-up primarily recruits your biceps and chest muscles as well as back and shoulders. So these exercises differ by much more than just the grip alone. It is for these reasons of primary muscle recruitment that women tend to have a high amount of difficulty with the pull-up. Women tend to have weak back muscles, which contribute to their inability to perform a pull-up, however, many women (and men for that matter) find the chin-up much easier to perform because they are able to engage their biceps and chest muscles which are usually more developed.
When I began this challenge I was unable to pull myself even halfway up when attempting a pull-up. At about 2 months into our challenge when I tested myself to see my current progress I was surprised that it just happened and suddenly my chin was above the bar (pictured above, my first pull-up!). It was a daunting goal because I was not sure that the workout plan I had made would work or the frequency of workouts would be enough and I was afraid of putting in all of the hard work to end up failing at the end of it all. After all, how does one prepare to do a movement they cannot do?