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I've managed to convince my girlfriend to start working out with me. This is great and we're both very excited.

But... she can't do a single pull-up.

We work out at home and don't have access to a lat pull-down machine. So, I'm really at a loss as to what exercise(s) to substitute in.

Everything I've been able to find on improving pull-ups makes mention/use of lat pull-downs.

Any suggestions??

We've been trying assisted pull-ups (assisted by either myself or a chair) but they seem to inevitably devolve into either assisted front raises or assisted squats respectively.


You have a couple of options. Work at different pts of the range of motion. She can work a flexed arm hang for time. Help her in to the top postion and let go, hopefully she'll hang there for a couple of seconds and then lower herself or push a chair back under her.

She can also work on weighted or non-weighted negitives. Help her into the top postion, use a chair or something. Pull the chair out and she can lower herslef slowly.

Start slow with only a couple of reps and sets per workout. The arm hangs she could do daily if she isnt sore.

Another option is the use jumpstretch bands for assistance, wrap the band around the bar and then she canplace her knees in the loops and it will pull a proportion of her weight up.

For the most part, pulldowns will not improve your pull ups. They use different grooves and are 180 degrees out of phase with one another. Open versus closed kinetic chain. Concentrate on the above and tell he to be patient.


Along with the above you may want to PM or holler at Jilly Bop. She had a thread and was in a VERY similar position not to long ago and has made AWESOME progress.

I am sure she would be Glad to help,

Good luck and hope that helps,


I got some great advice on this thread http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=636350

Focusing on the negatives has really helped me a lot. And someone suggested using a bungee cord to make an assist step that sounds like it would work well in your situation.

Read over the thread and I can answer more questions (tonight when the kids are in bed!). Good luck!


Wow. Lots of great advice. Thanks a lot everyone.

Here's my plan:

  • Every time the workout calls for chin-ups, have her do assisted chin-ups. When it gets to the point that the "assist" is doing most of the work, stop. I don't want to over do it because...

  • At the beginning of every workout, have her perform a few negatives and/or static holds. Again, with this frequency I'll have to be careful not to over do it.

Whatcha think?


According to Zeb, who had forgotten more about pull-ups and chin-ups than most of us will ever know. Using a lat pulldown to improve your pull-ups is like preparing to give a speech by chewing your food more.

If she can't do one, I would suggest that she start by jumping up and doing a negative as suggested above.

Good luck.


Sounds good - let us know how she progresses. Also, if she can try to do even 1 or 2 negatives every day (or 1 a few times a day), that may help "grease the groove", too. I usually do mine at the end of my workout, but she may need to do it first (at least for the first couple of weeks). Good luck!


Dont forget about rowing, it will help huge in developing pull-up strength. I have a female client who had the same problem. I made her focus on a number of different rowing exersises teaching her how to use her back with know lat pull-down work at all. When we came back to the over head bar she hammered out 4 full pull-ups, and is still improving.


I would just dump her. Two things I ask a girl when I first meet her are 1. Do you have penis and 2. Can you do a pull-up. I'll let the first one slide...but pull-ups are a must!

Seriously, negatives(even add weight via chain belt) will do wonders. The only thing I have found to improve pull-ups are...pull-ups. I've never found any cary over from other exercises, except for rope climbs. Keep with the negatives and partials and do them often...she'll get it....but hold off on that engagement ring until she does!!!


If you are going to the gym with her, can't you spot her and let her do the negative?


haha that was fucking great :slightly_smiling: