Many athletic women have a pull-up on their training bucket list. Pull-ups are more difficult for women as they generally have more muscle mass on their lower body in proportion to their upper body and thus more weight to lift. However, with the correct progression exercises and dedication, all women who have a healthy BMI are capable of performing a pull-up.
Strengthening the core is essential for optimal training function and to mitigate the risk of muscular imbalances and injury. Weakness through the upper body in women is generally due to undeveloped core muscles, meaning they can’t maintain posture or base. Women who have had babies in particular are susceptible as the abdominal muscles become stretched during pregnancy. Focusing on strengthening the core increases all aspects of upper and lower body strength.
In my previous articles, I touched on the importance of a strong core for upper body strength used for framing and pushing and for building lower body strength for performing deadlifts and squats. This article is focused on strengthening the core in order to perform pull-ups safely and correctly.
4 Core Exercises for Pull-Up Strength for Women
Most people assume that pull-ups are about all about arm strength, but the power for the pull-up comes from your back and core. The latissimus dorsi (lats) are a big, strong muscle group involved in the initiation of a pull-up. If you get the lats super strong along with your core or transverse abdominis to create a strong frame, then you will be more likely achieve a successful pull-up with awesome form.
The exercises below are simple and extremely effective at building core strength through the transverse abs and the lats. Although the focus of this article is these two muscle groups, the movement of the pull-up also involves other main muscle groups such as the biceps and the rhomboids. Grip strength also cannot be overlooked.
Let’s get started.
1. Medicine Ball Rollouts On Knees
Working from the knees is a good introductory exercise to develop the lat and core strength without putting too much strain on the lower back. Throughout the movement, aim to keep a straight shape, from your head to your knees.
- Start on your knees with the ball on your forearms and your arms tucked into your chest while keeping your transverse abs braced the entire time.
- Avoid a ‘banana back’ as you roll the ball out.
- Avoid sticking your butt out as you roll the ball back in. You will notice maximum pressure on your transverse abs when your shoulders are fully flexed and elbows are fully extended.
- To roll the ball back in, engage your lats in the same way as you would engage them to initiate and perform a pull up.
- Try to maintain the straight shape and aim for 15 repetitions.