How Many Pull-Ups Should I Be Able to Do? Concrete and Data-Backed Information on Average Pull-Up Achievements

How Many Pull Ups Should I Be Able To Do?

You are wondering: How many Pull-Ups should I be able to do? The answer to this is that it depends. Not a very satisfying answer, we know, so we’ll delve deeper into the question of how many Pull-Ups you should be able to do, what that depends on, and how to increase your Pull-Ups effectively and significantly. We’ll also give you some rules of thumb on what to expect and how long it may take you to start doing more Pull-Ups, even if that is doing your first Pull-Up ever. The succinct answer to how many Pull-Ups you should be able to do is that it depends largely on your sex, age and your level of strength training and that most average people can do 0 or just 1 Pull-Up. Read on to find out exactly how many Pull-Ups you should be able to do.

The Pull-Up Technique (just so we’re clear)

Just to be perfectly clear and that we’re all talking about the same thing, we want to explain very briefly what a Pull-Up is. There are many Pull-Up techniques, both easier variations and more demanding variants. We’ll assume here a single, strict Pull-Up.

Things That Influence How Many Pull-Ups You Can Do

There are three main factors that influence how many Pull-Ups are good for you. By and large, these factors determine the outcome of your current and your maximum Pull-Up potential. There are a few factors like genetics and current health which may also be of influence, however these tend to be very marginal at most. Even if you’re ‘thinly built’ and not ‘naturally strong’, you can still learn to do Pull-Ups. Likewise, obesity still doesn’t preclude you from doing Pull-Ups or influence how many you should be able to do ─ the real answer for the latter case is that you need to shed weight!

Only certain conditions may preclude you from doing Pull-Ups entirely, which are medical in nature. If this is the case, you should undergo treatment for any medical condition first or, if that isn’t going to make things so much better where you can do Pull-Ups, find alternative ways to practice physical fitness and Calisthenics.

The three key factors which influence how many Pull-Ups you should be able to do are:

  • Sex, which is immutable
  • Age, which is also immutable by you
  • Training, which you can influence

Sex

Men possess on average 40% more upper-body muscle mass than women[1]. This gives them a natural advantage to doing things like Pull-Ups and this difference will start to manifest in early puberty already. The growth hormone testosterone is responsible for this muscle growth, and it is more prevalent in teenage boys and men than in women or teenage girls. You can instill more and faster muscle growth by taking a testosterone treatment, but this is controversial and unethical unless it is for medical reasons. There are also ways to boost testosterone naturally, like improving your diet and rest schedule.

Age 

A second significant factor to how many Pull-Ups you can do is your age. For children between 4 and 12, there is no significant difference in how many Pull-Ups they can do by sex[2]. Above 12, when puberty starts, you will see an increase in muscle growth which will enable more strenuous exercise and general ability than before[3]. This will continue to grow well into adulthood and afterwards you will see a steady decline in strength[4]. The older you get after that, the fewer Pull-Ups you will be able to do. This can be offset or slowed down with training.

Training

Arguably the most important factor will be training. How many Pull-Ups should I be able to do is a slightly rhetorical question, as we will find out. If all the preconditions to being able to do Pull-Ups are met, then the largest factor is training by far. It will be the difference to being able to do 1 or 2 Pull-Ups, and dozens upon dozens of Pull-Ups[4]. Even when age starts to affect your abilities, training can slow down the effects. Men especially can benefit from extended training well into their 40’s and 50’s, as growing muscle and strength tends to take time. Most strongmen aren’t in their 20’s, and this is because it simply takes more time to develop that level of strength.

How Many Pull-Ups Should I be Able to Do as a Man

Some average, untrained men who aren’t obese can do 1 to 2 Pull-Ups while most others cannot achieve a single Pull-Up. Active and fit but untrained men can usually do 4 to 8 Pull-Ups. Trained men can do 12 Pull-Ups or more, depending on their level of training. Taking age and training into account, it looks like this in a table:

 18 – 2930 – 4950 – 69>70
None0 – 10 – 100
Beginner4 – 104 – 102 – 40
Intermediate10 – 158 – 126 – 80 – 1
Advanced15 – 2515 – 2010 – 202 – 4
Expert25+20+15+5+

How Many Pull-Ups Should I be Able to Do as a Woman

Most average, untrained women who aren’t obese can’t achieve a single Pull-Up, with some exceptions being able to do 1 or 2. Some active and fit women can do 2 to 3 Pull-Ups. Trained women can usually do 3 to 5 Pull-Ups or more, depending on their level of training. Taking age and training into account, it looks like this in a table:

 18 – 2930 – 4950 – 69>70
None0 – 10 – 100
Beginner2 – 42 – 40 – 10
Intermediate8 – 108 – 104 – 60
Advanced15 – 2012 – 188 – 100 – 1
Expert20+18+10+1+

How Many Pull-Ups Should I be Able to Do as an Elderly Man or Woman

The older you get, the more strength-loss you will experience. Elderly men and women tend not to be able to do any Pull-Ups, unless they are trained enough to (still) do so. Alternatives like the Australian Pull-Up may keep them active and maintain their strength for longer. Doing Pull-Ups in your 70’s and 80’s is considered exceptional. Taking age and sex into account, this is what it looks like in a table:

 50 – 6970 – 79>80
Male0 – 10 – 10
Female0 – 100

How Many Pull-Ups Should I be Able to Do as a Teenager

Teenagers between 13 and 19 will experience a rapid increase in strength compared to when they were younger. Most teenagers who aren’t obese can do 0 to 1 Pull-Ups. Fit and active teenagers tend to be able to do 1 to 8 Pull-Ups. Trained teenagers can usually do anywhere between 5 and 15 Pull-Ups. Taking sex, age and training into account, this is what it looks like in a table:

 <1213 – 19Untrained13 – 19Trained
Male0 – 10 – 55 – 15
Female0 – 30 – 31 – 8

How Many Pull-Ups Should I be Able to Do as a Child

Boys of 12 years and below tend to be able to do either 0 or 1 Pull-Up. There is no appreciable difference in strength between boys and girls at these ages and strength training has no appreciable effect on how many Pull-Ups they can do, or their level of strength in general. Girls do tend to enter puberty earlier, so around age 11 or 12 they may see an increase in upper-body strength that may lead to slightly better performance. All significant increases in Pull-Up performance happen after puberty has set in for either sex.

 <89 – 1112>
Male0 – 10 – 10 – 5
Female0 – 10 – 30 – 3

How To Train for Pull-Ups

We’ve already alluded to it. Training is the single most significant factor to how many Pull-Ups you can do, outside of medical conditions which preclude you or an either very advanced or prepubescent age (younger than 12). The innate ability of by most healthy, average people is around 1 to 4 Pull-Ups, so there is not a significant difference between the high and low end. However, trained individuals can easily increase this number several times. We have a strong article on how to do your first Pull-Up, with a step-by-step training set which will get you from the floor and onto a Pull-Up Bar.

How Long Does It Take to Do 1 Pull-Up

Depending on your current strengths and weaknesses and if you aren’t beset with some medical condition or obesity, the average man can expect to do his first Pull-Up after 2 weeks of training. An average woman after 2 to 3 weeks of training.

Conclusions: How Many Pull-Ups Are Good?

Taking all the aforementioned data combined, we can perform what is essentially a meta-analysis. We compound the information to come the following results:

  • Being too young (prepubescent) or too old (after 80) typically excludes you from doing Pull-Ups with exceptions to the rule.
  • Some average, untrained men can do 1 Pull-Up, most can’t. Only with exception can average, untrained women do 1 Pull-Up.
  • Active, fit men can do 1 to 4 Pull-Ups, some active and fit women can do 1 Pull-Up.
  • Trained men can do 36 or more Pull-Ups, highly depending on their level of training
  • Trained women can do 18 or more Pull-Ups, also highly depending on their level of training

To put this combined insight into a graphical perspective, it becomes quite clear that training is the most significant factor for both men and women of almost all ages. It also shows us that a low number of Pull-Ups, if you haven’t yet trained for them, is universal and where the difference between most untrained women (0) and most untrained men (0) is 0.

How many Pull-Ups should I be able to do is the wrong question then. How are you training for them, is the right question to ask yourself. In the long run, Pull-Ups are part of a full-body workout and should be learnt and incorporated into a wholesome routine. The best action you can take is learning about the best Calisthenics Programs which do just that, your number of Pull-Ups will increase naturally from there.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Many Pull-Ups Are Good

A couple more frequently asked questions like how many Pull-Ups should I be able to do, how many Pull-Ups in a single exercise and more.

How many Pull-Ups Should I Be Able to Do?

Most average, undertrained people can manage 0 to 2 strict Pull-Ups. To consider yourself trained, you need to be able to do 3 sets of 12 Pull-Ups.

How many Pull-Ups Are Good for a Single Exercise?

A single set of 12 Pull-Ups is a good rule of thumb for any exercise. This set is then repeated 3 times for a total of 36 Pull-Ups with a moderate pause of 60 to 90 seconds between sets.

How Long Until I Can Do 1 Pull-Up?

Most average, healthy men who are not overweight can expect to do their first Pull-Up within 2 weeks after commencing specific exercises. For average, healthy women this is 3 weeks.

Sources

[1] Janssen, I., Heymsfield, S. B., Wang, Z., & Ross, R. (2000). Skeletal muscle mass and distribution in 468 men and women aged 18–88 yr. Journal of Applied Physiology, 89(1), 81–88. https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.2000.89.1.81

[2] Seger, J., & Thorstensson, A. (2000). Muscle strength and electromyogram in boys and girls followed through puberty. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 81(1–2), 54–61. https://doi.org/10.1007/pl00013797

[3] Parker, D., Round, J. M., Sacco, P., & Jones, D. A. (1990). A cross-sectional survey of upper and lower limb strength in boys and girls during childhood and adolescence. Annals of Human Biology, 17(3), 199–211. https://doi.org/10.1080/03014469000000962

[4] Shur, N. F., Creedon, L., Skirrow, S. Z., Atherton, P. J., Macdonald, I. A., Lund, J. N., & Greenhaff, P. L. (2021). Age-related changes in muscle architecture and metabolism in humans: The likely contribution of physical inactivity to age-related functional decline. Ageing Research Reviews, 68, 101344. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2021.101344

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