Recently one of our forum members at TeamStaley made a casual comment regarding Charles Poliquin’s Pull-up recommendations. The comment was:
“Charles Poliquin said that women should be able to do pullups in as little as 12 weeks and with a counterweight of 33kg (72.6lbs) I still have a long way to go.”
That comment sparked a recollection about Poliquin’s statement, so I did a little digging, and eventually found his statement regarding women and pull-ups, which was printed in his Question Of Strength column at the T-Nation website.
His exact statement was:
“I tell people who get certified by me that if they can’t get a female to do 12 chin-ups in 12 weeks, then they don’t know how to train. That’s how you can evaluate a good trainer. If he can get a female to do 12 chins, he’s a good trainer. If he doesn’t know how to do it, then he doesn’t know training. Period.”
Now that’s quite a statement, but before I address it, I’d like to note that his column generated many thousands of views and 80 comments, few of which questioned the veracity of Poliquin’s assertion.
Poliquin Is Wrong
Now let’s critically examine Poliquin’s statement.
On the face of it, he seems to be saying that you don’t know how to train people if you can’t get any women to the 12RM pull-up level in 12 weeks. Meaning, octogenarians, amputees…any woman. But in the interest of fairness, clearly he means that you should be able to train any “average” woman to the 12RM level in 12 weeks. So to be charitable, let’s assume he means a healthy, active 20-30-year old woman. OK?
So with that in mind, let me ask you a question: how many women do you know who can do 12 or more pull-ups? (I’d actually love to have you answer this question by replying to the article- the “discuss” link can be found at the end). I’m guessing none.
Over the past 20+ years, I’ve had the good fortune to have trained, or trained with, or trained by, numerous elite female athletes, including several Olympians, and I can only think of one, or possibly two women who could complete 12 legitimate pull-ups. That’s it. And one of these women was an absolute freak of nature who achieved national-level proficiency in 3 Olympic sports, and World-level talent in 2 of those sports. She could power clean approximately 220 pounds and run a 4.5 40, just to give you a sense of how highly talented she was.
So the idea that you suck as a trainer if you can’t get any & all of your female clients to a 12RM pull-up performance is nonsense.
But what if we decided to be even more charitable and amend Poliquin’s statement to:
“I tell people who get certified by me that if they can’t get a female to do one chin-up in 12 weeks, then they don’t know how to train. That’s how you can evaluate a good trainer. If he can get a female to do one single chin, he’s a good trainer. If he doesn’t know how to do it, then he doesn’t know training. Period.”
Would you still buy that? I’ve given it a lot of thought and I don’t buy it. I would say that a good trainer should be able to get about half of his female clients to one chin in 12 weeks. But all of them? Nope. And all of them to 12 chins in 12 weeks? C’mon. I mean seriously.
A better statement might be:
“If you believe me when I say that if you can’t get a female to do one chin-up in 12 weeks, then you don’t know how to train, then you don’t know how to train.”
Women: Training yourself to get one chin in 12 weeks is a very achievable goal. Some of you might even reach 2-3 in 12 weeks. Remember, well less than 1% of all adult females will ever achieve a chin-up. It’s not a small accomplishment. And because it’s such a great achievement, I hope you’ll think about making it a goal for yourself. And if you do, let me know if you’d like some help!