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Raise the Bar

In Rhetoric, Training on October 27, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I know this has been floating around the blogosphere for a couple of days now, but I still must respond to it–even if I’m late on the bandwagon. I must reply to this post that appeared on Yahoo. Primarily, it was a reaction to a study published in the New York Times about why “women can’t do pull-ups.” A group of exercise researchers selected 17 “normal weight” women who couldn’t perform a pull-up, trained them (bi’s and lats, it seems) for three months, and found that at the end of those three months, only four could do a pull up. An exercise physiologist then chimes in about how it’s biologically more difficult for a woman to do a pull up. I’m not too bothered by any of this– it is significantly more difficult for a woman to do a pull up, and I was just remarking to Jefe the other day how it’s fascinating that we have female members who join in peak physical condition, unable to perform a pull-up, and men who’ve been out of shape for years who can still hoist themselves up to the bar. There’s a significant gender divide in terms of upper-body strength– it’s how we’re biologically built. What bothers me, is that Susan B. Weir from Yahoo! took this as an opportunity to tell women to “lower the bar.” In her short article, she explains that we’re at a biological disadvantage when it comes to pull-ups, so perhaps we can just accept that this is something we can’t achieve.

Bull. Shit.

I’m pretty sure it took me more than three months to get my first pull-up. In fact, if we start from before my CrossFit days, way back when I was fumbling along to P90x dvds, it probably took me years to achieve my first pull-up. But it’s not impossible. If this formerly overweight, out-of-shape, wheezy nerdkid could work her way up to 10 dead hangs (got my first set of 10 strict perhaps two weeks ago), than I’m pretty sure Susan B. Weir has no excuse– if she wants a pull-up. It’s fine if she doesn’t, but she also shouldn’t be out there telling women “well you’re naturally disinclined, so don’t bother trying!” What drives me even crazier is the comments at the bottom of this post. One girl even wrote:

“Men you can test your strenght while we women go shopping.” (yes, she misspelled strength all on her own there)

Really?

I work out alongside a whole host of women who can do pull-ups. I’ve watched almost all of them earn that first pull-up with months of assisted pull-ups and negatives and jumping pull-ups. I know a delightful lady in her 50s who, four times a week, dutifully puts a step stool next to the pull-up rig, loops her legs into a resistance band, and works on her daily reps while chattering about how she looks forward to getting her first unassisted pull-up someday.

Overcoming genetic difference isn’t just a matter for women, either. One of our gym’s most gifted athletes (often referenced here as “Zebrapants”) stands at about 5’3″. For him, wall-balls, box jumps, and rowing understandably suck. The first time he did Karen (150 wall-balls), he barely finished within the time cap. A month later, he finished in under 6 minutes. Just to reach the pull-up bar, he has to do a vertical leap, but that hasn’t kept him from a two-minute Fran.

Yeah… there are inequities in life that sometimes makes things harder– but that’s never a reason to lie down and accept your condition if you’re unhappy with it. Weir’s message is one of defeat; if it’s hard, it’s okay to stop trying. I refuse to accept that, and I find it offensive that she thinks women would prefer that– would want the easy way out. Yeah… sometimes life sucks. Don’t lower the bar. Raise it– and pull yourself up.

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  1. […] a much lighter note, it is my absolute pleasure to follow up on my pull-ups post with a few fantastic responses from the CrossFit universe. Particularly, this video made my […]

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