Think women can’t do pullups? Think again.
The key is not exhausting muscles during training.
“I got my first pullup on April 27 of 2014. It’s like giving birth: You don’t forget that,” said Col. Robin Gallant, 55. “I kicked it on my last (physical fitness test), I got 15; and now I’m up to an ugly 17, a pretty solid 16.”
With the right diet, weight training, doing CrossFit and practicing pullups, Gallant said she has built a good deal of lean muscle.
“It doesn’t make you look like a man,” she said. “Anybody that says that is full of crap.”
Gallant, the comptroller for the II Marine Expeditionary Force, learned how to do pullups under the tutelage of Maj. Misty Posey, who developed an approach that the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, is looking at to institute corps-wide.
The technique the major has refined through the years is having people do pullups three to five times a day for at least three days a week, Posey said. The key to success is not maxing out each set.
When Posey wrote her paper Starting from Zero: The Secret to Pull-up Success, she particularly wanted to reach female Marines.
“I didn’t want them to make the same training mistakes I did and give up before they learn pullups and think it was their gender that prevented them from learning a pullup,” she said.
For Posey, learning how to do pullups was a necessity. As a midshipman trying to make it through the University of San Diego’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program, her instructors made her run through the obstacle course at Marine Recruit Depot San Diego, she said.
Standing 4 feet, 10 inches high, Posey said she was at a distinct disadvantage compared to the other midshipmen.
“As you can imagine, the obstacles are all very tall because no women train at MCRD San Diego, so there were no ramps; there were no steps,” said Posey, who now works in Manpower and Reserve Affairs. “My PT instructor … basically said, ‘You need to figure it out.’ ”
Posey needed to build upper-body strength so she could hoist herself over the obstacles. But no matter how much exercise she did in the gym, she still was unable to do a single pullup, she said.
Then, a gunnery sergeant who worked at the gym saw her struggling and gave her advice that changed everything.
“He said, ‘Get out of my gym. Get on a pullup bar,’ ” Posey said. “He said, ‘If you don’t have a partner to help spot you when you need it, … pull up as far as you can.
” ‘If you can only pull up half way, keep doing that. Eventually, you’ll be able pull up higher.’ ” she said. “He was right.
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