We are often motivated to achieve certain standards or break our own personal records. How many runners, for example, want to be able to break 4 hours in a marathon or set a new 5k PR. Breaking our own fitness records proves to ourselves that we are getting better and that our workouts are paying off.
Fitness standards also give you a benchmark to strive for when you are training. For example, many runners want to know how fast you should be able to run a mile based on your age.
Another popular exercise people like to tackle is the pull up. When trying out this tough exercise we often ask ourselves, how many pull ups should I be able to do?
Pull ups are an extremely challenging but effective bodyweight strengthening exercise, and being able to successfully do full pull ups is a fitness bucket list item for many gym goers.
But, after you master how to properly perform a pull up, what should be your next goal? How many pull ups should you be able to do?
In this guide, we will get into the question, how many pull ups you should I able to do? Spoiler: the answer isn’t as clear as you might think.
In this guide, we will cover:
- How to Perform a Pull Up
- Benefits of Pull Ups
- What Is the World Record for Pull Ups?
- How Many Pull Ups Should I Be Able To Do?
- How Many Pull Ups Should Kids Be Able to Do?
- How Many Pull Ups Is “Good”?
- How Many Pull Ups Can the Average Person Do?
- How Many Pull Ups Should I Be Able To Do? Average Pull Ups By Age and Sex
Let’s dive in!
How to Perform a Pull-Up
Before we get into how many pull ups should I be able to do, let’s take a look at what a proper pull up is:
A pull up uses an overhead bar. Unlike a chin-up, in which you grip the bar so that your palms are turned towards your face, with a pull-up your palms face away from you. This engages your back muscles more than your biceps.
Here is how to perform a pull-up:
- Grab onto a pull up bar with a shoulder-width grip to properly engage your lats. Use a pronated grip so that your palms are facing away from you.
- Hang from the bar, raising your feet off the ground by bending your knees if you are too tall.
- Pull yourself up by engaging your core, contracting your lats, and pulling your elbows down toward the floor.
- Raise your body until the bar is at chin or chest height.
- Lower your body back down in a controlled fashion until your arms are fully straight.
- Repeat, doing as many repetitions as possible.
Benefits of Pull Ups
Every exercise has specific benefits, which is why it’s ideal to follow a well-rounded workout program that incorporates a variety of exercises that work different parts of the body.
Pull ups are one of the most efficient and effective strengthening exercises to add to your routine to boost your overall fitness and strengthen and sculpt your body.
The benefits of pull ups span the gamut from increasing muscular strength and overall fitness to boosting confidence.
Here are the top benefits of pull-ups:
- Strengthening the back, particularly the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, erector spinae in the thoracic region, levator scapulae, and infraspinatus, which helps balance out muscles strengthened by push-ups and other pressing exercises.
- Strengthening the chest (pecs), shoulders, forearms, and core.
- Improving grip strength.
- Increasing overall fitness.
- Increasing heart rate and burning calories.
What Is the World Record for Pull Ups?
Before we answer your question how many pull ups should I be able to do based on my age, let’s allow our jaws to drop in awe at the world records for pull ups.
According to Recordholders.org, there are tons of categories of pull up world records based on how much time you’re allotted.
For example, the world record for the number of pull ups in one minute for men is 52, which has been held by Vitaly Petrovich of Russia since 1998.
The world record for the number of pull ups in one minute for women is 39. This record is held by American Alicia Weber and was set in 2011.
In December 2021, Ravil Khakimov from Russia set the world record for pull ups in 24 hours, completing a whopping 7,902 pull ups in just 22 hours before voluntarily stopping.
Australian Eva Clark holds the same record for women, doing 3,737 pull ups in 24 hours in 2016.
There are tons of world records for pull ups with added weight as well.
Now, how many pull ups should I be able to do? Let’s see!
How Many Pull Ups Should I Be Able To Do?
Although many people want to know how many pull ups they should be able to do, there aren’t any existing standards or norms for pull ups for adults.
The best answer to “how many pull ups should I be able to do?” really comes down to factors such as your age, sex, and fitness level.
In general, men can do more pull ups than women because they have more upper body muscle mass and a greater percentage of lean body mass relative to fat mass.
Because pull ups are a bodyweight exercise, the greater your strength-to-weight ratio, the more pull ups you’ll be able to do.
Again, because men typically have more muscle mass and less body fat than women, they usually have a higher strength-to-weight ratio.
In terms of age, children can usually perform a few pull ups. This number increases for boys as they age, whereas it stays relatively consistent and then drops for girls after puberty.
For adults, peak strength is often achieved around 25-30 years old, so the number of pull ups you should be able to do usually increases for boys from 18-25 or 30 and then begins to decline.
How Many Pull Ups Should Kids Be Able to Do?
Although there aren’t pull ups standards for adults, the website ExRx.net has fitness norms for youth athletes, one of which is pull up standards for boys.
These standards are for boys ages 10 to 17+, so theoretically, they can potentially be applied for adults.
Pull-ups must be completed to exhaustion from a bar that allows hanging without touching the floor.
Using an overhand pull up grip, count the number of repetitions you can do to exhaustion. Your chin must come up and over the bar, and you must fully lower your body down until your arms are straight.
Kicking and jerking is not permitted.
Here are the pull-up norms for boys according to this source:
To read the table, find the child’s age along the top row and then look for the number of repetitions in the column performed.
Once you find that number, look to the far left column and the number in the row with your repetition number. That is your percentile ranking for pull ups by age.
For example, if a 12-year-old boy does 4 pull ups, he’s in the 75th percentile for his age, which means he can do more pull ups than 75% of boys his age.
Note that there are only some percentiles listed, so you’ll have to estimate the percentile in most cases.
For example, if the same 12-year-old boy can do 7 pull ups, you’ll see that falls between the 75th and 95th percentile.
Although admittedly not an exact science, you can estimate that 7 pull ups would correlate to roughly the 87th percentile because there is a difference of 5 pull ups between the 75th and 95th percentile, so each additional pull up is roughly 4 percentile points better.
Adults can use the 17+ column.
Note that no pull-up standards are given for girls on this site. Instead, the flexed arm hang standards are used.
In this exercise, girls use a pull-up grip and hang with their chest at the bar level. They must hold this position for as long as possible without letting the chest touch the bar or fall above or below the bar.
Here are the standards for the girls for the flexed arm hang. Note that numbers are in seconds:
How Many Pull Ups Is “Good”?
You can certainly use the above youth standards to determine how many pull ups you should be able to do. In addition, in the absence of pull up norms, the following might point to how many pull ups a good goal for adults.
The Navy SEALS test includes a pull ups component. Candidates must run 1.5 miles in 10.5 minutes; swim 500 yards in 12.5 minutes; complete 50 pushups in two minutes, do 50 curl-ups in two minutes, and perform 10 pull ups in two minutes.
Doing 10 pull ups in two minutes is the minimum, however. Recruits should be able to complete at least 15 to 20 pull ups to stand out.
All pull ups must be completed without letting go of the bar or touching the ground during the two minutes.
Since Navy SEALS recruits are among the fittest young adults, being able to do 10 pull ups in two minutes should be seen as a good result, with numbers above that being excellent.
How Many Pull Ups Can the Average Person Do?
Although it’s somewhat unclear if these standards and awards are still in place, the Presidential Physical Fitness Award standards can provide additional insight into how many pull ups you should be able to do.
These standards are based on the Presidential Physical Fitness Test for youth in the United States.
The National Physical Fitness Award represents the 50th percentile standards. The number of pull ups you should be able to do to meet the population average, or 50th percentile are as follows:
|Age (years)||Number of Pull-Ups|
Note that these pull up standards are for boys. The 50th percentile for pull ups for girls of all ages is 1 pull up.
The Presidential Physical Fitness Award is awarded for students who achieve at least the 85th percentile in numerous exercises.
The 85th percentile for number of pull ups boys should be able to do by age is as follows:
|Age (years)||Number of Pull-Ups|
For girls, the 85th percentile for number of pull ups you should be able to do by age is as follows:
|Age (years)||Number of Pull-Ups|
Note that for girls, the number of pull ups is significantly lower than for boys, and older girls may actually have a harder time with pull ups.
After hitting puberty, body fat percentage increases in girls, which can reduce her strength-to-size ratio.
How Many Pull Ups Should I Be Able To Do? Average Pull Ups By Age and Sex
In general, based on considering the numbers from numerous sources, the following can be taken as loose ballparks to help answer the question, how many pull ups should I be able to do, based on sex, age, and fitness level.
Remember, these numbers are just general recommendations, so there is some overlap between categories and they aren’t necessarily based on actual statistics.
How many pull-ups can you do? Now that we’ve helped get closer to answering the question, how many pull ups should I be able to do, what’s your new goal?
If you are looking to strengthen your upper body to work towards doing a pull up, here is an Upper Body Workout for you to try.