How Many Pull-ups Should I Be Able To Do?

What The Experts Say About How Many Pull Ups You Should Be Able To Do: Including Official And Unofficial Pull Up Standards, Average Pull Up Test Results, The Latest World Records, And More (Plus, A Free Program To Help You Do More Pull-ups!)

how many pull ups should i be able to do?

How many pull ups should you be able to do? And how many pull ups is good? This post will show how you stack up and give you a good goal to aim for.

If you want to be a United States Marine, you have to perform at least 3 pull-ups (i.e. males only, for now). That’s a minimum passing grade. If you want to be a U.S. Army Ranger, you have to perform at least 6 pull-ups (12+ is recommended). And if you want to be a Navy SEAL, you have to perform a minimum of 8 reps to get into BUD/S training, but 15-20+ reps is recommended, and necessary if you want to be competitive among your class mates. Those are some good general standards for soldiers who need a broad base of fitness in a lot of different categories.

Of course, if you specialize in calisthenics or even just strength training, you can blow these numbers out of the water. You’ve got guys like the Barstarzz knocking out sets of 20, 30, even 50 pull-ups at a time. And a quick Youtube search will reveal some dudes who can do quite a bit more than that (like some of these guys). I know a handful of guys who have nailed 40, even 50+ pull-ups in one go (like my colleague, Hugo Rivera).

But how many pull-ups should the average man or woman be able to do, and how many pull-ups is good? This post will answer those questions.

How many pull ups can the average man (or woman) do?

The short answer: We don’t really know because there are so many different sources of conflicting information. But here’s what we do know…

Our fitness levels have declined dramatically over the past several decades. We just aren’t as fit as we used to be. As a result, some organizations have either lowered their standards or even dropped pull-ups completely from their lineup of fitness tests so that nobody’s feelings get hurt. And I’m sure you all know how I feel about that!

Fortunately, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition has some standards we can go by (Source):

Children – 6-12 years of age should be able to perform between 1-2 pull-ups (i.e. 50th percentile).

Teens – boys 13-18 years of age should be able to perform between 3-8 pull-ups (i.e. 50th percentile, and the older you are, the more reps you have to do to keep up with the average), and girls 13-18 years of age should be able to perform 1 pull-up or a 5-9 second flexed arm hang.

Adults – Data for adults is harder to come by, but my research has led me to conclude the following. Men should be able to perform at least 8 pull-ups, and 13-17 reps is considered fit and strong. And women should be able to perform between 1-3 pull-ups, and 5-9 reps is considered fit and strong.

We also have some data from the Candidate Fitness Assessment, which is used to determine the fitness levels of those seeking to enter the U.S. military.

According to the CFA, the average number of pullups performed by men is nine and by women is three. Men who are able to perform 18 consecutive pullups and women who can perform seven are considered to possess a high level of fitness. (Source)

Keep in mind that military candidates likely have some physical training under their belt and will probably perform better than the average Joe or Jane.

how many pull ups is good - marine doing pull ups

Also, an informal and very unscientific survey on Bodybuilding.com revealed that roughly half of all males can do between 1-5 pull-ups, a quarter of them can do between 6-10 reps, and the other quarter can do more than 10 reps. (Source) In other words, being able to do more than 10 reps is pretty rare these days.

And of course, many a debate has been started in forums all around the web where keyboard warriors like to point out how many pull-ups they can do when they’re not typing so fast.

how many pull ups should i be able to do - woman doing pull-ups at the gym

The Bottom Line

Regardless of your thoughts on these so-called “official” pull-up standards from the experts and armchair quarterbacks alike, here are two important things to keep in mind.

1) Generally, men can do more pull-ups than women because men have more muscle mass, and especially in their upper body.

Tim Hewitt, the director of sports medicine research at Ohio State University, has explained that MRI studies have shown that “women have about 40 percent less upper-body mass than men do…This means that, in general, a woman’s natural upper body is only about 50 to 60 percent as strong as a man’s” (Source). Thus, the disparity between pull-up scores. Of course, women CAN do pull-ups, too (click here for some proof). And many women do them better than most men can. It all depends on your training, which brings me to my next point.

2) Regardless of your age or gender, you can do as many pull-ups as you want – within certain limits – if you train for them.

The bottom line is that you can work up to doing as many pull-ups as you want to. It just depends on how hard you’re willing to work. That’s the greatest contributing factor. I’ve known many men and women who can blow the numbers listed above out of the water. So, don’t let the averages put a cap on your potential. Speaking of which…

John Sifferman’s Totally Unofficial Pull-up Standards

Now, allow me to present my very own pull-up standards. I am the author of The Pull-up Solution, after all. And that’s got to count for something.

Men:

The Pull-up Solution by John SiffermanNewbie = 1st unassisted pull-up
Beginner = 2-5 repetitions
Intermediate = 6-10 repetitions
Advanced = 11-15 repetitions
Expert = 16-20 repetitions
Master = 21-25 repetitions
Wicked Sick = 26-30 repetitions
Superhuman = 30+ repetitions
Olympian = 40+ repetitions
Pull-up Immortal = 50+ repetitions

Women:

Newbie = 1st unassisted pull-up
Beginner = 2-3 repetitions
Intermediate = 4-6 repetitions
Advanced = 7-9 repetitions
Expert = 10-12 repetitions
Master = 13-16 repetitions
Wicked Sick = 17-20 repetitions
Superhuman = 21-24 repetitions
Olympian = 25-29 repetitions
Pull-up Immortal = 30+ repetitions

Note: these standards are for strict, deadhang pull-ups, not kipping pull-ups, which is an entirely different exercise.

Also note: I have also posted my weighted pull-up standards in this post here, for those interested.

John’s Recommendation: I think that an ultimate goal of 15-20 reps for men and 8-12 reps for women are ambitious, yet very achievable targets for most people.

World Records For The Most Consecutive Pull-ups Without Dismounting From The Bar

Male: Jan Kareš from the Czech Republic who did 232 pull-ups on the 19th of June in 2010. – Source

Female: Irina Rudometkina from the USA who did 48 pull-ups on the 18th of December in 2014. – Source

Note: I posted a little commentary on Irina’s achievement here.

How Many Pull-ups Can YOU Do? (SURVEY)


how many pull ups can the average man do

MEN: How many strict, deadhang pull-ups can you do in one set?

View Results

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how many pull ups can the average woman do

WOMEN: How many strict, deadhang pull-ups can you do in one set?

View Results

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Wrap-up

Not that you care, but here’s a fairly recent video of me doing 30 pull-ups, which gives me a solid “Wicked Sick” rating. I was trying to tie my all-time PR of 31 reps, which would have squeaked me into the Superhuman category. But unfortunately, that last rep didn’t count!

So, what’s the highest amount of pull-ups you’ve ever done in one set? Let us know in the comments below!


Want to do more pull-ups?

Could I interest you in a complete 3-month pull-up workout program that has helped thousands of people increase their pull-up numbers using a unique twist on pull-up training? Oh, and did I mention it’s free? Check it out…

Click Here to Sign up For my FREE

5-Day Pull-up Training Crash Course

5-day pull-up training crash course


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29 Responses

  1. 18 but that was 25 year and 2 stone ago still get 9/10 on a good day

    • I hear ya, Anthony! Pull-ups were a lot easier when I was a good 20-30 pounds lighter. I really have to earn those reps now.

      And hey, 10 reps is a solid number for pull-ups. Keep up the good work.

  2. Avinash mishra

    Four months back ,i started doing pull ups with max 8 reps now i m doing 15-20 reps and 22 is my max reps… I guess its a good progress.. Still working hard to get to the 50 reps milestone…and its really a good exercise unlike other guys i enjoy doing pulls never take it as a burden….

  3. I’m up to 6 chinups at 49…female

  4. I really love doing pull ups best exercise and of course you can incorporate your entire body with lots of different exercises on the bar. I have been doing pull ups for about 5 months I really don’t concentrate on doing high rep sets a lot even though I can do them but since I like to do a lot of pull ups I spread them out in smaller sets of 5 – 8 reps depending on how I feel. The good thing is I have really worked my endurance up where I can do sets like this all day and of course I still throw in higher sets. So right now I am working on getting my muscle up down I am just having some issues in the transition with it but with all things pull up related it takes time to develop strength and technique. I would still consider myself a newbie it really takes several years experience at an activity to truly master it but for me it is really enjoyable and the benefits have been astounding for me.

  5. I can do 17 and I’m 15 years old and 120 pounds, around what percentile would I be at? Also do you have any tips for me to reach 20?

  6. I am 17 180 pounds and can do 26 is that good and how would I improve that number

  7. In the 60’s in high school gym class weighing 110 pounds with the coach and everyone trying to discount every rep I was able to do I managed 90 chin-ups (by the coach’s count). I was the skinny nerd that was gonna be a rock star so I worked out with weights and pushups in my Dad’s basement at least twice a day, seven days a week so I would be able to play guitar all night. I couldn’t catch or throw a ball, or play any sport. Now I’m almost almost 67 years old; weigh 168 pounds, still never been a rock star although I can still play for many hours when the occasion arises. Haven’t been in a gym since high school and I haven’t worked out at home since I was in my early 20’s. Yesterday against my 34 year old son I found I could only crank out 10 (I HAD to tie him and my last few were sloppy). My lungs are damaged from a lung infection in my mid twenties which limits my endurance. Wondering if there is any chance for me to return to my glory days?

  8. I worked my way up to 8 while weighing about 150 pounds, and I’m feeling very good about it. I’ve had a goal of doing 10 since I was 18 years old. I just turned 33, so I’ve been working at it for awhile.

  9. I am 13 and I can do 10 pull-ups in a row. I haven’t tried past that because I don’t want them to get sloppy.

  10. Oh yes, and I’m female and a rock climber.

  11. I’m 5’10” and weigh 132lbs. I’m up to 13 pullups and i can do 7 with 15lbs on my back……just curious how much i should be able to do weighing so little.

  12. I’m 35 and can do 33 pull-ups.

  13. Sebastian

    I’m 74 and can do 269 pull ups

  14. Vegan Gerard

    I’m 51 and did 26 at the gym today..shooting for 31 :-)
    Thx for the inspiration. I weigh 270 @ 5’9″

  15. I’m 39, and I was asked for some marines at their booth alongside my buddy to give it a go. (30 reps would get you a shirt, 20 a water bottle)
    I did 19 and got a bag.
    Ian

  16. I weigh 220 and can do 6 non-stop.

  17. I’m 16 and I’m able to do 20 on a good day, 16-18 on a normal day and at least 12 any day. Male 5’7 138. Best ever was 25 I think.

  18. I am a 49 old kid. Almost stagnated at 7reps. I am pretty warmed up my shoulder girdle structure after a few laps of swimming, and then I go for some stretching, after which I attack the chinning bar with proper form.

    I wish to go for a 12 rep one a single go.

  19. I’m 60 and I do 16 now, but that’s after I do my core workout of 100 sit ups, 70 leg raises and 30 ab rollers. Never tried them alone and fresh. I’m still building. When I was in high school I set the school record with 60 in 60 seconds and 80 bar dips in 60 seconds, so I probably have a bit of a nack.

  20. Nice job man. I started doing pullups earlier this year and could barely get 2. Now, on a good day, I’m able to get 12 or 13. I’m 33, 6 feet tall and 212 lbs. I really want to be able to get 20 but I’m kind of in a bulking mode right now so I’m carrying a little extra fat. I definitely would be much closer to 20 if I lost this 10 extra lbs I’m carrying.

  21. these stats are for small guys, if you’re over 200 pounds, 9 reps is excellent

  22. Also these stats are probably for reverse narrow grip, wide grip is much harder

  23. Ahh pull ups. My PB for strict chin ups is 28 yet I can only manage 4 pull ups with good form. What gives? I surf in my spare time so I know my back is pretty strong. Bugs the bejeezus out of me!

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