How Many Pullups Should I Be Able to Do?

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Most people don't find themselves completing a lot of pullups as part of everyday activities; because of that, how many pullups you can do isn't necessarily the best test of fitness for the general population. Still, checking how many pullups you can do provides a valuable test for athletes, people actively working to build stronger back muscles, or anyone else interested in seeing how their strength-to-body-weight ratio is coming along.

The Presidential Youth Fitness Program

  • The Presidential Youth Fitness Program offers voluntary, school-based fitness tests using the Cooper Institute's FitnessGram fitness assessment standards. The pullup requirement of the test entails modified pullups. Participants lie flat on their backs, with a low pullup bar positioned directly over their chest. Results are graded for ages 5 to 17, with one general classification for "17 and up," although as adults age, the fitness standard slowly decreases again.

Can You Do a Dozen?

  • A 5- or 6-year-old should be able to do at least two modified pullups, according to the Presidential Youth Fitness Program's standards. A 7-year-old should be able to do at least three modified pullups, and an 8-year-old, at least four. Four pullups remains the standard for girls 9 and older, which increases to five modified pullups for 9- or 10-year-old boys, adding one modified pullup per year after that until it jumps to 12 pullups for 16-year-old boys and 14 modified pullups for those 17 or older.

Law Enforcement: 10 or More

  • Pullups frequently provide a fitness benchmark for law enforcement officers, even if they're not part of a pass/fail test. For example, an FBI agent's ability to do pullups affects his chances of winning a fitness award. A perfect score is 10 or more pullups for female agents, and 20 or more pullups for male agents. The Los Angeles Police Department requires 10 pullups, unassisted or partner-assisted and with rests allowed, as part of its required physical fitness training.

Military Standards

  • Every military branch has a physical fitness test for admission and periodic fitness tests thereafter. Most branches focus on running, situps and pushups for measuring fitness; only the Marine Corps, Army Rangers and other special forces incorporate pullups in their tests. Army Ranger recruits must be able to do a minimum of six dead-hang pullups, with a recommended total of 12. For Marines, men must be able to do at least two dead-hang pullups to enter the corps, and three pullups at semi-annual fitness tests once they're in. Female Marine recruits are not evaluated on their ability to do pullups, but on how long they can hang with flexed arms.

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