Pull ups and Push ups – The Ultimate Home Bodyweight Exercises

These are 2 of my favourite exercises! During my early workout days, I decided to put these two Goliaths to the test. I performed 5 sets of 12 pull ups and 5 sets of 30 push ups, as a superset, for 1 month, 5 days per week. Obviously, i’m not challenging anyone to do this, but the results that I achieved were amazing.

I still remember the pull up bar I used when I first started…two holes drilled in the door frame, fix metal bar onto two little brackets, and away we go! Nowadays, it’s even easier.

I’m going to look at the benefits of performing these two superstars at home. Used correctly, they will give you monster results. I will also be looking at the varieties of both movements.

In many ways, Covid-19 has put a halt to our lives, but that doesn’t mean we have to come to a stand still. There could not be a more ideal time to be practicing pull ups or push ups. They take time to to get used to, so what else have you got to do? Come out of the lockdown a s a master of both. No excuses!

What is the differences between a Pull up and a Chin up?

Both exercises are very beneficial for muscle strength and growth. In essence a chin up is a variation of the pull up. Both movements involve pulling your body up until your chin passes the bar.

Pull ups

  • A pull up is performed with your palms facing away from you
  • They involve a slightly wider than shoulder width grip
  • Tend to work your back muscles more than a chin up
  • Develop amazing grip strength.

Chin ups

  • A chin up is performed with your palms facing towards you
  • They involve a narrow grip, usually shoulder width
  • Engage your biceps more than pull ups
  • Develop amazing grip strength.

So, as you can see, the only real difference is the way your palms are facing, and the grip width.

Can’t Perform a Pull up, Read This…

Don’t panic if you are unable to perform even one pull up, as I have got the perfect solution for you. Remember, everyone started in the same boat. That’s why they invented pull up assist resistance bands.

The key to performing pull ups is practice and patience. You should put yourself through a few pre pull up drills to master this movement. Here is a great routine to help you get started:

1) The Passive Hang

– Hang from the bar for at least 30 seconds (palms forward)

2) The Active Hang

– Draw tops of shoulders slightly down, away from ears (do this from the passive hang position)

3) Shoulder Shrug

– Roll shoulder blades back and down. Make sure you engage your lats

4) Quarter to Halfway Hangs

– Lift body quarter of the way up and hold for 15 seconds. Then go half way up and hold for a further 15 seconds.

5) Eccentric Pull up

– Use a step to start off at the top of the movement (chin above bar). Lower yourself slowly into a passive hang. Keep core engaged.

6) Move Around the Bar

– Walk hands from side to side for 15 seconds – remember keep the core engaged!

7) Assisted Band Pull up

– Use an assisted band to perform a full pull up.

Practice the above and you will no doubt become a pull up machine! Remember, pull ups engage more than just your back muscles. They engage your biceps, chest (pecs), shoulders (delts), forearms and of course the main man…your core!

The Beauty of a Push up

A push up is an exercise that has been around for eons. There are so many varieties of this movement. From the traditional push up, to the handstand push up, they can really sculpt your body into great shape.

Performing a push up is kind of like doing the bench press the other way around. Now the problem we have is the technique that A LOT of people use. Many people think that they should keep their elbows in line with their shoulders, however this could not be further from the truth.

This technique WILL lead to shoulder instability and eventually injury. Again, trust me, i’ve been there. In my early days of training, I learned a lot about what I SHOULD NOT be doing. By using this technique, you are putting far too much stress on the shoulder joint, as it is a very unnatural position.

So, I can hear you asking “what is the correct technique?”. Bring your elbows in and place your hands under your shoulders. You need to get your elbows as close to your rib cage, as possible. Preferably, as you are in the motion of a push up, your upper arms should be brushing your rib cage.

There are also tools that can aid you in performing push ups. If you have any wrist issues, you  can invest in push up bars. They take the strain off your wrists, which means you can perform them without having to worry about potential injuries.

Different Varieties of Push ups

The push up is predominantly used to develop the chest muscles. However, it is also great for the shoulders and triceps. Our chest consists of an upper, mid and lower part. So we need to ensure that we hit all parts for a full and strong chest.

If you are a beginner to this movement I would definitely start off with wall pushes or modified knee push ups:

Wall Pushes

  • Stand upright facing a sturdy wall. Put your hands on the wall, about shoulder width apart
  • Make sure your feet are at least 2 steps away from the wall
  • Engage your core to keep your body straight
  • Bend your arms to lower yourself towards the wall, hold for 2 seconds and then push yourself into the starting position
  • Remember to inhale as you lower yourself and to exhale as you push yourself away from the wall

Modified Knee Push ups

  • Start off on your knees (use a towel or mat to make yourself more comfortable)
  • Walk your hands in front of you until they are under your shoulders – keep them slightly wider that shoulder width apart
  • As with wall push ups, keep your core engaged and body as straight as possible. Do not allow the body to sag
  • Lower yourself to the ground and then push yourself back up
  • To make it slightly harder, position your thighs to 45 degrees.

Now, a few more variations:

1) The “Standard” Push up

– The “old school” (standard) push up! So, we start balancing on our palms. The body should be in a straight line from your head to your heels. Hands should be in line with the shoulders.

– When lowering yourself, your elbows should be as close to the rib cage as possible (almost brushing). Just before your chest reaches the floor, push your body back up. It is imperative that you do not arch your back.

– To stop this from occurring, make sure that you engage your core and tighten your glutes. This will protect your lower back as well as strengthen your whole core.

2) The Wide Push up

– This push up targets your outer chest, and can really add some width.

– Start of in normal push up position.

– Take hands past shoulder width apart and then perform the movement. As with the above, make sure that you engage your core and tighten your glutes.

3) Close Hands Push up

– This movement targets your inner chest, as well as your triceps.

– Start off in standard press-up position, however this time with feet just past hip width apart. This position will help you balance.

– Place hands directly underneath your chest and form a diamond shape with your thumbs and index fingers.

– Lower yourself as far as you can and then push yourself up. Again, making sure that you engage your core and tighten your glutes.

4) Incline Push up

– This push up targets your upper chest. You must ensure that your upper body is elevated at a higher position than your lower body. For example, place your hands on a step, or a box.

– Start off in standard push up position. Place hands slightly outside shoulder width, but still in the same line as the shoulders.

– Elbows do not have to brush the ribcage, as they can slightly flare out (no more than 45 degrees).

– Lower yourself as far as you can and them push yourself back up, keeping your core engaged and your glutes contracted.

5) Decline Push up

– This push up targets your lower chest. You must ensure that you lower body is elevated at a higher position than your upper body. For example, place your feet on a step, or a box.

– Start off in standard push up position. Place hands slightly outside shoulder width, but still in the same line as the shoulders.

– Elbows do not have to brush the ribcage, as they can slighltly flare out (no more than 45 degrees).

– Lower yourself as far as you can and them push yourself back up, keeping your core engaged and your glutes contracted.

These variations are the most widely used push ups.

The End Result

Now we have looked at both of these movements, let’s be clear about the results that you can get using them in your workout routine. A pull up and push up routine alone can yield phenomenal results. However, you have to ensure that you use and perform these exercises as close to perfection as possible.

Yes, there are primary muscles you are working with both exercises, however, such are the movements, there are many synergists that are working too. Smaller stabilising muscles will be working overtime, so ensure correct form, posture and patience to avoid injury.

There are many variations of pull ups, such as the chin up, close grip, side to side, weighted, towel, etc, as well as variations of pull up bars. You must ensure you choose the right bar for your home. There are also many variations of push ups, such as weighted, sphinx, knuckle, lateral, etc. The list goes on, but the key is not to get lost in the multiple options in front of you.

Focus on perfecting the basics first. Build your strength, confidence and technique, and the rest will follow. Do not make the mistake of pushing (or pulling) too hard at the beginning. Take your time and your body will thank you for it. You will be pushing boulders up hills in no time! Now stop hanging around, and go practice!

Thank you for reading this article. I hope not only did you enjoy it, but you learned something too. If you have any questions, comments or feedback, please do not hesitate to leave them below. I will respond back to you. As always, it has been an absolute pleasure having you here.

14 thoughts on “Pull ups and Push ups – The Ultimate Home Bodyweight Exercises”

  1. I think this is a fantastic site with lots of useful information in relation to home exercises. I particularly like the detailed explanation of pull ups and push ups. I have learned a lot of useful tips from this post. Very enlightening! Thank you!

  2. I’m a big fan of bodyweight exercise. I usually go to the gym in periods of three months, but in the meantime, I like to exercise at home. Like your content here and will apply many of the advice from it. Thanks a lot and keep it up!

  3. I really enjoyed this post. There are many fitness pages I’ve read and yours was easy to read but very informative. I also learned I’ve been doing the press up wrong. Keep up the good work.

  4. Hi,
    Great post. Absolutely fantastic because I’m a bigger fan of pull up and push up during my time in the military. Recently I just had the pull up bar that doesn’t need any hook to the wall. I love it. I also like the simplicity involved in explaining how to do the various exercises. I’m going to give the 5 set pull up and 30 push up for a month five days a week.

    • Hey Benson. Thank you for the comment. I can imagine your military days had you doing plenty of pull ups and push ups. Yes, give the challenge a try, I bet you will nail it!. Good luck.

  5. I totally concur with your views Puneet. Pull-ups still kill me and whilst I’m able to get through a handful (not going to disclose the number), I’ve got a pretty good handle on push-ups. I did an online course way back when where they demonstrated 10 variations of push-ups. Literally a full body work-out on there own so an exercise that we should all be doing.

  6. Great post. Great content. Lots of information. Thank you for this info. Now I know there are many types of push-ups and pull-ups that can work on different muscles in your body.

  7. Great information here. I have been doing some push-ups lately and like the variety, you shared here. This will provide good ‘muscle confusion’ which is ideal for bodybuilding. Thank you for sharing.


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