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Ask Men's Fitness: "My buddy and I have been having this argument for, like, a decade: Which is the more important exercise for overall fitness: pushups or pullups?"

Damn, that’s a tough one. We like both—and we’re not alone.

“It’s like asking, which is better, smooth peanut butter or crunchy?” says Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance.

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But if we really had to choose, we’d go with pushups. Why? Obviously, pushups train your pecs, shoulders, and triceps. But, says Gentilcore, “the real benefit to pushups is that they help improve trunk stability.” You’ll see some guys do pushups and their lower back starts to cave, he explains. “This indicates poor lumbo-pelvic-hip control and is a telltale sign of a weak core; more pushups will fix that.”

Pushups also improve your performance on other “big rock” exercises, like squats and deadlifts, says Gentilcore. Skip them, and a lack of stability leads to misalignment, which impairs your ability to transfer force from your lower body to your upper body and vice versa.

And if pumping up your pecs, shoulders, and tri’s, strengthening your core, and boosting your squat and deadlift aren’t enough, pushups are also incredibly versatile. “You can use them as a strength exercise or as part of a fat-loss circuit or finisher,” Gentilcore suggests. “They can also be easily ramped up and made more challenging for advanced lifters, or regressed if you’re not quite there yet.”

But trust us, you will be.


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