You are here

The Pullup-Pushup Workout

Lock down a great upper body with the only two exercises it really needs.
The Pullup-Pushup Workout
James Michelfelder

Army bases, city parks, church gyms, and state prisons are full of guys with wide shoulders, thick backs, and big chests and arms. And if you asked them what they do to achieve this look, you’d always hear the same answer: pullups and pushups. These simple, timeless exercises work the entire upper body and can be performed virtually anywhere.

We’ll show you how to take full advantage of these moves, and some of their most effective variations, to build your back, arms, chest, and shoulders—no weights, or jail sentence, required. 

5 Ways to Get Faster Results in the Gym >>>

When you do a pullup, you engage your lats, mid-back, rear delts, biceps, forearms, and core. Pushups train your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. So between these two movements, you’ve got the whole upper body covered.

Another benefit of body-weight training is that it’s low-impact. As a result you can train more frequently than if you were using heavy weights, and the more often you work out, the greater your potential to build muscle. 

The only caveat to high-frequency training is the risk of overuse injuries, but you can avoid those by changing up your exercises so you don’t recruit the same muscles the same way every time. That’s why each of the workouts on these pages pairs up a different variation of the pullup and pushup.

15 Exercises to Remove From Your Routine >>>

Perform each workout once a week, resting a day between sessions. Perform the exercises marked “A” and “B” in alternating fashion: You’ll do one set of A, rest 1–2 minutes, then one set of B. Rest and repeat until all sets are complete.

On days between workouts, you can perform lower-body training. Or squeeze some leg training in after the pullups and pushups on up to three of the workouts we’ve provided.Do not do any additional upper-body training.

10 At-Home Workouts to Build Muscle in Under 20 Minutes >>>

Sets: 5 Reps: As many as possible

Place your feet on a bench or other elevated surface and get into pushup position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Brace your core and lower your body until your chest is just above the floor.

The Muscle Building Standards: Build a Big Chest >>>

Sets: 5 Reps: As many as possible

Hang from a chinup bar with hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing you. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.

10 Dangerous Kettlebell Mistakes >>>

Sets: 4 Reps: 4 x 1.5

Use a chinup bar with parallel handles, or hook a V-grip bar over a straight chinup bar. Hang from the bar and pull yourself up until your chin is over it. Hold for a second, then lower yourself halfway. Come back up, then lower yourself to a full hang again. That’s one full “1.5” rep.

5 Ways to Add Inches to Your Arms >>>

Sets: 4 Reps: 20–25

Get into pushup position and bring your hands inside shoulder width. Keep your core braced and perform a pushup.

5 Everyday Benefits of Stronger Abs >>>

Sets: 3 Reps: Count down from 6

Perform six pushups, then lower your body into the bottom position so your chest is just above the floor. Hold for six seconds, then perform five more pushups followed by a five-second hold in the bottom position. Continue counting down, alternating reps and static holds, until you reach one rep and a one-second hold.

Rookie Mistakes: The Pullup >>>

Sets: 3 Reps: As many as possible

Hang from the chinup bar with hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing you. Lean back and pull yourself up, aiming to touch your lower chest to the bar.

12 Best Moves to Increase Explosiveness >>>

Sets: 6 Reps: 5

Hang from the bar with hands outside shoulder width and palms facing away from you. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.

The Ultimate Warmup for Lifting Heavy >>>

Sets: 6 Reps: 10 (per leg)

Get into pushup position and raise one leg behind you. Keep it elevated while you perform 10 pushups. Lower the leg, then raise the other one and perform another 10 pushups.

Three Prehab Moves for Any Workout >>>


Want more Men's Fitness?

Sign Up for our newsletters now.

You might also like