Gold Member Badge


  • You're all caught up!

Pull-Ups vs. Push-Ups

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Pull-Ups vs. Push-Ups
Use weights to increase instability during a push-up. Photo Credit: takoburito/iStock/Getty Images

When it comes to push-ups versus pull-ups, it shouldn't be an either/or prospect. Both of the body-weight strength-training moves effectively works your upper body and core to create wide shoulders, a thick chest and ripped back. Each exercise targets a different area to provide a balanced look to your body.

Video of the Day


Your latissimus dorsi, a broad, long muscle that covers the backs of the ribs, middle back, rear shoulders, biceps, core and forearms, get a workout when you perform pull-ups.

Do a pull-up wherever you find a stable bar.
Do a pull-up wherever you find a stable bar. Photo Credit: warrengoldswain/iStock/Getty Images

How To

Perform pull-ups by grasping a pull-up bar with a wide, overhand grip. Hang so that your legs dangle, and use your arms to pull your chin up and over the bar. Return to straight arms to complete one repetition. Avoid swinging or hitching your hips to increase momentum and get up more easily.


Push-ups target your chest, triceps, shoulders and core.

How To

Get onto your hands and knees with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders and flat on the ground. Extend your legs behind you to create a straight torso. Brace your abdominals toward your spine for stability. Bend your elbows to lower your chest down toward the floor. Form a 45-degree angle with your elbows as you lower. Return to a high plank to complete one repetition.


Both push-ups and pull-ups are low impact, so you can train often, with shorter periods of rest, as compared to when you train with heavy weights. The more you train, the greater your potential gains. You do risk overuse injuries if you use pull-ups and push-ups as your only training moves, however.

No other equipment is necessary to complete pull-ups or push-ups, save a pull-up bar. A door jam, tree branch or high piece of playground of equipment are places to find substitutes for a bar.

A wide grip changes the target of the pull-up.
A wide grip changes the target of the pull-up. Photo Credit: Milan Zeremski/iStock/Getty Images

Both the pull-up and push-up are easily modified, too. Regress, or make the pull-up easier, by using a pull-up machine that supports some of your weight or have a spotter support your legs. Change your grip to alter the way the pull-up targets your back and shoulders; a narrow, underhand grip works your biceps more, while a wide, overhand grip is mostly about your lats.

Read More: Types of Pull-Up Exercises

One-armed push-ups increase the intensity of the exercise.
One-armed push-ups increase the intensity of the exercise. Photo Credit: mel-nik/iStock/Getty Images

Modify a push-up against a counter, wall or by supporting some of your weight on your knees. Add instability to amp up the challenge -- do push-ups off a stability ball, BOSU dome or with one leg lifted.

Round Out Your Workout

To fully develop your upper body, include additional exercises to train your back, chest and shoulders. For example:

Incline chest flyes: Lie on a workout bench placed at a 45-degree angle, hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended in front of your chest, and open and close your arms as if you were performing a hug.

Bent-over row: Grasp a barbell with an overhand grip with hands about shoulder-distance apart. From a stand with your feet hip-distance apart, soften your knee joints and hinge forward 45-degrees from your hips so the bar hangs just above your knees. Pull the bar to your belly button and release to complete on repetition.

Barbell chest press: Lie on a weight bench placed under a barbell rack. Unrack the bar by holding it with an overhand grip, hands a little wider than your shoulders. Bend your elbows to bring the bar to your chest; straighten your elbows to complete one rep.

Read More: Quickest Ways to Improve Pull-Ups

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
Lose Weight. Feel Great! Change your life with MyPlate by LIVESTRONG.COM
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
  • Female
  • Male
ft. in.



Demand Media