Are Pull-Ups Better Than Push-Ups?


Beginning a new workout routine brings up questions you need answers to. Such as which is a better workout and more effective for my goals, pull-ups or push-ups? We’ll explore these questions and more.

Pull-ups are better as they target a greater number of muscles in your arms and core. However, they do not target all the muscle groups in the upper body. It is important to have a variety of exercises in your routine.

So, pull-ups are better as far as how many muscles it takes to do them. Does that mean that push-ups are ineffective? Let’s continue to learn more about these exercises.

Push-Ups Vs. Pull-Ups 

Initially, basic pull-ups strengthen more muscles than basic push-ups. However, push-ups target different muscle groups than pull-ups do. To gain the most out of your upper body workout, you may want to include both exercises in your routine.

There are many variations for push-ups and pull-ups. You will have little chance of boredom as you progress and learn new ones. These variations will often work even more muscles throughout the body.

How Many Types of Push Ups are There?

There are many varieties of push ups. Greatest Fit shares a total of 82. These range from easy to extremely difficult. Some of these push ups are:

  • The standing push up, or off the wall push up
  • The standard push up
  • Leg raise push up
  • Grasshopper
  • Full body explosive push up
  • Jack Lalanne fingertip push ups

Knowing that there are so many variations there’s no chance for boredom. Once you master one you can try out a new one.

What Muscles do Push Ups Work? 

Push ups work muscles in your arms and chest. These muscles are:

  • The triceps are at the back of the arms. They run from the shoulder to the elbow.
  • The biceps are at the front of the upper arm.
  • The deltoid major of the shoulders
  • The deltoid minor of the shoulders
  • The pectoralis major and minor of the chest
  • The serratus anterior 
  • Latissimus dorsi of the back
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapeze

Are There Different Types of Pull Ups?

With pull ups, there are 2 main types and many variations. The two main types are tactical and bodybuilding. Remember that pull ups are done with your palms facing away from you when you grip the bar. If you grab the bar with your palms facing you, it is a different exercise, called a chin up. Both pull ups and chin ups work the same muscle groups.

Tactical Pull Ups

 Tactical seen in kettlebility studio video. This video demonstrates the form of tactical pull ups correctly and incorrectly in a competition setting.

The first demonstrates the dead hang, where the person is hanging from the pull up bar with arms straight and feet completely off the ground. Each time the person clears the bar and descends they stop in the ‘“dead hang” before pulling up again. If your neck does not clear the bar and you do not stop, motionless, at the bottom, it doesn’t count as a rep. 

In the second part the competitor demonstrates the incorrect way. That is without the pause at the bottom of the rep. Therefore these do not count as tactical pull ups.

Bodybuilding Pull Ups

The second main type of pull up is the bodybuilding pull up. The correct way is demonstrated in bodybuilding’s video. For these pull ups, your body is not held straight.

In this video, they tell you to grasp the bar with your hands and shoulders width apart. Pull your torso back and make it, so there is a slight curvature in your lower back. Stick out your chest.

Breath out, pull yourself up until your face is above your hands. Squeeze your shoulder blades as you reach the top position. Rest at the top for a moment while inhaling. Then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.

What Muscles do Pull Ups Work?

Doing pull ups strengthens the muscles in your upper arms and your back muscles. Pull ups also help you develop a tight grip with your hands. Understanding which muscles are worked and how they work helps you visualize what your body is expected to do.

The  back muscles involved in doing pull ups include:

  • Latissimus dorsi, also known as the lats. The lats are the large flat muscle that spreads in a triangle from your tailbone to under your arms. 
  • Trapezius muscles. These muscles run in an arrowhead shape from the base of your skull, down your neck, across the tops of your shoulders, and come to a point about midway down your back. It overlaps the latissimus dorsi muscle.
  • Pull ups also work the teres major muscles along the shoulderblades.
  • Posterior deltoid rhomboids wrap from under the trapezius muscle around the shoulder joint and into the upper arms.
  • Rotator Cuff muscles that are under the deltoid rhomboids muscles.

The muscles of the arms that pull ups strengthen are:

  • Triceps
  • Biceps
  • Coracobrachialis muscles under the bicep muscles
  • Forearm muscles
  • Pectoralis major are the muscles in your upper chest. They run from under your collarbone, across the chest to your shoulders, and just to your diaphragm. 

Your abdominal muscles will also get a work out while doing reps.

What Kind of Push Ups Should I Start With?

This depends on your physical strength and endurance. If you are not capable of doing a  regular push up, you might want to try modified push ups. Once you have built strength and endurance, then move on to a more difficult variation.

The Modified Push Up

This is a modified push up. Get Exercise Confident shows how to correctly do kneeling push ups. The first thing they have you do is lay down on your stomach. Take your hands and place them palm down a little wider than shoulder width apart and just below your shoulders. 

Keeping your hands in place, rise up on your knees. Straighten yourself so your:

  • Head
  • Back
  • And upper legs 

Make a straight line to your knees. Tuck your stomach in while tightening your glutes, also known as your butt muscles. Bend your elbows and lower yourself down. Then push yourself up. Make sure to keep your straight form while doing your push ups.

If these bent knee push ups are still too much for you, try to do wall push ups. 

The Standard Wall Push Up

With a standard wall push up you will use the wall instead of the floor. Stand about 2 feet from the wall. Place your hands on the wall slightly wider than your shoulders and at shoulder height. Move closer if you feel like you are too far from the wall. We are not all the same height.

Keep your body straight from your head to your feet. Bend your elbows and move your upper body toward the wall until you can almost touch the wall with your nose. Be aware of your stance, keep your legs, back, and neck straight. Push yourself back to a standing position. 

What Type of Pull Up Should I Start With?

Either the body building or the tactical pull up is fine to start with. In the beginning you might not be strong enough to pull yourself up. That’s okay, and you should not give up. 

Start with a hanging hold. Even if you are unable to pull yourself up yet, this will help you strengthen your grip and focus on how to properly hold your body. You can also add some strength training using dumbbells such as the bent over roll

Do I need Special Equipment?

For push ups you don’t need any special equipment. However, an exercise mat may benefit your comfort needs.

If you want to practice pull ups at home then you may want to invest in a pull up bar. Depending on how serious you are and how much money you wish to invest, these pull up bars can cost around $20 to $800 plus

Push Ups and Pull Ups Will Strengthen Your Upper Body

Don’t look at this as an either or situation. Take advantage of doing both push ups and pull ups to gain the most from your upper body workout. By including push ups and pull ups you will tone and add muscle to your entire core and your arms. 

100 push-ups, 100 pull ups for 30 days results

Work Cited

Quora Which is Better Push Ups or Pull Ups?

https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/muscles-worked-push-ups

https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/benefit-of-pull-up#:~:text=Pullups%20use%20your%20lats%20and,you’ll%20need%20to%20strengthen.

https://greatist.com/fitness/bodyweight-push-up-variations

https://teachmeanatomy.info/upper-limb/muscles/upper-arm/

https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/15-best-pullup-variations/

https://www.itstactical.com/fitcom/functional-strength-fitcom/functional-strength-developing-the-pull-up/

https://www.gym-pal.uk/2019/01/pull-ups.html

https://www.insidehook.com/article/health-and-fitness/how-to-increase-your-pull-up-count#:~:text=According%20to%20Torre%20Washington%2C%20trainer,maintain%20contact%20with%20the%20ground.

https://www.muscleandfitness.com/routine/workouts/workout-routines/pullup-pushup-workout/

https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/wall-pushups

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