My Sneaky Way to Get Better at Pushups and Pullups

Pushups and Pullups are two of the best calisthenic exercises known to man.  Pushups require absolutely no equipment whatsoever.  Pullups just require a bar, tree branch, playground equipment, or anything that you can grab and pull yourself over.  This article will guide you from pushup and pullup dud to pushup and pullup stud.

Proper Pushup Form

Proper pushups require the full extension of the arms at the top of the movement and your chest must almost touch the floor at the bottom of the movement.  Your back should be straight and your head should be neutral.  Where you place your hands is up to you.  A closer grip will hit the triceps more.  A wider grip will hit the chest more.  As you get better at pushups I suggest using a variety of pushups such as close grip, diamond, medium grip, wide grip, feet elevated, clapping, and holding onto dumbbells.  However, if you don’t go through a full range of motion you are only fooling yourself.

Proper Pullup Form


This is quite simple, but not necessarily easy.  Find a bar.  Grab it and hang from it with your arms straight.  Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, then lower yourself back down.  Repeat for the desired number of reps.  The grip you use is up to you.  Overhand, underhand, neutral, etc.  I prefer to use a variety of grips to hit the muscles differently.


How do I gain the ability to do more pushups and pullups?  The secret is frequency.  Pushups and pullups respond best when they are done frequently.  You may be able to bench press, deadlift, and squat once a week and get stronger.  Pushups and pullups are meant to be done multiple times a week by greasing the groove.

The muscles involved can recover quickly.  In the past I have done pushups and pullups 3x a day and received excellent results.  However, not everyone has time for that.  So what I recommend is doing pushups and pullups as an added bonus to your regular workouts.

For example, I lift weights 4 days a week.  At the end of each workout I would do one set of pushups and one set of pullups.  That is it one set.  I used this very technique to be able to do 100 pushups and 30 pullups.  I did not have any dedicated pushup or pullup workouts.  I NEVER did pushups or pullups to muscle failure.  I believe going to muscle failure on these exercises is highly counter productive and increases recovery time.


Okay, so I know I only have to do one set….but, how many reps should I do?  This is the tricky part.  This is going to be based on how many pushups and pullups you can do right now?  If you can do 10 pullups you are going to start with 5 pullups.  If you can do 40 pushups you are going to start with 20 pushups.  To make this easy, just whatever you can do in half.


How do I progress with only one set?  This is very, very, very easy.  Your goal is to add 1 pushup a day and 1 pullup a day.  So if you do pushups and pullups 4x a week and you start with 20 pushups and 5 pullups at the end of the first week you will be at 23 pushups and 8 pullups.  In just a few weeks you will smoke your old pushup and pullup numbers.  In a year you will be an absolute pushup and pullup beast.


I highly advise using different grips on pushups and pullups to ensure continued success.

For example:

Day 1:  Medium Pushup/Overhand Pullup

Day 2:  Close Grip Pushup/Underhand Pullup (Chinup)

Day 3:  Wide Grip Pushup/Neutral Grip Pullup

Day 4:  Handle (Dumbbell) Pushup/Wide Grip Pullup

If you mix up the grips you will keep your muscles guessing while getting the carryover from the different muscle stimulation.  Even though, you use different grips you must still force yourself to add one rep a day.

It doesn’t matter if you do pushups or pullups first.  I mix it up.  One day I will do pullups first and the next I will do pushups first.


So you want to test the fruits of your labor?  You have been doing one set a day for a few months now.  Pushups and Pullups have never been better, but you want to see how many pushups and pullups you can do.  Give yourself 2 or 3 days rest from pushups and pullups and upper body exercises so you can rest and recover.  Then warmup and go for a new personal record.

This is a very smart and efficient way to increase these exercises while not taking away from your other fitness goals.  Now, go out and do some pushups and pullups!





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