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The Pullup-Pushup Workout Routine That Can Be Done Anywhere

The two exercises you need for a powerful upper body.

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Man-Pullup-Park-Blue-Skies
eclipse_images / Getty
Man-Pullup-Park-Blue-Skies
eclipse_images / Getty

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, along with some of the most effective variations, to build your back, arms, chest, and shoulders—no weights (or jail time) required. 

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How it works

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 of 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 pairs up a different variation of the pullup and pushup.

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Directions

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.

Routine

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The pullup-pushup workout routine

Push and Pull: Day 1

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 2

Feet-Elevated Pushup

Equipment
Bench
Sets
5
Reps
As many as possible
Rest
60-120 sec.
Exercise 2 of 2

Chinup

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
5
Reps
As many as possible
Rest
60-120 sec.

The pullup-pushup workout routine

Push and Pull: Day 2

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 3 of 2

Neutral-Grip Chinup

Equipment
V-Handle Attachment
Sets
4
Reps
4
Rest
60-120 sec.
Exercise 4 of 2

Close-Grip Pushup

Equipment
Medicine Ball
Sets
4
Reps
20-25
Rest
60-120 sec.

The pullup-pushup workout routine

Push and Pull: Day 3

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 5 of 2

Pushup

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
Count down from 6
Rest
60-120 sec.
How to
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.
Exercise 6 of 2

Chinup

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
3
Reps
As many as possible
Rest
60-120 sec.
Aim to touch your lower chest to the bar.

The pullup-pushup workout routine

Push and Pull: Day 4

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 7 of 2

Pullup

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
6
Reps
5
Rest
60-120 sec.
Exercise 8 of 2

Single-leg Pushup

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
6
Reps
10 (per leg)
Rest
60-120 sec.
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