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Coach’s Corner – Push-Up and Pull-Up

Of the many awkward tasks children are subjected to at school, the presidential fitness test surely ranks high. It’s also funny to look back and think about how easy all the tests were relative to how hard it is to work out as an adult.

The push-up and pull-up tests in particular seem to decline with age. While the technique may have been iffy, many children are able to crank out at least a few reps for each exercise. As adults, that’s not necessarily the case.

Why are these two exercises so difficult? And, assuming you’re not training to be a Navy Seal, why do you need to do them?

To start with, let’s compare the bench press and the push-up. While they work the same muscles, they’re two distinctly different movements. For a bench press, you’re pressing a bar above your chest. For a push-up, you’re pushing your body away from the ground, but your feet are on the ground. This creates an axis, meaning you’re not fully supporting all of your weight with your arms.

While this should make the push-up easier, it actually means you need more core strength. If your arms are strong but your core is weak, your hips will sag in the push-up. Therefore, a push-up is more of a full-body strength exercise than the bench press.

The other big difference is that you can’t easily control how much weight you’re pressing in a push-up. Or, can you? That’s why at TS we use vertical resistance bands to make the movement slightly easier, allowing your arms and chest to get stronger with assistance before trying the exercise without help.

The same logic applies to the pull-up: you probably need assistance at first. That’s why we use resistance bands to help pull you towards the bar. Over time we decrease the amount of resistance and you get stronger, until, one day, you don’t need any help!

While doing exercises like a pulldown can simulate a pull-up, and dumbbell bench press can simulate a push-up, you need to actually practice and get better at the movement using the assisted exercises described above if you want to do proper push-ups and pull-ups. However, if you do, you get the benefit of stronger arms, chest and back muscles. The push-up and pull-up are also considered more “functional” than exercises like the bench press and pulldown, meaning they have more carryover to real-life situations.

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