Video: The Push/Pull Relationship – Comparing Pull Up and Press

What can the pull up teach us about the press and vice versa? A lot – they are very similar, or rather, they should be very similar if done correctly. Watch this video to find out how.

Our skeletal structure dictates that we can move our limbs in a certain way. Deviation from this will result in aches, pains, and in some cases catastrophic injury. The fitness world today is rife with different exercise paradigms, but how different are they, really? Simply put, our elbow bends only one way, whether we are engaged in free fall skydiving, Pilates, mixed martial arts, or salsa dancing. Thus we can also find similarities between different movements.

For example, as stated in the video, the start of the overhead press is the finish of the pull up and vice versa. So, if we consider the two movements of the overhead press and the pull up, while seemingly different, they both work the same muscle group. A strong pull up will enable you to shift more weight overhead and by flaring your lats you are in a tighter body position that allows you to handle greater load.

When dealing with increasing resistance you must have a tight body position. This provides the foundation necessary for you to correctly work the resistance, which is needed to make significant strength gains. Adopting a correct front rack prior to executing the press is very similar to the position of the elbows at the finish position of a chest to bar pull up.

This pull/push relationship forms the basis of many training programs today. We must not forget that the human body is dynamic in nature; while some isolation of body parts can be achieved there is never true isolation. Improvement in one area of the body will have transferrable strength gains to another.

While movements may not be done in true isolation, we still can do them strictly. The word “strict” in the fitness industry has many connotations. In my opinion it means there is no countermovement before an exercise is performed. In the video the pull up was a dead hang variant and the press was a strict press, not a push press. The push press uses the dip and drive of the hips in order to put the load overhead. At no point was there slow movement in either the press or pull up. Both were executed in an explosive manner. Strict does not mean slow. I concede there are many schools of thought that suggest a certain rep cadence is required when building strength, however daily life is dynamic. There are no periods where we are in slow motion, so why train that way at the gym?

We need to teach our bodies how we would like them to move so that we get the best result. The popular media has us chasing the six-pack abs and the awesome arms, but this training is focused on the aesthetic and not the athletic. I guarantee if you train for performance and not looks, and couple this within a healthy eating regimen, you will reap the rewards of both looking great and being truly in shape.

Until next time – care about your performance!

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