Confused on Mixing Pullups /​ Pushups into Program

Pullup Bars

Here is a very commonly asked question about adding calisthenics like pushups, dips, and pullups into a standard weight training program.  The answer is that is can be done but it is not recommended one of the ways it is asked in this question:

“Stew, I am a little confused about adding pullups and pushups into my weight training program.  I mean should I mix them into the days I do upperbody like bench press and pulldowns or should I do them on separate days in between?”

Good question.  One thing you have to realize is that calisthenics is resistance training and these specific exercises work the same muscles as some of the most common weight machines /​ free weights do.  Also, consider pullups and dips as the HEAVY weight version of calisthenics as you are placing ALL of your body weight onto these major muscle groups.  These exercises require rest for you to truly grow.  Doing a day of bench press and pulldowns the following day is not going to be rest.  For instance:

Pullups will work the grip, back, biceps just as pulldowns, bent over rows, and bicep curls will.  Pullups are equivalent to nearly 100% of your body weight on your back /​ bicep muscles and all of your bodyweight on your grip muscles.

Dips are the same tough heavy weight exercise as pullups but focus the muscle groups of the chest, shoulders, and triceps at nearly 100% of your bodyweight.  This is very similar to doing bodyweight bench press or even military press as far as muscle stresses.  These exercises are considered the heavy lifting exercises of the calisthenics and require rest for recovery.

Pushups will actually only put about 40–50% of your body weight on your chest, shoulders, and triceps so it is less of a heavy weight exercise equivalent.  BUT, it still requires the same amount of rest as you would need during a weight lifting day of bench press, military press, and other pushing exercises.

So to answer your question, I would recommend either adding pullups and pushups into your chest and back workouts or make them your chest and back workouts.  DO NOT do weights one day and calisthenics the next of the same muscle groups.  You need to spend a day of recovering from these exercises and don’t work the same muscle groups until 48 hours later.  One of my favorite workouts in the gym that incorporates both weights and calisthenics is this:

Repeat 3–4 times
Bench press — bodyweight for max reps
Pullups — max reps
rest with plank pose for 1–2 minutes

Then do:

Repeat 3–4 times
Pulldowns — 10,10 (regular /​ reverse grips)
Pushups or Dips — max reps 1 minute
rest with abs of choice

Then continue your auxillary exercises to complete your workout like shoulder presses, bicep tricep exercises.

Hope this helps you create better workouts that will allow you to recover.  Because if you do not recover from your workouts you will not grow or get stronger.




  1. Jack B. says:

    I was pondering this exact question. A follow-​​up question would be, are bench-​​presses better than push-​​ups? Should one do both, or is there a clear advantage to one or the other?

    • Stew Smith says:

      Well — it depends on your goals but to be honest both are great. I recommend if you want to get 100+ pushups in a PFT you should do more pushups than bench press. If you want a 300+ bench press you need to bench press more. Sorry these are such obvious but it truly depends on your goals of performance or aesthetics.

    • Stew Smith says:

      Are bench presses better than pushups for WHAT? Once again it depends on your goals. If your goal is to bench press a truck — you need to do heavy bench presses and maybe only warmup with a few pushups. If you want to do hundreds of pushups — you need to do mostly pushups BUT you can add in some lightweight BP on your pushup days to add to the chest pump…

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Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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