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Bodyweight Pull ups and chest training

Simply strong

Level 5 Valued Member
Is your question:

"do pull ups do anything for the chest"

or

"are pull ups a very effective chest exercise vs the alternatives"

I thought it was the latter.
My motivation was more to find out to what extent you can expect it to work your chest. I’ve heard from a few sources that pull ups hit chest. A few people I've known will say they can never hit as good a bench after pull up training or as many pull ups after benching. A PT friend of mine who focuses on callisthenics (who to me seems quite advanced to me with his full planche’s, handstand push ups and 20+ muscle ups etc) will die on the hill that pull ups are a great chest builder. Other people, like yourself, will vehemently disagree. Its a great thing to have a resource such as this thread
 

Bill Lets

Level 5 Valued Member
My motivation was more to find out to what extent you can expect it to work your chest.
I highly recommend “Strength Training Anatomy” the third edition. Chin’s do involve the pec’s. The pull up more so. If all you did was chins you would have well developed pec’s also and you would have a decent and athletic upper body. Are chin’s and pull ups optimal movements for chest development, no.

Milo had big pec’s but they could have been more developed if he pressed the bull instead of carrying the bull.

I like this forum and am still learning. Train hard.
 

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watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
My motivation was more to find out to what extent you can expect it to work your chest. I’ve heard from a few sources that pull ups hit chest. A few people I've known will say they can never hit as good a bench after pull up training or as many pull ups after benching. A PT friend of mine who focuses on callisthenics (who to me seems quite advanced to me with his full planche’s, handstand push ups and 20+ muscle ups etc) will die on the hill that pull ups are a great chest builder. Other people, like yourself, will vehemently disagree. Its a great thing to have a resource such as this thread

Why not do both?

i.e. pull ups + direct chest training?
 

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
From what I've been able to find, pullups do work the pecs but not as well as other exercises do.

Here's an n=1 coincidence - My wife recently did a bunch of assisted pullups at the local gym (an exercise she doesn't do too often) and is complaing about soreness in arms, lats, and pecs.
 

Don Fairbanks

SFG II
Certified Instructor
From what I've been able to find, pullups do work the pecs but not as well as other exercises do.

Here's an n=1 coincidence - My wife recently did a bunch of assisted pullups at the local gym (an exercise she doesn't do too often) and is complaing about soreness in arms, lats, and pecs.
I would imagine.
Many would get sore in those areas from hanging alone, just from the stretch.
 
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Simply strong

Level 5 Valued Member
Why not do both?

i.e. pull ups + direct chest training?

Playing devils advocate…

Specificity. I don’t think it’s productive to leave muscles completely untrained so if your goal is a big kettlebell press and 20 BW pull ups why waste time and recovery points doing dips if pull ups do in fact hit the chest? If they don’t at all it’s worth doing some chest work though
 

Simply strong

Level 5 Valued Member
To this point:

FWIW, I can't hit as many squats after pull ups.

Or as many pull ups after squats.

Because systemic fatigue is a thing.
This is true but the effect is different. Your bench is going to be way more affected than your squats if followed by a hard session of dips.

Trained individuals I think can be trusted to know the difference.
 
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Dayz

Level 7 Valued Member
Pushups train calves more than incline flies.

Chin ups train chest more than lateral raises.

I thought this place was about movements?

Show me someone who has a bad chest that can do 1/2BW press and 20 pullups.

Go to the gym and see guys doing chest exercises 3 days a week and compare.

You can't, because thoracic extension and a strong back improves the chest too.
With all due respect, and I mean that, I think you're repeating a lot of marketing ideas about minimalism here. Don't get me wrong, the value of minimalism is huge: a big return on investment, especially for busy people. But let's not get carried away. Generally speaking, not so minimalist training (as ROP, S&S) will lead to far better results in absolute terms.

To your point, of course pushups train calves more than flies. But that doesn't mean either exercise trains calves effectively. They don't. This point can be extended to press/chins and chest, or, to put it in movement terms, horizontal pressing, which is really important and will make you a lot bigger and stronger than if you neglect it.

Re your point about 1/2 BW press and pullups, I could show you pictures of myself. :) I got close to a half bodyweight press using ROP, and hit strict 23 pullups using fighter pullup program. Had I been training horizontal pressing, I would have been stronger and had a bigger chest. Using myself as an example, now that I'm training deficit pushups and dips, my chest and triceps has grown immensely compared to back then.

If we were to compare that to someone doing "chest" exercises three days a week, it depends what they're doing but they'll probably be stronger and bigger, such as if they're doing a powerlifting program or proper bodybuilding program.

The science on all this is really clear.
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
Playing devils advocate…

Specificity. I don’t think it’s productive to leave muscles completely untrained so if your goal is a big kettlebell press and 20 BW pull ups why waste time and recovery points doing dips if pull ups do in fact hit the chest? If they don’t at all it’s worth doing some chest work though

Well, I'll tell you what I do and why.

Nothing in the horizontal plane is a competition press lift for me, so I am massively overhead-dominant (snatch, jerk, push press, press), 4x a week.

And my cardio (rowing) is horizontal pulling.

So for general shoulder health, I do a lot better if I do other planes of pressing (horizontal, opposite vertical in the form of dips) about 2x a week.
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
I don't know how this thread made it to almost 4 friggin pages...

NO, pull-ups are not good for building the chest. They are probably one of the best upper body exercises, so yes, they do have an effect, but if you make them your "chest go-to movement" then you're going to be pretty disappointed...
 

North Coast Miller

Level 8 Valued Member
Pushups executed to a low depth have better carryover to pullups than any pulling exercise will have to pushing, by virtue of engaging the lats, and not just as a stabilizer. True the activation drops off as the elbows pass the ribcage but it starts off high.

The pecs during a pullup are less engaged than adductors during a squat, but a similar role. The pecs can’t pull the elbow down from an anterior extension, they can only pull in.
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
Pushups executed to a low depth have better carryover to pullups than any pulling exercise will have to pushing, by virtue of engaging the lats, and not just as a stabilizer. True the activation drops off as the elbows pass the ribcage but it starts off high.

The pecs during a pullup are less engaged than adductors during a squat, but a similar role. The pecs can’t pull the elbow down from an anterior extension, they can only pull in.G
Good stuff and absolutely true. If I take a lot of time off from push-ups I can almost certainly plan on sore lats the next time I do a lot of them.
 

silveraw

Level 7 Valued Member
I think a lot of this comes from the DESIRE for minimalism to be able to tick all boxes. I too wish pullups trained chest/horizontal pressing adequately.
For sure. Minimalism isn't a synonym for "great at everything". It's good at the thing it's designed for.
For example, PTTP is a great classic minimalist strength program. But it is an awful program to train for your next powerlifting meet.

Pullups, swings, and presses are a great minimalist program... But its an awful program for chest development. (ETK has a whole section dedicated to how it doesn't build "breast like pecs" aka develop the chest)
 

silveraw

Level 7 Valued Member
Sorry can you clarify - do you mean you think ROP is minimalist or that S&S is not minimalist?
Now I'm curious what people think maximalist training looks like...
Marty Gallagher's training is described as minimalist by Pavel and he has like 20 different exercises a week in his cycles.
 
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