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Bodyweight Pull ups and chest training

John K

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Next time you press a KB overhead with your right arm, put your left hand on your right chest. You should feel the chest muscles working.

I mean... on a press my glutes and calves are firing too. But I wouldn't call it good at developing my glutes and calves.
I think there's two things going on here.

First: Without spending too much time into the taxonomy of muscles, I'd classify it almost as working vs training. I can feel my back almost cramping on a heavy set of max rep presses - and while I think the back is playing an important role, I wouldn't say it is being "trained" or is getting stronger (or bigger). The feeling my my shoulders and triceps is different, and I think they are being actively trained. Similarly, quads and glutes and even toes can contract very hard almost to the point of cramping during a maximal pressing activity - but I wouldn't say they are being trained so much as working.

Second: Technique. If you are arching your upper back and have some lay back, you will (likely) have more pec involvement. I have a decent amount of lay back in the initial 1/3 of a press, particularly with a barbell, and I would say that the pec is a little more involved than in the "working" examples above. It doesn't get "trained" to the same extent as when I do a bench press, but I think it is more trained than the back.

Again, I don't have a good way of defining and explaining "working" vs. "training." Feel free to tear that classification apart.
 

GovernorSilver

Level 5 Valued Member
I mean... on a press my glutes and calves are firing too. But I wouldn't call it good at developing my glutes and calves.

Agreed. If someone believes "developing the chest" means losing fat, then sure, presses pullups and swings are fine. But in its common usage, not the most effective choice.

My understanding is the OP only wants to do presses and pullups, no other exercise, yet is worried about not working the chest at all. Too bad he did not explicitly state that he wants to grow a nice wide chest too.

Sometime this year, I plan to run another training block of Easy Muscle. This time it will be Schedule A (clean and press only) - hopefully with double 16kg KBs - can't really tell right now if the mobility work I'm doing will be enough to prepare me for the double press.

I'll be sure to take chest measurements before and after. I'm actually more interested in seeing how much my arms and shoulders grow than my chest, but might as well record the data, in case somebody asks "is my chest gonna shrink if I work KB presses but don't do any chest-targeting work?" or something like that.

Of course if I were really worried that my chest might not grow as much as I would like, I'd do Schedule B instead which includes dips... and chin ups. Schedule B has the dips and chinups on a different day, not the same day as the clean-and-press. So if you can only spare 20 min. a day for your workout, it will still be only 20 min. - you won't be asked to increase your workout time to 40 min. to make room for dips.
 
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silveraw

Level 7 Valued Member
I think there's two things going on here.

First: Without spending too much time into the taxonomy of muscles, I'd classify it almost as working vs training. I can feel my back almost cramping on a heavy set of max rep presses - and while I think the back is playing an important role, I wouldn't say it is being "trained" or is getting stronger (or bigger). The feeling my my shoulders and triceps is different, and I think they are being actively trained. Similarly, quads and glutes and even toes can contract very hard almost to the point of cramping during a maximal pressing activity - but I wouldn't say they are being trained so much as working.

Second: Technique. If you are arching your upper back and have some lay back, you will (likely) have more pec involvement. I have a decent amount of lay back in the initial 1/3 of a press, particularly with a barbell, and I would say that the pec is a little more involved than in the "working" examples above. It doesn't get "trained" to the same extent as when I do a bench press, but I think it is more trained than the back.

Again, I don't have a good way of defining and explaining "working" vs. "training." Feel free to tear that classification apart.
Yeah... I had "Just like Dan John's paradigm of runners run, rowers row your muscles are similar. Movers move, stabilizers stabilize."

But then thought of the isometrics thread and decided it would be a can of worms.

Also the olympic OHP came to mind too... But I really hope nobody is using that technique with their kettlebells.
 

silveraw

Level 7 Valued Member
Too bad he did not explicitly state that he wants to grow a nice wide chest too.
Lol I could swear he said that... But good point that reframes the conversation correctly.

I'm curious to see your results. Have you done any horizontal pushes previously? Detraining would be interesting to see too. If your chest doesn't shrink is an interesting result too (but probably moot if you are just doing a 4 week block or something not long enough to detrain.)
 

GovernorSilver

Level 5 Valued Member
Lol I could swear he said that... But good point that reframes the conversation correctly.

I'm curious to see your results. Have you done any horizontal pushes previously? Detraining would be interesting to see too. If your chest doesn't shrink is an interesting result too (but probably moot if you are just doing a 4 week block or something not long enough to detrain.)

Last horizontal push training I did was this exercise - isometric hold into involuntary eccentric, then the hardest concentric push I've ever done in my life:


I had to stop it though after a few weeks because my shoulder was already damaged from similarly overloaded pike pushup training. I just didn't listen enough to my body.

Oh actually I did do some RTO suspension pushups as part of Red Delta Project's micro workouts, some of which also included suspension fly and tricep press variations.

Regarding your other comment, I use KB press technique when I practice isometric shoulder press - body straight and tight, elbows not too wide apart, etc.

Easy Muscle is all 8-week blocks. Not sure what "detraining" is.
 
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silveraw

Level 7 Valued Member
Not sure what "detraining" is.
Basically what happens when you don't train something.
Say you have a 400lb squat.
You switch to a program that is just deadlifts and presses.
When you go back to squatting after 3 months you squat will no longer be 400lbs. It has detrained.
 

GovernorSilver

Level 5 Valued Member
Basically what happens when you don't train something.
Say you have a 400lb squat.
You switch to a program that is just deadlifts and presses.
When you go back to squatting after 3 months you squat will no longer be 400lbs. It has detrained.

Thanks for the explanation.

After my next Easy Muscle training block, the training block after that does not include horizontal pushing, so detraining will not be a factor.
 

GovernorSilver

Level 5 Valued Member
Now that I think about it, the next block does include isometric Zercher squat. I might see a detraining effect there, depending on the effects of the clean-and-press on lower body muscle and strength. My hypothesis is 1-rep max testing will show a dip, more because of not practicing the isometric squat for 8 weeks, than shrinking muscles in the legs/butt.
 
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Dayz

Level 7 Valued Member
Honestly, I respectfully don’t agree because this is a too much a generic statement because strength, being conditioned, hypertrophy are all specific terms. They mean sth with in a context. And within any given context the one who is more focused will have a higher chance to be better.
I agree with what you've said above, but with respect, you've misread me, which is why I emphasised I was speaking in absolute terms. I.e., to get as strong as possible, as conditioned as possible, or as skilled as possible (etc), more is almost always more, and a minimalist program is useless, unless it's being used to address areas beyond the goal (e.g. strength for a pro runner, conditioning for a pro powerlifter, etc).

Maybe this is one way to put it. No one ever became the best at anything, or even extremely good at anything - such as marathon running, powerlifting, tennis etc - by following a minimalist program. They usually follow highly specialised but maximalist programs.

By that I mean, they do highly specific endeavours (e.g. running for a marathon runner) as much as humanly possible (e.g. 6 days per week, often 2x per day).

A minimalist program is only useful for achieving minimal required results. E.g. that same hypothetical marathon runner using a maximalist running program would use a minimalist strength program to achieve some modest baselines, and so on. Or a busy entrepreneur would run a minimalist program like S&S to achieve a minimal baseline of strength and conditioning simultaneously. Etc etc.

All pretty uncontroversial, I think :)
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
I agree with what you've said above, but with respect, you've misread me, which is why I emphasised I was speaking in absolute terms. I.e., to get as strong as possible, as conditioned as possible, or as skilled as possible (etc), more is almost always more, and a minimalist program is useless, unless it's being used to address areas beyond the goal (e.g. strength for a pro runner, conditioning for a pro powerlifter, etc).

Maybe this is one way to put it. No one ever became the best at anything, or even extremely good at anything - such as marathon running, powerlifting, tennis etc - by following a minimalist program. They usually follow highly specialised but maximalist programs.

...
All pretty uncontroversial, I think :)
I have said many times (here as well) that "Sometimes less is not more - sometimes less is just less".
 

Ege

Level 6 Valued Member
I agree with what you've said above, but with respect, you've misread me, which is why I emphasised I was speaking in absolute terms. I.e., to get as strong as possible, as conditioned as possible, or as skilled as possible (etc), more is almost always more, and a minimalist program is useless, unless it's being used to address areas beyond the goal (e.g. strength for a pro runner, conditioning for a pro powerlifter, etc).

Maybe this is one way to put it. No one ever became the best at anything, or even extremely good at anything - such as marathon running, powerlifting, tennis etc - by following a minimalist program. They usually follow highly specialised but maximalist programs.

By that I mean, they do highly specific endeavours (e.g. running for a marathon runner) as much as humanly possible (e.g. 6 days per week, often 2x per day).

A minimalist program is only useful for achieving minimal required results. E.g. that same hypothetical marathon runner using a maximalist running program would use a minimalist strength program to achieve some modest baselines, and so on. Or a busy entrepreneur would run a minimalist program like S&S to achieve a minimal baseline of strength and conditioning simultaneously. Etc etc.

All pretty uncontroversial, I think :)
I hear you. I tend to lose this debate quite often :) I might need to talk for my self or similar people who were sedentary otherwise for a long time.

I show fastest progress with programs that have fewer exercises. And this might be due to many reasons.

I am trying to teach my self to stay focus indeed. I am not saying I have achieved great results by using minimalist programs, on the contrary I have changed modalities, programs, goals quite often in the past. Since I am a beginner, this approach worked fine for me, but I think having a few basic goals and selecting programs with few exercise selections will be best for me or people like me to speed up the progression.

A focused routine for flexibility for my most problematic areas, a minimalist hypertrophy program when I focus on hypertrophy, a minimalist strength program, a minimalist conditioning such as a progressive walking routine is what I am trying to put in place hopefully.

And in this forum, I am learning, and when I state my ideas they are like notes to myself… and always looking for correction or challenge to my ideas.

When I lose a debate defending minimal approach, it is generally either from experienced people with long training history or people referring to athletes. Maybe I should frame my point better and stay away from generalizations. And leave more general to be minimal or not debates to more experienced people :)
 

Dayz

Level 7 Valued Member
I hear you. I tend to lose this debate quite often :) I might need to talk for my self or similar people who were sedentary otherwise for a long time.

I show fastest progress with programs that have fewer exercises. And this might be due to many reasons.

I am trying to teach my self to stay focus indeed. I am not saying I have achieved great results by using minimalist programs, on the contrary I have changed modalities, programs, goals quite often in the past. Since I am a beginner, this approach worked fine for me, but I think having a few basic goals and selecting programs with few exercise selections will be best for me or people like me to speed up the progression.

A focused routine for flexibility for my most problematic areas, a minimalist hypertrophy program when I focus on hypertrophy, a minimalist strength program, a minimalist conditioning such as a progressive walking routine is what I am trying to put in place hopefully.

And in this forum, I am learning, and when I state my ideas they are like notes to myself… and always looking for correction or challenge to my ideas.

When I lose a debate defending minimal approach, it is generally either from experienced people with long training history or people referring to athletes. Maybe I should frame my point better and stay away from generalizations. And leave more general to be minimal or not debates to more experienced people :)
You're super humble. These discussions definitely aren't about winning or losing imho, just about learning from and understanding more :)
 

Ege

Level 6 Valued Member
You're super humble. These discussions definitely aren't about winning or losing imho, just about learning from and understanding more :)
Thanks it is great fun, and I agree that there is no winning or losing when there is a focus on ideas/learnings/exploration. But still “winning” and “losing” in a soft way, makes it a bit more fun :)
These debates help me learn, even when I agree with an opposing idea, this does not necessarily mean my point is not valid for my self and where I am at life, and I have to change my regime in the opposite direction.

Thanks!
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
When I lose a debate defending minimal approach, it is generally either from experienced people with long training history or people referring to athletes.

I think this variance in training age underlies a lot these debates.

If you're untrained, recently sedentary, and have never done any direct chest training, a pull up may provide enough new and novel stimulus to grow your chest.

(as the saying goes, newbies can do anything and grow)

But with training age, that same stimulus will no longer be novel and/or will be a muted signal when compared to direct chest work that may have been done.

i.e. once you've done a lot of dips, push ups, ring work, and bench, the chest stimulus from pull ups pales in comparison.
 

TimothyGander

Level 5 Valued Member
No one ever became the best at anything, or even extremely good at anything - such as marathon running, powerlifting, tennis etc - by following a minimalist program.
But certainly no one has become extremely good at tennis or marathon running (or any non strength-focused sport like powerlifting) by following a maximalist strength program.

I always thought that was the main argument for minimalist programming - it gets the strength part of training done while not exhausting time/energy/recovery ability of a given individual. So, say, a tennis player would be better served by doing a minimalist strength program and focusing on actually practicing tennis rather that doing a maximalist strength program with sport practice taking a back seat. The same argument goes for violent occupations (enemies aren't going to stop trying to kill you because you need to recover from heavy squats) and for most regular people (whose "sport" that consumes most of their resources is just making a living and fulfilling other obligations).

It also goes with the idea of diminishing returns from strength. Sure, you can't get a 500 kg deadlift out of Power to the People. But unless you are a strongman or a powerlifter, you don't need a 500 kg deadlift, it will not further enhance anything you do as compared to one you could get out of PTTP.

Of course, this reasoning does not apply if maximum strength is your sport. No one, certainly not Pavel, would recommend doing a minimalist strength program to powerlifters, weightlifters, strongmen, Crossfit Games participants and so on.
 

Boris Bachmann

Level 7 Valued Member
But certainly no one has become extremely good at tennis or marathon running (or any non strength-focused sport like powerlifting) by following a maximalist strength program.

I always thought that was the main argument for minimalist programming - it gets the strength part of training done while not exhausting time/energy/recovery ability of a given individual. So, say, a tennis player would be better served by doing a minimalist strength program and focusing on actually practicing tennis rather that doing a maximalist strength program with sport practice taking a back seat. The same argument goes for violent occupations (enemies aren't going to stop trying to kill you because you need to recover from heavy squats) and for most regular people (whose "sport" that consumes most of their resources is just making a living and fulfilling other obligations).

It also goes with the idea of diminishing returns from strength. Sure, you can't get a 500 kg deadlift out of Power to the People. But unless you are a strongman or a powerlifter, you don't need a 500 kg deadlift, it will not further enhance anything you do as compared to one you could get out of PTTP.

Of course, this reasoning does not apply if maximum strength is your sport. No one, certainly not Pavel, would recommend doing a minimalist strength program to powerlifters, weightlifters, strongmen, Crossfit Games participants and so on.
You (or someone else in the thread) are creating a dichotomy here that doesn't exist. There's good or bad training, over or under training, sport specific preparation or gpp, but I've never heard of minimalist vs. maximalist training when it comes to sport. Minimum effective dose? Of course! But minimum effective dose applies no matter how you train or what you are training for. A minimalist program might be exactly what you need to improve your pecs (assuming that's the OP's goal), but a minimalist program that doesn't include specific chest exercises might not be the best.... GAH!
 

watchnerd

Level 8 Valued Member
No one, certainly not Pavel, would recommend doing a minimalist strength program to powerlifters, weightlifters, strongmen, Crossfit Games participants and so on.

For meet prep in May, I'm currently practicing weightlifting 8 hours a week.

And to @Boris Bachmann 's point, I feel like this is the *minimum* effective dose for me to be competition ready.

If I could find the time (including for extra sleep and extra recovery work), I wish I could do 10-12 hours.

But I'd have to be retired to pull that off.
 

TimothyGander

Level 5 Valued Member
You (or someone else in the thread) are creating a dichotomy here that doesn't exist. There's good or bad training, over or under training, sport specific preparation or gpp, but I've never heard of minimalist vs. maximalist training when it comes to sport.
SF's programming is often referred to as minimalist, and while I have never seen "maximalist" training described as such before reading this thread, it is a logical counterpart to "minimalist" programming..

Many people argue that Pavel's two-lift programs are inadequate because they do not contain a squat or an upper body pull. Then some would argue further that both horizontal and vertical pushes/pulls need to be included, and don't forget about the lunges, and Bulgarian split squats, and landmine presses, and pike pushups, and Albanian pistol cleans...

Jeff Cavaliere of AthleanX has a video called "12 exercises everyone must include in their program" along with tons of videos of many different things one must do every day to avoid killing your gains, and he's not even the most extreme among fitness influencers with this.

Then there's Crossfit with hundreds if not thousands of exercises available for a WOD and bodybuilding-style approaches that demand every possible movement of every joint must be trained in isolation.

So I would argue that the maximalist approach to training, and a dichotomy (or rather a spectrum) between it and minimalist hardstyle programming does actually exist.
 
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