The Official Push Up Pull Up Challenge (Includes Follow-along PDF)

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
October 26, 2021

Welcome to our Push Up Pull Up Challenge! Get ready for an awesome workout that is going to build muscle in all the key parts of your upper body — all with different variations of push ups and pull ups. If you’re looking for a bodyweight-based solution to get a toned, muscular physique, this is exactly what you need.

push up pull up workout

Push Up Pull Up Challenge Workout Tracker (PDF Download)

I’ve even included a free download the Push Up Pull Up Challenge here. Just download it and print it off. This is ideal for tracking your progress. Feel free to print multiple copies so you can track your progress over time.

Why Did We Create The Push Up Pull Up Challenge?

As fans of calisthenics, we’re constantly refuting the notion that there’s nothing more to our discipline than push ups and pull ups. That’s just plain not true. There are literally thousands upon thousands of calisthenics maneuvers out there, and a lot of them are pretty difficult.

Now, that being said, one of the great things about bodyweight training is that you can keep things pretty simple, meaning, if you did just want to stick with push ups and pull ups, that can work for you, too!

So today, we’ve got a great workout for people who want to have a toned, lean upper body while keeping things simple. We’re going back to the basics while getting buff, so to speak. Because if you want a total upper body workout, you can get it with a few variations of those two classic calisthenics exercises.

2 Levels of the Push Up Pull Up Challenge (Basic & Advanced)

If you’re worried this challenge may be too easy/difficult for you, we’ve got two different levels for you to try! So whether you’re looking for a “basic” workout or something more on the “advanced” side, we’ll get your blood pumping with an awesome, challenging workout.

Note: both the basic and advanced challenges do require full pull ups, so if that’s not something you’re able to do, this workout may not be for you. However, we do have a terrific 8-week program called Calisthenics for Beginners, which you should definitely check out! Of course, if you want to work on your pull up skill with a progressive pull up sequence that would be a great first step.

The Benefits of the Challenge

A lot of people think in order to get an upper body they’d be excited to show off at the beach, they need to spend hours upon hours bench pressing, curling, shrugging and pulling heavy weights. This push up / pull up workout is going to put that argument to bed, because all you’re going to need to work with is your own body.

And calisthenics exercises like the ones we’re about to show you are going to get that lean and mean body we’re going for. But we should mention, if you’re going for huge, bulging muscles and want to look more like a bulldozer than an athlete, this workout (and calisthenics in general) probably won’t be what you’re looking for.

“But push ups and pull ups only work your chest and back! What about the rest of my upper body?”

Oh yeah, we’ve heard that before. Now, in a way, that’s half-true: a standard push up primarily works the pectoralis major (chest muscle), while the standard pull up is mostly for the back muscles. But even the traditional styles of these exercises work more than one area. After all, that’s one of the best parts of calisthenics: you’re working several muscle groups at once, instead of isolating them as you would with gym machines and weights.

And the variations of these two exercises are going to hit all the major spots of the upper body — chest and back, sure, but also biceps, triceps, shoulders and core. It truly is a total upper body workout with just push ups and pull ups.

By incorporating this challenge into your repertoire of workouts, you’re going to build solid definition and get that toned physique that will make you want to walk around shirtless (please be mindful of the climate when considering this).

Let’s quickly break down the basics of each exercise and all the benefits they provide.

Exercise 1: The Push Up

push-up-challenge

Most everyone has, at least at one point in their life, performed a push up. The last time may have been an hour ago during your workout. It may be 9th grade gym class. Either way, it’s something that most all of us are at least somewhat familiar with.

However, what most people fail to realize is how beneficial these incredibly popular exercises are, and how much can be done with them.

As the old saying goes, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Maybe that phrase should be changed to, “There’s more than one way to do a push up.” It’s a lot less morbid, and besides, even if you’re not really into exercise, a push up is a much better use of your time than cat skinning.

The point is, there are more types of push ups than we can even list here, but all of them can target a different muscle group in addition to the chest. And this push up/pull up challenge is going to have several push up variations that will target your shoulders, triceps, core, and of course, chest.

Exercise 2: The Pull Up

pull-ups-challenge

Now, the pull up, despite being about as popular as the push up, is something a lot more people struggle with. It can take an athlete a lot longer to execute their first pull up than their first push up. But that’s no reason to shy away from this challenge.

If you’re looking to do the basic challenge, your circuit will have simple variations of the exercise in lower reps, though it will still activate your biceps and core in addition to your major back muscles.

For our advanced athletes, you’ll find a nice mixture of traditional pull ups along with some interesting variations you may not have done before. These exercises, in addition to sculpting your back, you’ll be working your biceps, forearms and core. Plus, you’ll do wonders for improving your grip strength! Get ready for some firm handshakes.

Now, if you don’t have a pull up bar, don’t worry. There are plenty of acceptable substitutes for a pull up bar, some of which you can find right in your own home.

The Push Up Pull Up Challenge Full Tutorial

Let’s get to this awesome challenge! Make sure you’re nice and stretched, and be sure to keep a bottle of water nearby.

Again, we’ve got two options here: a basic circuit and an advanced one. Find which one is more within your wheelhouse, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. If you feel like you’re somewhere in the middle (the basic circuit is too easy, yet you’re not able to do the advanced circuit), consider adding some reps to each set of the basic circuit. And feel free to tac on some more reps to the advanced circuit, if you’re feeling extra beastly!

How To Do The Push Up Pull Up Challenge (Basic Version)

Directions:

Complete the number of reps indicated. Once completed, rest approximately 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise in the circuit. Complete 3 total sets, resting approximately 2 minutes between each set.

Standard push-up — 8

Australian pull-up — 8

Wide push-up — 8

Wide grip pull up — 4

Narrow push-up — 6

Narrow grip pull-up — 4

pushup-pullup-basic

How To Do The Push Up Pull Up Challenge (Advanced Version)

Directions:

Complete the number of reps indicated. Once completed, rest approximately 30 seconds before moving on to the next exercise in the circuit. Complete 3 total sets, resting approximately 2 minutes between each set.

Standard push up — 10

Wide grip pull up — 6

Wide push up — 8

Narrow grip pull up — 5

Pseudo planche push up — 8

Towel grip pull up — 5

Diamond push-ups — 10

Mix grip pull ups — 6

pushup-pullup-challenge-advanced

How Often Should I Perform This Push Up Pull Up Workout?

This workout can build lean muscle and help you improve your overall tone in your upper body. With any fitness training plan, variety is how to keep your muscles from reaching a plateau. So I recommend using this workout to shake up your normal routine. Not necessarily as a stand-alone plan that you follow on a regular basis.

Can I Vary The Exercises In the Challenge?

Of course, If you find an exercise too difficult or easy feel free to swap it out for a different exercise. The challenge is a framework that you can build on. In fact, even changing up 1 or 2 exercises in the challenge will force your muscles to adapt. Overtime, you’ll want to continue to increase the number of reps if you are finding the exercises getting too easy for you.

 

 

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Show/Hide Comments (4 comments)
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4 Comments
  1. Snotti Prince St. Cyr

    Dear Mr. Kuslikis:

    The download link for this program is not working; there is always an error coming up. Could you please fix this? I would greatly appreciate it.

    Reply
  2. Tim

    Great article and workout plan Todd. though…when I click through to get the push up / pull up workout sheets I get a message saying that the lead pages for the download doesn’t exist.

    Reply
  3. elie makdessi

    this work out basic or advanced every day or ?

    Reply
  4. Joe

    Tried out the basic push-up/pull-up workout this morning. I really enjoyed the workout! It definitely was tough and I had to exert myself especially on those pull-ups, but I feel that the workout was very good, and I was able to add some additional reps here and there as well as an additional push-up round. I would like to give the advanced version a shot after doing this one after a while. I also liked how the workout was evenly spaced in 3 sets, I felt it gave me ample recover time as well as a chance to pace myself and max out when able to. Thanks Todd for the excellent workout!

    Reply
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