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Do the Perfect Push Up and Perfect Pull Up Really Work?

I’ve talked about the Perfect Push Up product in the past, and now there is even a Perfect Pull Up, but up until recently there hasn’t been any research on the efficacy of these devices.  That is, until now!

Two recent studies by a group from the Mayo clinic were just published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (here are the links to the two studies on the Perfect Push Up and the Perfect Pull Up).  Results are probably not what the companies want to hear, but be sure to read my thoughts below before you judge.

Does the Perfect Push Up or Perfect Pull Up Really Do Anything?

To answer this question, lets look at these two studies in detail and see if using the devices changes the amount of muscle activity.

Perfect Push Up Science

Perfect Push UpDuring the study for the Perfect Push Up, the authors looked at EMG of the triceps, pectoralis major, serratus anterior, and posterior deltoid.  Results demonstrate that there were no significant differences when performing a standard push up versus using the Perfect Push Up.  This was shown for normal, wide, and narrow hand positions.

Perfect Pull Up Science

Perfect Pull UpDuring the study for the Perfect Pull Up, the authors looked at EMG activity for the latissimus, biceps, infraspinatus, lower trapezius, pectoralis major, erector spinae, and external oblique.  Similar to the Perfect Push Up, there was no significant difference between the pull up (or chin up – this is actually the same study that we discussed last week) using a standard straight bar or the Perfect Pull Up

Should We Use the Perfect Push Up or the Perfect Pull Up?

I still like the Perfect Push Up.  At the very least, they are great handles, which should help a lot of people perform a push up exercise and spare their wrists.  I would not jump to conclusions and say that the Perfect Push Up is useless, one muscle group that was not investigated that may still be impacted by the Perfect Push Up is the subscapularis.  The authors did not look at EMG of the subscapularis.  As a user of the Perfect Push Up, I can tell you there is a noticeable difference, most likely coming from the internal rotation of the shoulder that you achieve at full arm extension.

As for the Perfect Pull Up, I would probably pass as I don’t think there is much to them.  The twisting and mobility of the attachment does not seem to impact the exercise.

Regardless, both are fairly cheap, so if they help your wrists or even help motivate you somehow, go get ‘em!  I think they are both fairly cheap on Amazon at the above links.  UPDATE: I don’t love the newer version of the Perfect Push Up, it is cheaper.  Go with the Perfect Push Up Elite model.

I still like the Perfect Push Up.  What has been your experience?  Have you tried either the Perfect Push Up or the Perfect Pull Up and liked or disliked them?

Pull Up or Chin Up? Which is Better?

Similar to my article on squat technique variations in the past, this week is dedicated to the pull up and chin up exercises.  Two similar, yet different exercises with some obvious benefits and differences between the two, most notably biceps involvement with the supinated position of the forearm during the chin up.  Personally, I have always thought of the chin up as more of a “beach muscle” exercise and something that I often avoided, especially in overhead athletes that already have issues with SLAP tears and the involvement of the long head of the biceps.

Pull Up

Photo by Jayel Aheram

Pull Up  Versus Chin Up

A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed some differences that were new to me, and may influence our choice between the pull up and chin up exercises.

The authors compared EMG activity of several muscle groups during both the pull up and chin up in 25 healthy subjects.  Both exercises showed significant involvement of the latissimus dorsi, ranging from 117-130% MVIC, obviously.  The chin up, as expected, had significantly higher biceps activity, however, the chin up also had significantly higher pectoralis major activity.

The pull up did have one advantage in regard to the EMG activity.  Lower trapezius activity was significantly higher in the pull up versus the chin up.

So is the pull up or chin up a “better” exercise?

I guess it depends on your definition of better since neither are bad.

If you are weightlifting for good looks and to impress the ladies – looks like the chin up is best for you – high lat activity with greater biceps and pec activity.

For those worried about posture, shoulder function, and general athleticism, as well as for those that may have some shoulder pathology, the pull up may be the better option as you minimize pectoralis major activity and maximize lower trapezius muscle activity.  Both are common goals when dealing with posture and upper body cross syndrome.  The lower trapezius is often an area that gets weak, especially in the presence of shoulder pathology, so any exercise variation that increases lower trap involvement is a plus for me, especially when you are likely performing the exercise primarily for the latissimus.

For the athletes, especially the overhead athletes that don’t want to emphasize biceps activity especially when the body is distracting away from the body, I would say the pull up is probably better suited.  Especially when you consider the above in regard to posture.

What do you think?  Does this information change your perspective on the pull up and chin up exercises?  What have you used as criteria to choose between the pull up and chin up?