People have been arguing over the benefits of pull ups vs. bench press for quite a long time. The debate has raged on and recently has become more of a hot topic as bodyweight exercises have come back into style. So which is the superior exercise for building mass?
Let’s break it down and see if we can find the true answer!
The Bench Press
Most guys start on the bench press when they begin a lifting program. I am not sure if it is in our genes or what, but there is a natural draw to test your strength and then compare yourself against other men. That seems to be more primal and ego driven, as a way to determine who the king of the pack is.
Because of that when you start talking about pull ups vs. bench press for mass; many guys will probably go with bench press because it is more of their bread and butter. But is it truly a better mass builder?
If you do the exercise with good form it is an excellent mass builder. Primarily it works the chest, triceps and front deltoids. You also get some side and rear deltoid interaction and serratus muscles from stabilization along with just a little bit from the back. That is a decent number of muscles to engage and that is why the bench press is commonly listed as one of the top mass building compound exercises.
The Pull Up
Pull ups can be hard, depending on your bodyweight and strength when you start. Heavier guys tend to shy away from them because it is embarrassing how few you can do. Skinny guys usually have no problem, the lucky bastards. But, this exercise should be a staple of any back routine.
The pull up is almost a perfect exercise when executed properly. With a slight arch in your back and pulling to the upper chest you will contract your lats hard. Plus you get a nice bit of work on the traps, which run from the neck down the middle of the back. The read delts get some serious work along with moderate work on the side delts and even a little to the front. The forearms and biceps get a fantastic workout during the exercise.
Plus, one aspect that is often overlooked, you get a fantastic stretch. This exercise helps stretch the back, chest, and shoulders out. Stretching is important to growth and muscle size along with flexibility.
Head to Head
So between the bench press and pull up, which is the better mass builder? You can do weighted pull ups after mastering bodyweight, so really there is no difference there. What it has to get down to in regards to mass, is which exercise will have the most pronounced effect on the body.
For pull ups vs. bench press we are basically talking about the back versus the chest. The shoulders get fairly equal work, although with different emphasis. The triceps are larger than the biceps, but when you add the forearm work in from pull ups that makes it a fairly even comparison as well. So we are left with the chest and the back.
Now while the chest is more visibly prominent due to location, the back muscles are much bigger. The back and quads are the largest muscle groups in the body, which is one reason why people who truly want to gain mass focus attention on compound lifts for these muscles. It is a fact that if you train the biggest muscles and make them grow, there will be a trickle down affect for the rest of the body.
So with that in mind, the results of doing pull ups vs. the bench press for mass, if you had to pick only one it has to be pull-ups.