Mailbox: Pull or push, it makes a big difference

WHILE push-ups and pull-ups are two essential exercises in building upper body strength, they are radically different in the muscle groups targeted ("IPPT simplified to just three test stations"; last Thursday).

Push-ups build up pectoral (chest) muscles and triceps (back of upper arm), while pull-ups target latissimus (wing) muscles and biceps (front of upper arm).

The pull-up is far more difficult to perform than the push-up because the biceps are half the size of the triceps, and the latissimus muscles are seldom stressed in daily activities. One can literally do a hundred push-ups - an impossibility with pull-ups.

While any reasonably strong but obese person can do a push-up, one needs to be quite sinewy with a low body mass-to-muscle mass index to perform a pull-up.

Indeed, pull-up champions are lean and strong, yet not bulky, with physiques and body characteristics much more desirable for war combatants than bodybuilders.

Both push-ups and pull-ups are complementary to each other and should be in the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT). But given a choice of one or the other, we should opt for the pull-up simply because a grossly heavy body weight makes it impossible to pass this station - and isn't one of the objectives of the IPPT to induce national servicemen to maintain a healthy body mass index?

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

This article was first published on July 29, 2014.
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