The 21-Day Pushup and Pullup Plan

Tony Bonvechio
by Tony Bonvechio
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The 21-Day Pushup and Pullup Plan

A stronger upper body is just three weeks away with this 21-day pushup and pullup plan. Pushups and pullups may look intimidating, but if you start slow and build your volume over time, they quickly become easier.


Start with 10 reps of each exercise on Day 1, and then add one rep of each exercise every day for 21 days. You’ll accumulate enough reps to build strength and muscle — and really nail each move. Remember, you don’t have to do all your reps in a single set. You can break it up in multiple sets so you maintain perfect form (i.e. perform 10 reps in 2 sets of 5).

We’ve also picked two supplementary exercises — band pull-aparts and triceps pushdowns — that you’ll do every day to target your back and arm muscles to support your pushups and pullups. Think of your pushups and pullups as the exam and your supplementary exercises as your homework.


> 31-Day Squat, Lunge and Pushup Plan
> The 14-Day Plank Plan


  • Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor or an elevated surface (i.e., a bench, couch or wall).
  • Keep a straight line from head to toe by making a double chin, bracing your abs and squeezing your glutes.
  • As you lower yourself toward the floor, tuck your elbows in at about 45 degrees to your sides. Imagine pulling yourself to the floor by slowly squeezing your shoulder blade, rather than simply letting gravity pull you down.
  • Once your chest hits the floor, push yourself back to the starting position without letting your elbows flare out to the sides.

  • First, choose the right pullup variation for your strength level. If you can do regular pullups, that’s great. If not, don’t fret: try pullups with an assisted machine, wrap a band around the bar and your knee(s) or try feet-supported pullups with your feet on a box.
  • Grab a pullup bar with one of three shoulder-width grips: overhand, underhand or neutral (palms facing each other).
  • Build full-body tension by squeezing the handle tight, making a double chin and bracing your abs as if you were about to take a punch to the stomach.
  • Pull yourself toward the bar. Imagine your armpits doing the work, not your elbows.
  • At the top, keep your chest tall and your chin slightly tucked. Aim to pull your chest to the bar, not just your chin.
  • Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position, stopping just before your arms are completely straight. Be careful not to go into a “dead hang” position to reduce stress on your shoulders and elbows.

  • Hold a light resistance band at arm’s length and chest height.
  • Stand tall with a slight double chin while keeping your abs braced and glutes squeezed.
  • Without bending your arms, pull the band toward your chest by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Imagine trying to crack a walnut in the middle of your back.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.

  • Wrap a light resistance band around a pullup bar, power rack or the top of a doorframe.
  • Grab the band with a thumbs-up grip, keeping your arms bent and elbows by your sides.
  • Straighten your arms until your hands are by your hip pockets. Flex hard at the bottom so you feel your triceps doing the work, not the front of your shoulders.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.


Not ready to do full blown pushups and pullups yet? We’ve provided variations for all fitness levels so anyone can complete the challenge. Chances are if you stick with it for 21 days, you’ll gain enough strength to do more advanced versions of the exercises.




  • Get a wall calendar and mark a big X through each day you complete. The visual of finishing each day keeps you from missing workouts.
  • Set an alarm on your phone for the same time each day as a reminder to do your workout.
  • If you miss a day, don’t worry; just double up the next day or get back on track quickly. The exercises are simple and light enough that you won’t exhaust yourself.
  • As you get stronger, it may be tempting to jump to a more advanced exercise variation (i.e. incline pushups to regular pushups). Only do this if you’re certain you can complete all the reps for the given day.

About the Author

Tony Bonvechio
Tony Bonvechio

Tony Bonvechio (@bonvecstrength) is the co-owner of The Strength House in Worcester, MA, where he trains primarily powerlifters and team sport athletes. A former college baseball player turned powerlifter, he earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Science from Adelphi University. You can read more from Tony at


11 responses to “The 21-Day Pushup and Pullup Plan”

  1. Avatar Travis J. Todd says:

    I have always thought that you should leave a rest day between these types of workouts. Is there a reason why there are no rest days? Is that really just a myth?

    • Avatar DaBoss says:

      You must rest to allow the damage muscles to fully repair. I have never seen a program like this one!

    • Avatar robinbishop34 says:

      This is the type of prep routine one would utilize to prepare for the type of workouts (progressive overload) that require rest to build muscle/strength.

    • Avatar Martin Holzgang says:

      It’s only 10-30 reps total for the day. That’s pretty mild for most people.

  2. Avatar Erica Burns says:

    So when you click on the picture to print the PDF the title is wrong, is there a correct one with the 21 days listed at the top? This one says 31 days and includes the squats

  3. This is like the Monty Python skit on how to play the piano.

  4. Avatar BK Jackson says:

    While I think the exercises are valuable, I’m flabbergasted that anyone would recommend doing this every single day for 21 days. This must have been written by an orthopedic surgeon because that’s where some people are headed if they attempt to repeat this every single day without recovery time for their muscles. Take it from someone who overtrained/overtaxed muscles and wound up on the wrong side of a knife. Give your muscles 24-48 hours rest between workouts. Not everyone would suffer adversely, but why on earth would you want to risk it?

    • Avatar Martin Holzgang says:

      If it were a full blown routine I’d agree, but it’s pretty mild at 10-30 reps per day total. Plus it allows for assistance with the exercises, focusing on form instead of pure strength. I see it being similar to going for a walk everyday, just getting the muscles and blood going little bit more everyday.

      Of course always exceptions to the rule for specific cases, but for most people I think it would be reasonable

      • Avatar Monica Yosaffbridge Fontaine says:

        I agree with Marin. I am planning to add this in my morning routine where I get ready for the day, but will still have my evening gym session. I don’t count this as a full blown workout.

  5. Avatar Justice League says:

    it would be great to have some video to go along with the article. kinda monkey see monkey do thing!

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