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Need Help with a Question about Strength Balance

Some quick background. I used to lift a lot over a decade ago, got my bench to almost 2x my body max, and I never max squatted but could do a set of 8 of 2.5x my body weight.

Anyway, last year I started lifting again after a five year layoff. My weight had shot up, and my back started hurting. I went to a doctor and a sports medicine expert and I a much better right now. They said part of my problem was that my chest and anterior delts were pulling forward and that most specifically my rhomboids were underdeveloped compared to my chest. They didn’t offer good information on how I could tell when they are more balanced.

So here is my question, as a rough guideline, how many pull ups (say neutral grip as from what I was told/read, they work the rhomboids the most), should I be able to accomplish relative to my bench of my body weight. I.e if I can bench x times, should it be 50%, 75%, 100%, 125%, etc? Right now, I would say I am about 50%.

Thank you for your advice.

  1. there is no direct correlation there. No one is going to say “You can do X pullups” because no one Can say that. Do you want to know how many pullups you can do? Well, Go do Pullups.

  2. You can do better Rhomboid targetted movements, Pendlay rows for example. Thats a movement Directly focused on your upper back.

I’d say you lay-off benching movements for a while…and do a shitload of seated rows, chest supported rows 3x a week to balance all this out.

If you honestly did quality reps bench/squatting at the weights you claim, I highly doubt you would be asking a question like this.

you need rows to balance out your benching strength, not pull ups

hungry4more…naw I believe him…lol I’ve made the same mistake…my upper extremity is a wreck and I’m doing a shitload of prehab and horizontal rowing to balance myself out…its one way I injured my shoulder.
I was rowing before don’t get me wrong…but not at the same volume I was doing pressing exercises, and just forward movements in general. Boxing didn’t help either.
I almost put up a 2x bodyweight bench as well, and had my squat to 405x15. my back looked good and was strong…but I think my pecs, lats, everything was so tight my shoulders had rounded forward and I didn’t even notice/realize. I had very poor internal rotation flexibility in my shoulders, the list goes on my friend.

Thank you for all the replies. Hungry4More, why would I lie?

I think I posed the question poorly. Let me say it this way, if I saw a 225lb guy benching 315 8x and I saw he could only do 1 pullup, I would say he definitely had a much stronger chest. I have had friends that hated doing legs and could bench more than they could squat. Obviously they had much better developed chest than legs. We used metrics like 1.5x weight for bench and 2.5x for squat as metrics for goals, than 2x and 3x respectively. If one person was 2x for chest and under 2.5x for squat, we would say he was under developed in his legs. I am wondering what/if there is a similar thing for pullups (from knowing that you can 1.5x your weight in bench, you can infer your reps at 1x, etc).

Right now, I can do 7-8 neutral grip pull ups. I weigh about 215 (and thats about 40lb over what I weighed when I quoted what I used to be able to do, which was the mid to late 90s). I can bench my weight about 15 times (thats a guess, I haven’t tried, but I have done 1 set of 12 at 225 before going up and that wasn’t failure).

I just don’t know if that is balanced or not. I would definitely say if I could only do 1 or 2, that would be a sign that I was not very balanced.

Having said all that, the exercise the doctor wants me to to is a close grip pull down, but not straight up and down but rather at an angle. On these pull downs, I can get 8 of 230. I do seated rows, wide and close grip. I use an odd machine because the gym I work at is pain to chase down weights (nyc gym that is more for cardio/saying you go to the gym). I was doing 4 back/rear delt workouts to every 1 chest/front delt workouts, but I am trying to get an idea when I can go 2 to 1 and then back to 1 to 1. The other problem, is that though I am not fat anymore, I am targeting weight loss with muscle retention (my weight loss has been very steady but slow, I can say I have maintained strength, not sure on muscle mass though).

Oh I don’t think I can do pendlay rows. I have suffered disk degeneration in my neck and lower back. He is just now considering letting me dead lift.

Thanks again for any advice. I am sorry if I seem uniformed, I guess I am.


according to poliquin

If you are interested in testing other movements in the upper body on another day, I have included the optimal upper body strength ratios, developed by Poliquin, as they relate to a 1RM in the shoulder width grip bench press:

Supinated Chin-Ups:

Relative score: 87%

so you should be able to do 1 chin up with weight equal to 87% of your bench 1rm (or as predicted by some table)

anyways, if you can do it, go heavy on the cable rows, and an exercise called a face pull. The cable rows will develop scapular retractors and help draw your shoulders back and fix posture. The face pull with correct imbalances in the rotator cuff

I call major bs on that ratio.

Sup. chinups (aren’t chinups supinated per se?) are the easiest of the standard pullup setups. You should be able to chin MORE then bench pressing - I’d say about 120 %.

if your 1 rep max is 300 pounds then you should be able to do a chin up with 243, bodyweight included. whats so off about that?

Poliquin’s “Structural Balance” guidelines are rubbish.

What this guy needs to do is stretch his pecs and anterior delts and start doing more rows, pulldowns or chinps, external rotations and cut down on situps and ab pulldowns.

That’s it!

There are no concrete percentages of lifts that determine how balanced someone is.

Please refer to Mike Robertson’s and Eric Cressey’s work as they have gone over this issue better than I can here.

thank you iron.dragon, very helpful on all fronts.

[quote]iron.dragon wrote:
if your 1 rep max is 300 pounds then you should be able to do a chin up with 243, bodyweight included. whats so off about that?[/quote]

I agree with brick that exact percentages are nonsense, but general guidelines are a good thing.

So you don’t think the popularity of benchpress vs weighted chinup acounts for the more then obvious disbalance in your example?
You should be able to chin 300lbs+ if you bench 300 lbs.

Everyone starts out stronger on chins then on the bench. (I assume normal bodyfat levels, strong guys with lots of bodyfat are of course an exception)
Why should that change?

i wrote a nice long reply here…but it looks like it didnt go through…schwarz i agree that exact figures are not accuate for everyone but they give a ballpark to aim for

however, i dont agree that everyone starts stronger on chins…its a societal thing, i am from europe myself and “thin is in” over there, so naturally everyone can chin much better than they can push…but in north america kids mostly start out fat, and i can count on one hand the number of people i see in the gym here that chin as well as they bench… and guess what, most are immigrants

perhaps that plays into the calculation of that number…anyways poliquin is a respected source that’s why i quoted it, im not attached to it personally or anything, i believe actually that a imbalance of back > chest causes no harm to the spine or posture, so you can go as high as you want on back strength

It’s obvious thin people have an easier time doing pullups then huskier guys.

But we are talking about the 1 rep max, not about reps.

I have yet to see a beginner who has no problem at all benching his bodyweight but can’t pull his chin over a bar just once, again assuming he’s not overly fat and unathletic.
But even a fattie who can bench his overweight bodyweight should recruit enough back strength to pull himself up at least once. If not, there’s an imbalance right there.

Bonus advice:
In my opinion, a decent chin setup involves starting out with your head high.
This can be difficult, because most racks assume you jump up or just grab the bar and start out from the bottom position (Imagine you always start benching from the bottom position).
But if you manage to get up, by climbing there, using a ladder or a partner and start from a strong top position (squeeze your lats briefly, engage your core etc), you can increase your max far better then vice versa.