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First of all my excuses if this question seems stupid.

I'm 19 years old and have a friend who is the same age as I do. He has been going to the gym for about 1,5 year, where he is mainly lifting weights, bench press, squats etc. I on the other hand have been exercising from a young age mainly with bodyweight exercises and started gym some months ago.

I'm around 5ft10, ~60kg. My friend is a little shorter and a little heavier. When I do bench press I use almost 3-times less weight. Same story with the smith machine. However, my friend, who lifts so much more weight than I do, can do only manage one complete pull up(from full hand extension to chin at the top of the bar) and 3 chin ups.

I on the contrary do around 20 pullups and 25 chinups and started doing pullups with a 20kg weight belt(manage around 5 full repetitions). Due to not having enough spare time I nearly abstain from the machines and make my workout program on the pull up bar (pull ups, chin ups, typewriters, toes on top, leg curls, muscle up dips etc).

My questions are:

Is my friend, who lifts 3 times more weight than I do, stronger?

If he manages to lift so much weight, why he only manages so few repetitions?

Why can't I lift as much weight if I can lift, without any problem my own 60kg weight plus 20kg more?

Thank you for your time!

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Is my friend, who lifts 3 times more weight than I do, stronger?

He's stronger than you at certain things. There is no universal single benchmark for strength. Numerous things can be used: squats, snatches, atlas stones, deadlifts, overhead press, pulling a car up a hill, etc.

Your body adapts to what you do it. Your friend doesn't concentrate on pullups and doesn't train on them, so he's terrible at them. You're also lighter than him, which is actually pretty significant.

Effective strength training is all about doing exercises that develop you in a balanced, complete, and safe manner.

If he manages to lift so much weight, why he only manages so few repetitions?

He's not that strong in the pullup/chinup department. You can knock out a ton of reps in easier weights. For example I bet he could do circles all day benching your weight: not a problem. He may have overdeveloped his chest and left his back untouched which is fairly normal (and sad), but I have no data to support that.

Why can't I lift as much weight if I can lift, without any problem my own 60kg weight plus 20kg more?

You need to train for the specific exercise. Your body has specific adaptation. If you train at high reps, it will develop endurance because you're not using full strength. If you work at full strength, your body will develop strength and not endurance.

Pullups will not have a lot of bearing on your bench. The two are related and you absolutely need to develop your body in a balanced way, but if you want to bench more you need to bench more: no way around it.

Two pieces of advice I'd give you:

  • Don't ever use the Smith machine again. It's dangerous, ineffective, and develops bad habits.
  • Your bodyweight training is fine, but it will not allow you to achieve very high strength goals, and certainly not in a timely manner. I'm a huge fan of bodyweight training but barbells are easily the best way to build strength. Look up Starting Strength, and follow that program.
  • Hey Eric. You mentioned that bodyweight training won't allow to achieve high strength goals. I'ts been more than 6 months that I started training with gymnastics. I use barbell exercises as a warm up. I mainly focus on rings, paralettes and floor exercises (Not perfect but I progress every day.) I guess these are definitely more advanced bodyweight exercises than pushups and pull ups, will these increase strength like barbell training? – Rrjrjtlokrthjji Jul 7 '15 at 13:46
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    Question is for Eric but I will try and answer. Yes they will increase your strength, however this should not be compared to barbell training. With barbell training, you can load the bar as long as you want. You cannot do that with bodyweight training. This doesn't mean that one is superior to the other, however "general strength" wise, you can't beat barbell training. – Michael C. Mar 20 at 12:41

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