The Ultimate Guide to Push-Pull Workouts

When creating a fitness routine, it’s common to arrange your workout schedule according to specific body areas—leg day, upper body, core, etc. But this doesn’t take into account how your muscle groups work together when exercising and moving in general. To make your routine more efficient and effective, plan your workouts according to how muscle groups move and function. Enter: push-pull training.

Popularized by bodybuilding athletes, the push-pull training style focuses on how muscle groups work together. Don’t worry, you won’t necessarily adopt a bodybuilding physique. But you will get stronger and build the kind of muscle symmetry common in these athletes.

What is Push-Pull Training?

Push-pull training takes two major things into account: how your muscle groups work together and the necessary recovery period to see results and reduce overuse injuries. A routine is broken down by pushing and pulling activities. So, in one session, you’ll train muscles involved in pushing movements, such as a shoulder press or push-up. In the next session, you’ll train muscles required for pulling, such as renegade rows or pull-ups. 

What are Push Muscles?

Push muscles contract when weight is pushed away from the body. Push muscles include the chest, shoulders, triceps, and thighs.

What are Pull Muscles?

Pull muscles contract when weight is pulled toward the body. Pull muscles include the back, biceps, forearms, rear deltoids, traps, and hamstrings.

While leg muscles are included in both push and pull muscles, many athletes choose to add an additional leg day to their routine, given that they are one of the largest muscle groups in the body.

Benefits of Push-Pull Workouts

1. Avoid Overworking Body Parts

Exercise puts intentional stress on the body so your body needs time to adapt by thickening and strengthening the various tissues and muscles involved. If you exercise in such a way that doesn’t allow repair and restoration to occur, the overload can cause injuries. Basically, without a workout routine that prioritizes balance, there’s a greater chance you’ll cause damaging stress to the muscles in your body.

For example, if you start with a chest day on Monday and move on to shoulders the following day, you end up using some of the same muscles like your deltoids. This can lead to strains and muscular stress. Separating them by push and pull muscle groups will give each group ample time to recover.

2. Increase Physical Fitness

A push-pull training schedule is highly focused so your full body workout is broken up over a few days. On this routine, you may spend more time in the gym, but that will lead to a fitter body. The more consistent you are in your training, the more likely you are to develop lifelong healthy habits.

3. Healthier Lifestyle

When you’re working out more, you’re more likely to drink more water and eat a healthier diet. With better eating, drinking, and workout habits, you enjoy a stronger, more balanced, and fitter life. That comes with improved energy levels and generally better physical and mental health.

Push-Pull Training Tips for Beginners

As a fitness beginner, it’s important to ease into any training program slowly. For push-pull training, use smaller weights and only workout three days a week, giving your body plenty of rest and recovery time. As you get stronger, gradually increase the weight and start to transition to an advanced training schedule involving more days.

Example push-pull training schedule for beginners:

  • Monday – Pull
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Push
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Pull

Push-Pull Training Tips for Advanced Lifters

For advanced lifters with plenty of weightlifting experience can easily incorporate more days of push-pull training into their routine. Advanced lifters should aim for 4-5 sessions a week. You can start your week with heavier, more intense push-pull days and end your week with lighter, more moderate push-pull workouts.  

Example Push-Pull Training Schedule for Advanced Lifters:

  • Monday – Intense Pull
  • Tuesday – Intense Push
  • Wednesday – Rest
  • Thursday – Moderate Pull
  • Friday – Moderate Push 

Do I Need a Gym for Push-Pull Workouts?

The gym isn’t for everyone. While it’s a great place for beginners to learn technique and for fitness enthusiasts of all levels to fit in quality workouts with the necessary equipment, some people do better outside of the gym. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options to assist a fit lifestyle. 

At-home Gym

At Garage Gym Planner, we are fanatics about the at-home gym. A personal space like this gives you the privacy, freedom, and money-saving benefits over big-box, commercial gyms. You’re also more likely to fit in your workouts because everything you need is right in your home. By choosing the right equipment for your garage gym, you set yourself up for success in your push-pull workouts. 

Fitness Apps

Whether you go to a big box gym or have an at-home gym, sometimes it’s still hard to motivate yourself to work out. That’s where smart fitness apps come in. A fitness app can offer the same motivating guidance of a trainer for a fraction of the cost. Many offer multiple trainers, training styles, and workout types, too. For example, personal trainer app Aaptiv has a team of experienced trainers who create workout classes in a variety of fitness categories—everything from cardio to strength training to yoga and meditation—set to motivating playlists that make you actually want to work out. 

Push-Pull Sample Routine

To get started on your push-pull training, here are some sample workouts designed by Aaptiv, a personal fitness app.

Day 1 – Intense Pull

  • Seated row – 8 sets, 3 reps
  • Deadlift – 8 sets, 3 reps
  • Bent over lateral raise – 8 sets, 3 reps
  • Pull ups (assisted if you’re a beginner) – 8 sets, 3 reps

Day 2 – Intense Push

  • Bench press – 8 sets, 3 reps
  • Front squat – 8 sets, 3 reps
  • Dumbbell overhead press – 8 sets, 3 reps
  • Plank – 3 sets, 60 second hold

Day 3 – Rest

On rest days, you can and still should move, but don’t do any lifting or intense workouts. Instead, go for a walk, stretch, foam roll, meditate, etc.

Day 4 – Moderate Pull

  • Dumbbell rows – 4 sets, 6 reps
  • Romanian deadlift – 4 sets, 6 reps
  • Dumbbell rear delt fly – 4 sets, 6 reps
  • Dumbbell curls – 4 sets, 6 reps

Day 5 – Moderate Push

  • Tricep pushdown – 4 sets, 6 reps
  • Dumbbell side raises – 4 sets, 6 reps
  • Incline bench press – 4 sets, 6 reps
  • Goblet squat – 4 sets, 6 reps

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 – Grab Bag or Rest

Depending on your personal schedule, on day 7 you can restart your push-pull circuit, add in a leg day or an ab day, or take another rest day.

Your push-pull routine will depend on your personal lifestyle, schedule, and fitness goals. You can group the more intense workouts at the beginning of the week if that’s when you feel most rested or you can alternate. Try intense pull, moderate push, rest, moderate pull, and intense push. 

The biggest benefit to push-pull training is working out according to how your muscle groups work together to allow your body to build and recover more efficiently. Training more often without overstressing your body will help you achieve better, more balanced strength and fitness.

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