Push-Pull Strength Training Routine

Group Doing Pushups with Dumbbells
Getty Images/John Fedele

A push-pull strength training routine refers to a method of strength training in which you split your routine into different muscle groups and workouts.

The reason?  This kind of routine actually come to us from the world of bodybuilding.  Years ago, bodybuilders were searching for a way to maximize their workouts as well as their rest periods, essential for building bigger muscles.

They figured that splitting their workouts into push exercise one day and pull exercises on another day, they could workout more often without overtraining.

Nowadays, Push-Pull workouts are great for any exerciser, whether you're a bodybuilder or just someone lifting weights to be strong and fit.  This kind of routine is usually spread out over three days of training, allowing you to do shorter workouts, which may fit into a busy schedule easier than longer, total body workouts do.

Day 1 might be a push upper body workout, day 2 might be a lower body workout and day 3 might be your pull upper body workout.

Push Exercises

As the name suggests, push exercises involve all the movements you can do where you push the weights away from your body. These exercises typically focus on the quads, outer thighs, chest, shoulders and triceps.

Upper Body Push Exercises

Pull Exercises

When you do pull exercises, you're doing the opposite of push exercises...moves where you're pulling the weight towards your body.


The muscles worked include the butt, hamstrings, back and biceps, different muscles than those used in a push routine. For that reason, you can set up a routine in which you do a push routine one day and a pull routine the next without working the same muscles two days in a row.

Upper Body Pull Exercises

Why Push Pull?

There are lots of great reasons to try this kind of routine.  First, it allows you to work your muscles without overstressing them.  Second, your workouts are shorter.  Yes, they're more frequent, but you can do more in your workout because your other muscles are resting. 

By working out more frequently, you can also increase your calorie burn and, if you're working really hard, your afterburn  - The calories your body burns after your workout to get back to normal.

Third, your workouts are more interesting and contain more variety.  You can do a push-pull routines in a variety of ways.  You can split your lower body into a push-pull routine, working the quads one day and the glutes and hamstrings on another day.

The trick is to change your workouts every 6-12 weeks to avoid hitting a plateau, which can stall your weight loss.

  You could do a push-pull routine for a few weeks and switch to a different training method like pyramid training or opposing muscle groups.  You could even change more drastically and go back to total body workouts, which you can do up to 3 non-consecutive days a week.

One of my favorites is circuit training because the workouts move quickly and I get my cardio in all at the same time.

There are so many ways to train, you never have to do the same workouts over and over, a plus if you're easily bored with weight training and like to change things up.

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