Fitness / Strength Training

Push-Pull Training 101: Everything You Need to Know

Hit all your muscle groups with push-pull training.

There are different training splits that you can follow for your workout week. One such split is the push-pull schedule. It’s simple, it’s effective, and we’ll tell you all about it with the help of Patrick Frost, Nike master trainer and creator of FrostFitForm.

What is push-pull training?

Frost explains, “Push-pull training is targeting specific muscles based off of their mechanics.” With push-pull training, your workout days are typically split between these two categories. Your muscle groups are classified as either push or pull.

The pulling muscle group is when there’s an emphasis on the concentric part of the exercise. The muscle tissue contracts when you pull the weight towards you, such as in the bicep or hammer curl, or seated row. It then lengthens when the weight pulls away from the body. This is referred to as the eccentric part of the movement.

The pushing muscle group functions in the opposite way from the pull. When it comes to pushing, the muscle tissue contracts during the concentric phase of the movement when the weight is pushed away from you; it lengthens during the eccentric phase. “Biceps, traps, and hamstrings (for example) assist in pulling actions,” says Frost. “And pec major/minor, quads, [and] triceps assist in the push.”

The benefits of push-pull training

This type of training might take us back to the basic movements of pushing and pulling, but it brings a multitude of benefits.

Optimal Recovery

When you split your workout week into each body part, such as legs, chest, and back, you may think that you’re allowing each part to recover in between. However, you could still be indirectly using the same muscles throughout the different days. This means that you could still be overtraining your muscles, which can lead to injury.

By splitting your workouts by pushing and pulling movements, you know that you won’t be using the same muscle groups two days in a row. Instead, you’ll be training related muscle groups together and then the opposing groups the next day. So, as you can see, you’re allowing your muscles to rest in between, which will allow for optimal recovery.

Measurable Progression of Reps and Weight

One of the best things about training is that you can see how far you’ve come and how close your goal is. With push-pull training, you can measure your progress based on the number of reps you’re doing, as well as the weight that you’re lifting with. Of course, just make sure that you’re not compensating technique for a heavier weight!

Simplifies training

Fitness is something people can over-complicate. The push-pull training regime helps bring it back to the basic mechanics of the muscle group movements and goes from there.

By splitting the days into two categories—the push and the pull—it’s easy to know what you should be working on. It’s also easier for you to see whether or not you’re overtraining or undertraining certain muscle groups.

Push-Pull Versus One Body Part Per Day

While it doesn’t mean that you have to drop your current training split, the push-pull program will really help you reach your fitness goals faster. As Frost says, “Usually the general goal of fitness is to lose weight and gain muscle. This particular split allows for both. Being able to train bigger muscle groups and train compound exercises more often offers the most bang for your buck.”

What does a push-pull workout week look like?

“I actually prefer to split my week training full body almost everyday with a different emphasis,” says Frost. Here, he gives an example of a push-pull split for one week:

Monday: Upper body push/lower body pull (deadlifts/ chest press)
Tuesday: Upper body pull/lower body push (pull-ups and squats). As you advance you can focus on the rest of the week being more unilaterally based.
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Upper push/lower pull (single leg deadlifts/ DB snatches)
Friday: Upper pull/lower push (single arm rows/elevated step ups)
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest

You can mix it up by adding in, or swapping, some other push-pull exercises. Some alternative examples of push exercises are overhead presses, tricep extensions, and push-ups. Other pull movements you can include in your workout are barbell curls and barbell rows, lat pulls, and back extensions. It’s important to change your workout every few weeks. This way, you’re constantly challenging your body. You can increase the reps, weight, number of sets, and even change the exercises—keep pushing yourself.

The other remaining days of the push-pull workout week (Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday) should be rest days to allow yourself time to recover. As always, remember to warm up properly before every session. Also make sure that you cool down and stretch afterwards so that you can stimulate recovery and reduce the chances of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

Fitness Strength Training

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