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Craft a Workout Plan for Days Devoted to Pushing and Pulling Using These Exercises

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  • Post last modified:September 25, 2023

If you hear someone mention their recent “push day workout” at the gym, they are not referring to exerting more effort than usual.

Push and pull workouts consist of exercises that involve a pushing or pulling motion. Specifically, push day exercises involve exerting force to move a weight or push the ground away from your body (think: squats and push-ups), while pull day exercises involve pulling a weight towards your body (such as biceps curls and bent-over rows). Along with movements like hinging and rotating, pushing and pulling are two fundamental patterns of movement that you regularly perform in your daily life. For example, in a single day, you may have to open heavy doors and walk up a steep sidewalk while pushing a baby stroller, says Christine Tordé, C.F.S.C. II, C.P.T., a strength coach at Body Space Fitness in New York. That’s why it is essential to incorporate exercises that address both movements in your workout routine.

So, what is the purpose of adopting a push-pull workout routine? It is an effective way to avoid working the same muscles consecutively or overtraining the front of your body while neglecting your posterior chain. “Alternating between push and pull workouts allows your muscles to rest and recover because you are training opposite muscle groups. Time-wise, these workouts enable you to accomplish a substantial amount of work while targeting muscle groups differently,” explains Bryant Johnson, an ACE-certified personal trainer and the creator of the RBG workout.

However, you don’t have to strictly follow a routine where you exclusively focus on push exercises one day and pull exercises the next day. There are various approaches you can choose from for a push-pull workout routine:

– Upper/lower: Engage in a push-pull workout for the upper body on one day, followed by a push-pull workout for the lower body on the next day.

– Total-body push/total-body pull: Perform push day exercises for both the upper and lower body on one day, and then do all pull day exercises for both the upper and lower body on the next day.

– Push/pull/legs: This popular option involves doing an upper-body push day, followed by an upper-body pull day, and then focusing on the legs on a separate day.

– Push/pull together: Alternatively, you can combine both movement patterns and include exercises that incorporate both pushing and pulling motions in a single balanced workout.

This is able to concentrate on your upper physique, lower physique, or both.

Push and Pull Workouts to Experiment With

  • No matter which approach you select, the objective is to avoid working the same muscles in consecutive workouts or days. “Ensure that you have a day of rest between exercising a particular muscle group, regardless of how you split it,” advises Johnson. “This is crucial for your body to recover so that you can regain your full strength and repeat the workout again.” (By the way, push-pull workout plans are just one variation of workout splits.)

Give These Push and Pull Workouts a Shot

Down below, you’ll find two workouts — one for push day and another for pull day — designed by Johnson and demonstrated by Tordé. These are basic exercises that you’ve probably encountered before, combined into two total-body workouts. Just remember that these exercises are merely suggestions, and there’s no need to feel embarrassed if you need to modify them to suit your needs. “If you have to scale down the movement or reduce the weight, go ahead,” advises Tordé. “Don’t let your ego interfere with your safety or success.”

Another important note: Prior to attempting any of the pull or push exercises with heavy weights, Tordé recommends performing a warm-up set. “I always start my clients off with a lighter weight for a warm-up set to practice engaging the muscles and creating the necessary tension,” she says. “[It] also prepares the mind-body connection for when we increase the weight.”

Are you ready to give push and pull workouts a shot? Follow the workouts provided below on your push and pull days, or incorporate your favorite moves to create your own push-pull exercise plan. All of these workouts can be done with equipment at home. However, if you’re at the gym, you can replace the dumbbell lat pull-over with a lat pull-down machine, and perform your rows on the seated row machine instead of on the floor with a resistance band.

Push Day Workout

How it operates: Complete the recommended number of reps for each exercise, then repeat the push day circuit 2 to 3 more times.

What you’ll require: a pair of medium dumbbells

Chest Fly

A. Lie down on the floor or a bench, with a dumbbell in each hand, keeping your feet flat on the floor, palms facing inward, and arms extended (but not fully extended) so that the dumbbells are directly above your chest.

B. With your elbows slightly bent, lower both arms out to the sides. Pause when they reach shoulder height.

C. Squeeze your chest to lift the dumbbells and bring them together above your chest.

Complete 10 to 12 reps.

Chest Press

A. Recline on the ground or a bench clutching a dumbbell in each hand, with feet planted firmly on the ground, elbows extended out to the sides so that the muscles in your upper arms are at a 45-degree angle to your upper body, and palms facing inward.

B. Push the dumbbells upwards and away from your chest, straightening your arms so that the weights are directly above your shoulders.

C. Lower the dumbbells and flex your elbows to return to the initial position.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions.

Overhead Triceps Press

A. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, gripping one end of a dumbbell with both hands, and extend your arms over your head, with the muscles in your upper arms next to your ears.

B. While keeping your elbows close to your body, bend your elbows to gradually lower the dumbbell behind your head until the lower end aligns with your shoulders.

C. Straighten your arms and press the dumbbell overhead to return to the starting position.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions.

Shoulder Press

A. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and raise your arms to shoulder height, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your elbows should be bent at 90-degree angles, with your palms facing forward.

B. Push the dumbbells directly overhead so that your wrists are directly above your shoulders and your upper arms are next to your ears.

C. Pause, then slowly flex your elbows and lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions.

Dumbbell Squat

A. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in front of your chest.

B. Lower yourself into a squatting position by sitting back into your hips and bending your knees until your thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor. Keep your chest lifted and prevent your back from rounding.

C. Pause, then push through your feet to straighten your legs and return to a standing position.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions.

Pull Day Workout

How it works: Complete the recommended number of repetitions for each exercise, then repeat the pull day circuit 2 to 3 more times.

What you’ll need: a pair of medium-weight dumbbells and a resistance band.

Biceps Curl

A. Take a stance with feet positioned at a distance equal to the width of your hips and keep your arms by your sides while grasping a dumbbell in each hand with your palms oriented towards the front.

B. Flex your elbows to elevate the dumbbells until they reach the level of your shoulders.

C. Pause for a moment, and then extend your arms to lower the dumbbells back to their initial position by your sides.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions.

Lift and Move the Knee

A. Position yourself standing with feet close together, rest your hands on your hips, and engage your core muscles. Raise your right knee to a height equal to your hip, so that your right leg forms a 90-degree angle in front of your body. This serves as the starting point.

B. While maintaining the right thigh parallel to the ground, with your hips squared, propel your right knee towards the right side until it aligns almost with your hips.

C. Pause momentarily, then move your right knee back to its original starting position.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions. Switch sides and repeat.

Sitting Row

A. Sit on the floor with an upright back, legs outstretched and slightly bent at the knees. Wrap a resistance band around your feet and grasp the ends of the band positioned at the sides of your knees.

B. While keeping your core muscles engaged, pull your elbows backward alongside your ribs and contract your shoulder blades together to pull the band towards your belly button.

C. Pause, and then gradually straighten your arms to return to the starting position.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions.

Reverse Fly

A. Take a stance with your feet positioned at a distance equal to the width of your hips and keep your arms by your sides while grasping a dumbbell in each hand. Maintain a straight back and slightly bent knees as you hinge at your hips and lean forward until your torso tilts at a 45-degree angle. Allow your hands to hang directly beneath your shoulders, with your palms facing each other.

B. While engaging your core muscles and leading with your elbows, raise the dumbbells to the sides until they reach shoulder height.

C. Pause briefly at the top, then slowly lower the dumbbells until they are directly beneath your shoulders to go back to the starting position.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions.

Deadlift

A. Take a stance with your feet positioned at a distance equal to the width of your hips and extend your arms in front of your thighs. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your legs.

B. Maintaining a contracted core and a flat back, send your hips backward and slightly bend your knees to lower the dumbbells until they reach your shins.

C. Propel your hips forward, straighten your knees, and tighten your glutes to go back to the initial position.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions.

Lat Pull-Over

A. Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the ground, and both of your arms extended behind your head while holding the ends of a dumbbell.

B. While keeping your core engaged and your back flat, raise the dumbbell overhead until it is directly above your chest.

C. Hold momentarily, then lower the dumbbell behind your head to return to the starting position.

Perform 10 to 12 repetitions.

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