Push-Pull Strength Training Routine

Woman doing a workout outdoors, she is doing push ups at the athletic stadium.

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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 comes to us from the world of bodybuilding. Bodybuilders began using this method as a way to maximize their workouts as well as their rest periods, which are essential for building bigger muscles.

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

List of 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

The following are a list of upper body push exercises:

List of Pull Exercises

Pull exercises are movements where you are pulling the weight toward your body. These exercises primarily use the biceps, hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles. 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

The following are a list of upper body pull exercises:

  • One arm rows
  • Barbell rows
  • Double arm rows
  • Barbell high rows
  • Dumbell pullovers
  • Seated rows with bands
  • Lat pulls with a resistance band
  • Back extensions
  • Seated alternating rows
  • Renegade rows
  • Biceps curls
  • Hammer curls
  • Reverse curls
  • Barbell curls
  • Incline curls
  • Concentration curls
  • Preacher curls

Why Push-Pull?

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. You can also do these exercises with a cable pulley system or resistance bands.

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.

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.

Third, your workouts are more interesting and contain more variety. You can do push-pull routines in a variety of ways. You can also 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. 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.

Circuit training may be an option because the workouts move quickly and you can get your cardio in all at the same time.

With so many different ways to train, there's no need to do the same workouts over and over. This can be welcome news for those who are easily bored with weight training and prefer a variety of exercises.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Castanheira RPM, Ferreira-junior JB, Celes RS, et al. Effects of Synergist vs. NonSynergist Split Resistance Training Routines on Acute Neuromuscular Performance in Resistance-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;31(12):3482-3488. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001762

  2. Collins P. Functional Fitness: Build Your Fittest Body Ever. Maidenhead: Meyer & Meyer; 2009.

  3. American Council on Exercise. Weight Loss Plateaus and Pitfalls.

  4. Haltom RW, Kraemer RR, Sloan RA, Hebert EP, Frank K, Tryniecki JL. Circuit weight training and its effects on excess postexercise oxygen consumption. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999;31(11):1613-8.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."