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Weight Training Push & Pull Split Routine

push pull split workouts

Weight Training

Once you start weight training more intensively it becomes essential to split your routines into more than one session per week. This is to avoid overtraining, which occurs when repeatedly exercising your muscles before they have fully recovered. Splitting the routine this way allows more regular training, as although the day after training your pushing muscles are still recovering, you can utilise and train the pulling muscles.

One of the most common split routines is the push & pull split, which simply involves performing all the pulling exercises in one session, then the following day performing all the pushing exercises. The push/pull split training routine is one of the most basic splits developed. It has been utilised by competitive bodybuilders and athletes alike.



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The push/pull workout simply categorizes weight training exercises into two types, pushing movements and pulling movements. Typically a push session involves exercising the chest, shoulders, quads and triceps; the pull session exercises the back, biceps, hamstrings and traps.

The standard push/pull split works best for athletes and weight lifters, but it is not ideal for bodybuilders who require more isolation exercises. Most muscle groups require exercises that do not fall into either the push or pull categories. For example, leg extensions, leg curls, bicep curls tricep extensions, lateral raises and flyes are neither pushing movements nor pulling movements – they are what are often referred to as angular movements.

These angular movements do not follow a straight line, and are the isolation exercises – isolated because they do involve the movement of just a single joint, whereas pushing and pulling a weight in a straight line requires several joints to work together. So the push/pull split is really best for athletes, martial artists and weight lifters, that are developing core body strength, i.e. they are the compound weight training exercises.

Print out a training log for this split routine here: Push & Pull Split Routine Training Log Sheet.

Push Day

Muscle Group Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Chest Barbell Bench Press 3 4-6 2 minutes
Legs Barbell Squat 3 4-6 2 minutes
Shoulders Overhead barbell press 3 4-6 2 minutes
Triceps Close-grip bench press 3 6-8 2 minutes
Calves Standing Calf Raises 3 8-10 1 minute

Pull Day

Muscle Group Exercise Sets Reps Rest
Back Deadlift 3 4-6 2 minutes
Back Bent-over Row 3 4-6 2 minutes
Biceps Chin Ups / Drag Curls* 3 8-10 2 minutes
Traps Barbell Shrug 3 8-10 2 minutes
Abs Hanging Leg Raise 3 10-12 1 minute

This standard push & pull split routine just requires a barbell and bench to perform (ideally with a power rack for safety). You can alter the number of repetitions depending on your weight training goals. That is, if you are training intensively for strength, train in the rep range of 4-7, for hypertrophy (muscle mass) training in the rep range of 8-12, and for endurance train with 15-20 reps per set.

Remember to keep a good training diary to ensure that you improve on each training session, and concentrate on weak areas to ensure that you develop a well balanced physique.


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*The Drag Curl is designed to increase bicep isolation. It is performed by literally dragging the barbell up your torso while pulling the elbows backwards. You can perform a standard curl here, or mix the curls up a little with hammer curls, preacher curls, EZ Bar curls, as well as straight bar curls. Depending on your goals, choose either chin ups or the drag curls, or simple alternate or do both. See what works for you.

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  30 comments for “Weight Training Push & Pull Split Routine

  1. Jason
    May 22, 2009 at 12:31 am

    How many times a week would you do something like this? Would it be a:

    Push/rest/pull/rest/push/rest/rest

    pull/rest/push/rest/pull/rest/rest kind of thing?

  2. MotleyHealth
    May 22, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Personally I would do this twice a week to allow time for cardio, martial arts etc. But if you are just weight training, then every other day could be doable. Rest and nutrition are essential to quick recovery though.

  3. Fitness Fudh
    July 6, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    How long would you recommend you stick to this particular routine for? Would you reccomend alternating a weekly push/pull split for example doing your routine above Mon/Tue + Thu/Fri, and then a different routine the next week, and then alternating back to yours?

  4. MotleyHealth
    July 6, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Personally we would recommend 2 sessions per week, one push and one pull. Then on the other days do cardio or bodyweight training, yoga etc. Keep doing the routine until you hit a plateaux. S long as you are making progress, there is no need to stop. But if you find that the routine is no longer working for particular body parts, you will need to change it, add different exercises, work harder on some muscles etc. But each person is different, so really it is about what your goals are and how you progress.

  5. Ernie
    October 25, 2009 at 6:48 am

    Would this be an ideal workout for Boxing training?

  6. MotleyHealth
    October 25, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Ernie, not sure if it is ideal, but it will certainly help. Have you seen our article on plyometric boxing workouts, or Bruce Lee’s strength training? These may be useful too.

  7. old school gym rat
    September 6, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Anie push/pull is great for strength Mon/Tues Thurs/Fri. Bruce Lee trained full body Mon/Thurs

  8. jay
    September 12, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    you can divide it into horizontal / vertical. If you are training 4 days a week split it up into horizontal / vertical. You could do push/pull on the same day but it from different angles, ie

    Monday (horizontal)
    upper body
    superset’s
    Bench press
    bent over row

    Incline db press
    One arm row

    Wed
    legs
    straight sets

    Thur
    Vertical
    upperbody
    dips
    chin up
    wheel barrow row
    inverted row

    just example but get the jist, then another lower body/core ie leg raises , seratus crunches etc

  9. MotleyHealth
    September 12, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    That should work OK. So long as you are making progress then that should be an effective split.

  10. PB
    September 27, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    could you do core excercises with push training as well?

  11. MotleyHealth
    September 28, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Yes you can PB.

  12. Pablo
    November 18, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Would this work if I just strated to weight lift

  13. MotleyHealth
    November 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Yes it would Pablo. It is always best to split up your workouts really as otherwise you risk doing too much in one session and you will not develop so quickly.

  14. Pablo
    November 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    What about your abs work out can you mix them in either one..

  15. MotleyHealth
    November 18, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    If you are doing weighted ab crunches then this would fall in to the “pull day”. If you are doing crunches as part of your bodyweight exercises and cardio then they can be done anytime really. Some bodybuilders train abs at the end of each session. If you do this, perform different ab exercises after each session rather than just crunches.

  16. Jon-Ross
    December 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I fancy trying this workout,ive been doing a similiar workout but with more then 1 exercise for each bodypart,3 in fact,and it just seems to take to long.Im basically 16 stone and need to tone up abit,i reckon losing a stone and ill be fighting fit,would u advise on doing this workout,push on mon,pull on fri,with tue,wed,thurs mixing up different types of cardio,then ill loose the weight but still be doing heavy weights,plus maybe the rest between push and pull weight sessions would help.Cheers

  17. Jon-Ross
    December 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Plus i dont obviously want to loose any muscle,so what cardio would u advise to do,which is available in a gym,on tue/wed/thurs.Thanku

  18. MotleyHealth
    December 29, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    HI Jon-Ross. I would suggest adding some bodyweight training into your routine, plus also some HIIT (high intensity interval training) that can be done when running, cycling, rowing or on an elliptical. This helps to burn fat quicker. To lose fat you really need to change your diet though, as you have to be very fit to burn off the required calories to lose fat, especially to lose as much as a stone (14 pounds, about 6.5kg).

    Weight training 3 times a week would be ideal really, cardio on the other days will help burn more fat. Diet is key.

  19. OM
    January 8, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Great workout, I was wondering though, would it be okay to do this workout 2 days in a row? Also what do you think of adding cardio to the end of the routine. I have a pretty tight schedule see and sometimes only have time to workout 2 days in a row.

    Thanks

  20. MotleyHealth
    January 9, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    Yes you can do that. You may want to split your workout further though if that is the case. Such as a 3 day split?

    You can do cardio after too if you have to. Generally it is better to do the cardio separate though, some people cardio first thing in the morning before eating and then do the weight training in the afternoon or evening.

  21. Irfan
    April 7, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Hi i am really big fan of Arnold, greatest bodybuilder of ever. I like to know the gym schedule like which workout we should start first eg: Monday – chest Tuesday – Bisceps & etc.

    Can you please help me & tell which is the proper work out chart like our Arnold use to do.

  22. MotleyHealth
    April 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Hi Irfan, we have several workouts inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger, take your pick. The 3 day split is popular.

  23. aris
    August 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Hi. Is there a rough estimate of how long it takes for a muscle group to recover? Because I’m doing a superset of these exercises every other day.
    Bench press/dumbell press/shoulder press/bicep curls/alternating bicep curls/single arm dumbell row/tricep extensions- 8 reps of each exercise at 5 circuits. Will I overtrain with this program? Or is this OK for now?

  24. MotleyHealth
    August 21, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Hard to say, everyone responds differently. If you are getting good results carry on. If you are feeling exhasted, cannot do a good workout or maintain form, and fitness is not progressing, then you may be doing too much. Really you are the best judge. This is one of the reasons why it is important to keep a training diary – write down diet, workouts, sleep etc. and then when progress stop you can analyse past activity to determine why.

  25. Ray O'Dell
    November 19, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I am a firefighter, 57 years old. I have used weight training for years to stay in shape. I find that I now have difficulty keeping weight on, partly due to the changes in age. I also think that overtraining is now a problem. What would be an effective split for a two day on, one day off schedule?

  26. MotleyHealth
    November 19, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    This push-pull workout may be suitable. Or you could do a 3 session split. Obviously you do not have to do the same sessions on the same days of the week, so you can just do your 2 days on and 1 day rest. Or even tone down to every other day.

    Regarding keeping weight on, have you adjusted your diet? Maybe more protein will help maintain muscle.

  27. chris
    January 15, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    hello could you do push Monday boxing plyometric wed and pull Friday thankyou

  28. MotleyHealth
    January 15, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Hi Chris, yes that would be OK, plenty of rest between each workout there.

  29. chris
    February 16, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    hello is it ok to do 4 sets 12 10 8 5-6 adding weight looking for fitness and strength push Monday boxing plyometric wed pull Friday been doing it 4 weeks and feel great not looking for big muscles but strength and fitness so would it be ok to add weight or just do more reps thankyou

  30. MotleyHealth
    February 16, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Hi Chris, four sets will work well, and you could add weight too. So long as you maintain progressive overload – more lifting – you will gain. Heavier weights may be better for strength rather than bigger muscles. Also go for the compound moves more. Olympic lifting is a great way to build functional strength.

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