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Weight Training Push & Pull Split Routine

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assisted pull ups for stronger backOnce 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.

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.

*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.

More like this in the Strength Training section

  30 comments for “Weight Training Push & Pull Split Routine

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

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

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

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

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

  9. 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

  10. 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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