Level Up Your Workouts with the Push Pull Split
The push pull split may be just what you need to get your workout organized and, most importantly, get results from your efforts.
It’s been said before: if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. This is never more evident than in the gym; as people devoid of a plan kind of just meander around the dumbbells, do some curls, and call it a day. That’s hardly the recipe to really push the limits and get in shape. However hope lies in what I believe to be one of the better training splits. A split is how you organize your training, and the push pull split gives clients the blueprint they’re sorely lacking.
So let’s break down this push pull thing we’re talking about. One workout takes care of your “push” muscles; as you’ll work your chest, shoulders and triceps. Lower body movements would be quad dominant. The second workout is the action of pulling: deadlifts, chin-ups, and leg curls are knocked out with this session. If we’re looking at your muscles, this would be your hamstrings, back, rear deltoid and biceps
As you get more advanced, the next step is a push-pull-legs split; since your workouts will be more demanding it’s best to just separate the lower body into its own session. However, that’s down the road. Since it’s wise to crawl before you walk, let me explain push/pull in greater detail.
The reason I like this structure so much is that it provides balance. Leave someone to their own devices and they’ll do the same motions over and again: lots of bench presses, curls, and some ab work thrown in. What people lose sight of is that the body is a functional unit; training a muscle group in excess of others causes things to get kind of wacky. You’ve seen this without even realizing it: guys who focus all their energy on the bench press tend to have shoulders that round forward.
Lacking symmetry with the body – where certain muscles get stronger at the expense of others, or some muscles just get plain neglected – can result in all sorts of problems. Mobility issues, movement compensations and joint pain can happen and lower quality of life.
Performance can also suffer. Take your rotator cuff (4 muscles that work to stabilize the shoulder); ignoring these muscles while getting bench press happy can actually “shutdown” the weight you can lift on the bench. It’s your nervous system basically trying to protect your body: the brain won’t let one part of your body get too strong while others lag. It’s quite possible that in order to increase your poundage on the bench, the last thing you need to do is actually press a barbell.
While I’m picking on the bench press, this can happen regardless of your chosen exercise. Excess of anything is bad.
Lastly, the push pull split is a quick fix for however frequently you want to go to the gym. Train twice a week? Cool – one workout of each per week. Want to hit it hard and train 6 days a week? The simply push on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while pulling takes place the other days.
I can’t harp about a lack of a plan without actually giving you one. Here’s a sample workout that someone could use for 3 months before moving on to something more advanced.
Deadlift 2 x 5
Leg Curl 3 x 8
Wide Grip Pull Up 2 x AMRAP
DB Row 3 x 10
Scott EZ Bar Curl 2 x 12
DB External Rotation 2 x 15
Back Squat 3 x 6
Leg Press 2 x 12
Decline Bench Press 3 x 8
Dip 2 x AMRAP
DB Lateral Raise 2 x 15
Decline DB Triceps Extension 2 x 10