Push/pull styled workouts don’t receive nearly enough attention on the internet. When you compare them to your standard upper/lower splits and body part specific training programs, there’s almost nothing. 

These workouts are great for multiple reasons – this article will dissect just what a push/pull program is, along with provide a basic 4-week workout program. For this article I’m going to reference a standard push/legs/pull split.

What Is a Push/Pull Workout?

Push/pull workouts are focused around the idea that exercises similar in movement patterns are put together. The upper-body and lower-body can then be split with respect to an athlete’s lifting age. These workouts can be split up in multiple ways and should be split depending on lifting expertise, goals, and time allotment.

**Some coaches (myself included) recommend performing more pulling work than pushing. As a society with poor posture and overused chest days, there’s a demand for extra back work. Plus, a stronger back will support athletic performance.

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Beginner (<6 months of lifting) 

A typical beginner program will usually include 3 days of lifting, with low/moderate volume & intensity. Often times, you’ll see a lot of volume with compound movements in newer trainee programs to build a solid foundation of muscle & strength. Personally, I always recommend putting legs in between your upper body; this way a beginner can maximize on their growth by ensuring they’re well rested.

The Split

  • 3-day examples: Push/Leg/Pull — Push/Pull/Legs.

Intermediate (6 months – 2 years of lifting)

The usual intermediate push/pull style template includes 3-4 days of lifting, with moderate volume & intensity. An intermediate lifter will have a foundation of muscle built and will start to include accessory work to aid their strength and muscle gain. While an intermediate lifter has training experience, I often suggest keeping accessories at a moderate volume to give the compounds a majority of the focus.

The Split

  • 3-day examples: Push/Leg/Pull & Push/Pull/Legs — Push/Pull/Legs/Pull
  • 4-day examples: Push/Pull/Legs/Pull — Push/Legs/Pull/Legs

Advanced (>2 years of lifting)

An advanced push/pull template is usually 4-days and can even be 5-days in some cases. They’re constructed with specific goals in mind, and include moderate/high volume & intensity. At this point in a lifter’s career they have an idea of their strengths and weaknesses, so accessories and compounds will be catered with those specifics in mind. In addition, most advanced lifters will have programs with peaks and deloads built in. 

The Split

  • 4-day examples: Push/Pull/Legs/Pull — Push/Legs/Pull/Legs — Push/Legs(push)/Pull/Legs(pull)
  • 5-day examples: Pull/Legs(push)/Push/Legs(pull)/Pull — Push/Pull/Legs/Push/Pull

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Push Pull Benefits

1. Extra rest – When you group exercises into similar movements, you help the body fully recover. For example, when you have a chest and shoulder day, your delts could hurt performance due to fatigue (if not programmed thoughtfully).

2. Foundation builder – Newer lifters can benefit from pushpull workouts because they focus on the body holistically in a lot of cases (ample big movements), and this allows capitalization on newbie gains (boy, do I miss those days).

3. Goal oriented – Advanced lifters can also benefit from push pull workouts from splitting upper and lower body days into very specific manners. For example, if you keep missing the top portion of pressing movements, you could cater a whole upper push day into remedying that issue.

4-Week Program

The program below can be used by lifters of all levels and can be manipulated accordingly to your goals. This is a 3-day/week workout program and can be best formatted around your schedule, an example would be, Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday. I recommend getting a full day rest in-between each lift for full recovery. Each workout begins with a compound exercise and has accessories following for support. When you read “A1. & A2.,” this signifies it’s a superset and one exercise should be performed after another (Seated DB Press, Incline DB Press, Seated DB Press, etc).

Be aware, there’s a slight difference in compound exercise reps from weeks 1-2 and weeks 3-4. DB means dumbbell, BB means barbell, and AMRAP means “as many reps as possible.” Lastly, the numbers that follow the exercise such as “5×5” are SETS x REPS. Happy lifting!

Weeks 1-2 – Push

A. Bench Press — 5×6 — 2.5-min rest

B1. Seated DB Shoulder Press — 4×7-8 — 2-min rest
B2. Incline DB Press — 4 x 6-7 — 2-min rest

C1. BB Close Grip Bench — 3×7-8 — 90-sec rest
C2. Dips — 3×5-6 — 90-sec rest

D. Planks — 3×60 sec holds — 60-sec rest

Weeks 1-2 – Legs 

A. Back Squat — 5×7 — 2.5-min rest

B1. Walking DB Lunge — 3×8-10 — 90-sec rest
B2. DB Hip Thrusters — 3×10-12 — 90-sec rest

C1. Goblet Squat — 3×12-15 — 75-sec rest
C2. Hanging Leg Raises — 3×10 — 75-sec rest

Weeks 1-2 – Pull 

A. Conventional Deadlift — 5×5 — 3-min rest

B1. Pull-Up — 4×6-8 — 90-sec rest
B2. Lower Back Extensions — 4×10-12 — 90-sec rest

C1. DB Row — 3×6-8 — 75-sec rest
C2. BB Shrug — 3×12-15 — 75-sec rest

D. Chin-Up — 2xAMRAP — 75-sec rest

Weeks 3-4 – Push

A. Bench Press — 5×5 — 2.5-min rest

B1. Seated DB Shoulder Press — 4×7-8 — 2-min rest
B2. Incline DB Press — 4 x 6-7 — 2-min rest

C1. BB Close Grip Bench — 3×7-8 — 90-sec rest
C2. Dips — 3×5-6 — 90-sec rest

D. Planks — 3×60 sec holds — 60-sec rest

Weeks 3-4 – Legs 

A. Back Squat — 5×5 — 2.5-min rest

B1. Walking DB Lunge — 3×8-10 — 90-sec rest
B2. DB Hip Thrusters — 3×10-12 — 90-sec rest

C1. Goblet Squat — 3×12-15 — 75-sec rest
C2. Hanging Leg Raises — 3×10 — 75-sec rest

Weeks 3-4 – Pull 

A. Conventional Deadlift — 5×4 — 3-min rest

B1. Pull-Up — 4×6-8 — 90-sec rest
B2. Lower Back Extensions — 4×10-12 — 90-sec rest

C1. DB Row — 3×6-8 — 75-sec rest
C2. BB Shrug — 3×12-15 — 75-sec rest

D. Chin-Up — 2xAMRAP — 75-sec rest

One of the best attributes the strength training world has to offer is the variability and flexibility of creating programs. Push/pull style workouts are only one example of a method used for increasing strength. With all of the different body types and athletic backgrounds, you may find push/pull workouts resonate really with your body.

Give this 4-week program a try and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Jake holds a Master's in Sports Science and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Jake serves as one of the full time writers and editors at BarBend. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has spoken at state conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand. As of right now, Jake has published over 1,100 articles related to strength athletes and sports. Articles about powerlifting concepts, advanced strength & conditioning methods, and topics that sit atop a strong science foundation are Jake's bread-and-butter. On top of his personal writing, Jake edits and plans content for 15 writers and strength coaches who come from every strength sport.Prior to BarBend, Jake worked for two years as a strength and conditioning coach for hockey and lacrosse players, and was a writer at the Vitamin Shoppe's corporate office. Jake regularly competes in powerlifting in the 181 lb weight class, and considers himself a weightlifting shoe sneaker head. On the side of writing full time, Jake works as a part-time strength coach and works with clients through his personal business Concrete Athletics in Hoboken and New York City.