A push-pull workout routine is a great choice for anyone who wants to build muscle and become stronger, regardless of their fitness level. Compared to other workouts, the push-pull routine allows you to do shorter workouts that may be more suitable if your schedule is hectic.
With this kind of workout, you may need access to resistance bands or a cable pulley system to increase the intensity of each exercise. This article explains everything you need to know about push-pull workouts, and offers a sample 4 day push-pull workout routine that you can use for building muscle.
What Is A Push-Pull?
The push-pull workout splits your body into two opposing muscle groups. Push movements are the ones in which you push something away from your body, such as when you bench press. Pull exercises involve pulling something towards your body, such as when you pull up on a pull up bar or do a back row exercise with resistance bands.
When you train these muscles separately with each workout, it allows time for them to recover between workouts because they don’t experience as much physical stress. This is beneficial if you have a busy schedule and want to make sure that your body can recover quickly enough so that you still get results (2).
How The Push-Pull Workout Routine 4-Day Split Works
Your muscle groups are classified as either push or pull. The pull muscle tissue contracts when you pull the weight towards you in exercises that focus on the biceps, hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles. It then lengthens when the weight pulls away from the body. The push muscle tissue contracts when the weight is pushed away from you; it lengthens when you pull the weight towards you. Push muscle exercises focus on the quads, outer thighs, chest, shoulders, and triceps (14).
Here is an example of a 4-day push and pull workout routine:
- Monday: Upper body push/lower body pull (e.g. chest presses, lateral raises, overhead presses)
- Tuesday: Upper body pull/lower body push (e.g. dumbbell pullovers, bicep curls, pull-ups, squats).
- Wednesday: Rest
- Thursday: Upper body push/lower body pull (Chest flies, single leg deadlifts, dumbbell snatches)
- Friday: Upper body pull/lower body push (barbell curls, single arm rows, elevated step ups)
What Are The Benefits Of A Push-Pull Workout Routine?
A 4-day push-pull workout routine for beginners and pros can have these benefits:
Optimal Recovery Time
One of the great benefits of the push-pull routine is that it allows you to maximize your recovery time between workouts. Following a push-pull training regimen allows your muscles the full 72 hours it takes to recover before you train them again. This is because you can only train a major muscle group every 3 days (2).
This is an improvement from traditional routines that involve training one body part per day i.e. chest one day, shoulders the next, triceps the day after, and so forth. While following this routine, you’re indirectly training many of the same body parts multiple days in a row, which may overstress your muscles with time (2).
Increased Muscle Mass & Strength
If you want to build muscle and increase strength, then this kind of training program is a good choice for many people. The reason is because they allow your muscles to rest so that they can fully recover. At the same time, they involve some compound exercises, which are always among the best choices for building muscle (10).
A Balanced Physique
With push-pull workouts, you get an upper body that looks strong and powerful while also having legs and abdominals that look good. This is because both of these muscle groups are trained equally with this workout program (13).
With push-pull training, you can measure your progress based on the number of reps you’re doing, as well as the weight that you’re lifting with each. move. This is a good option if you want to know your results, but don’t like having to work out with a personal trainer. You can see how far you’ve come and how close your goal is.
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Fitness doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. The 4-day push-pull workout routine bodybuilding brings you back to the basic mechanics of the muscle group movements and builds on it. Your routine is split into two categories—the push and the pull—it’s easy to know what you should be working on.
Tips For Maximizing Your Push-Pull Workout
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your 4-day push and pull workout routine:
Choose The Right Weight
You’re more likely to succeed if you start with a weight that is heavy enough to be challenging, but not impossible. You should feel as though you are able to do the recommended number of reps and sets for each workout before moving on. If it becomes too easy, then you need to increase your weights or choose some harder exercises.
Include A Variety Of Exercises
To maximize the benefits of push-pull training and avoid boredom, it’s best to include a variety of lifts in your routine. Do this by choosing different cable attachments and using dumbbells instead of barbells or vice versa. You can also switch up your routine by performing both unilateral and bilateral exercises using cables or dumbbells (2)
Prioritize Nutrition and Sleep
Building muscle is about more than lifting weights. Without proper nutrition and sleep, you are prone to injury, sickness, and poor progression toward building muscle (12).
Foods To Eat To Build Muscle
In order to get the best results from working out and creating a muscle building program, you need to eat right. The foods that one eats can either enhance or hinder your muscle building goals. Here is how each of the food groups affects your body with the goal of attaining more lean muscle mass.
Protein builds muscles, aids in tissue repair after workouts, helps strengthen bones, increases metabolism and increases satiety levels which means that you feel full longer after eating and are less likely to snack. Protein also contains all of the amino acids necessary for muscle growth so it’s important to eat protein rich foods as frequently as possible throughout the day (6). Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, and beef, and fish are important because they provide a protein base for building muscles.
Fiber will make you feel full and it will digest slowly which means you stay fuller long after a meal, are less likely to snack on junk food, and it also aids in digestion of foods. If the goal is to decrease calories or weight loss surgery, then having an abundance of fiber rich foods such as bran cereal can help with this because your body cannot take in many calories from foods that have high fiber content (5).
Vegetables are important for muscle building because they provide essential vitamins and minerals which in turn increase overall health and performance levels during exercise. Green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, green beans etc., contain antioxidants which allow muscles to rebuild faster after heavy lifting during workouts. They also contain trace elements which allow the blood to carry oxygen more efficiently which in turn increases endurance and overall performance (7).
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Fruits are also an important part of a muscle building diet. Fruits have essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients such as potassium and magnesium which help with regulating heart rate and contractions during heavy lifting exercises in the gym (7).
One fruit that is high in potassium is bananas. Potassium helps to regulate hydration levels so you can work out longer without feeling dehydrated because it regulates water uptake into muscle cells instead of leaving it on the outside where it causes cramping etc (7).
Another food that is high in magnesium is almonds. Magnesium assists with exercise by converting carbohydrates into a usable form of energy for muscles rather than storing it as fat due to lack of energy (7).
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel for workouts and muscle building (1). Carbohydrates give energy which allows exercise to be done longer without getting tired as easily as well as allowing the body to generate more lean muscle mass because it provides essential micronutrients such as zinc, iron, magnesium etc., that assist with cell growth and development.
Whole grains are a great source of carbohydrates, but they provide other benefits besides supplying the body with energy during workouts because whole grains contain B vitamins which can aid in weight loss surgery by suppressing appetite and increasing metabolism due to high fiber levels which also aids in digestion (15).
Complex carbs such as sweet potatoes contain large amounts of antioxidants that protect cells from damage such as those caused by free radicals, which in turn increase overall health and performance levels (4).
Foods To Avoid When Building Muscle
These foods should be eaten in moderation, or avoided completely.
Trans And Saturated Fats
Trans fat is a type of fat that inhibits muscle development because it raises cholesterol levels, while saturated fats are also bad for the body because they increase heart disease risk. Trans-fats are created during hydrogenation which makes liquid oils solid at room temperature. These trans-fats inhibit muscle growth in two ways, firstly due to its effect on cholesterol levels, secondly because trans-fats decrease testosterone production which is an important male hormone associated with muscle building (9).
Saturated fats can be found in butter, lard etc., and these should be limited to about 1g per day total especially if the goal is to lose weight by reducing overall caloric intake. Fat should make up no more than 30% of daily calorie intake and a diet that consists of 20-25% total fat is best for minimizing saturated fat intake and maximizing nutrient absorption because the body absorbs nutrients better when it’s not overburdened with too many fats (3).
Highly Processed Foods
Highly processed foods contain high amounts of trans-fats and saturated fats which can inhibit muscle growth so it’s important to avoid them when trying to build muscle. They also contain high fructose corn syrup which has been linked to obesity and cardiovascular disease because the body metabolizes it differently than regular sugar, converting more of it into fat instead of carbohydrates (11).
Optimal Sleep For Building Muscle
You might be thinking, “I’ve trained hard every day this week, why haven’t my muscles gotten bigger? I always eat right too.” Well, bad news; one of the main reasons you’re not getting bigger muscles is because you are compromising your chances of making gains by limiting the quality and quantity of your sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 26-64 get a minimum of 7-9 hours of sleep every night, but most people don’t meet this requirement (8).
Here are a few things you can do to improve your sleep (8):
- Limit screen time before bed
- Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bed
- Make your room conducive for sleep – blackout curtains, right temperature.
- Avoid naps if you have trouble sleeping at night
- Take supplements to improve sleep quality (melatonin, 5-htp)
- This is not a comprehensive list of things that can aid in sleep – find out what works for you!
The Bottom Line
A four-day structured push/pull workout program is likely to result in increased strength, better muscle mass, and a balanced physique for most people. However, it’s always best to include a variety of workouts and get enough rest to avoid getting burned out in the long run.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 4 Keys to Strength Building Building and Muscle Mass (2021, eatright.org)
- American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise (2011, nih.gov)
- Calculating Calories and Fat Grams (n.d., rochester.edu)
- Carbohydrates (2021, clevelandclinic.org)
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit (2019, nih.gov)
- Effect of increased fruit and vegetable consumption on physical function and muscle strength in older adults (2013, nih.gov)
- How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? (2021, sleepfoundation.org)
- Mechanisms of Action of trans Fatty Acids (2020, nih.gov)
- THE EFFECT OF TWO SEQUENCE PATTERNS IN RESISTANCE TRAINING ON STRENGTH, MUSCULAR ENDURANCE AND CIRCUMFERENCE IN NOVICE MALE ATHLETES (2013, hrcak.srce.hr)
- The Hidden Dangers of Fast and Processed Food (2018, nih.gov)
- Too little sleep and an unhealthy diet could increase the risk of sustaining a new injury in adolescent elite athletes (2016, pubmed.gov)
- UPPER BODY PUSH AND PULL STRENGTH RATIO IN RECREATIONALLY ACTIVE ADULTS (2013, nih.gov)
- What is The Push/Pull/Legs Split Routine? (n.d., aston.ac.uk)
- Whole Grains (n.d., harvard.edu)