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The push pull routine is a longtime favorite of both bodybuilders and everyday gym goers. It’s simple, logical, and when done properly, it gets great results. However, there are a few ways you can maximize your push pull routine progress. Consider the below to get even better workout gains and improve your physique.
The push pull routine works for a number of reasons. By working all your “pushing” muscle groups (chest, shoulders, and triceps) in one workout, your “pulling” muscle groups (biceps and back) in another, then legs in a third, you’re able to focus much more easily. The program isn’t complicated and the resulting lack of distraction allows you to work harder.
Results also happen because a push pull routine centralizes all your work for each “type” of muscle group. When you work chest, you’re also invariably going to indirectly hit the shoulders and triceps. When you work shoulders, you’ll usually indirectly hit the chest and triceps. And the shoulders and chest are often stressed (even if just for static stabilization) when working triceps.
By putting all this work in the same session, you’re able to overload the muscle groups with a lot less training overall. This means quicker recovery as you’re not having to do as many total sets/exercises. At the same time, the days you’re not training a particular “type” of muscle group are complete “off” days. Meaning no hitting the triceps in your “arm” workout, then indirectly hitting them again in your chest workout a day or two later. When they rest, they get to actually rest.
While centralizing your workload as discussed is a good thing, it can also hinder you. This is because since the amount of work you’re doing for a “type” of muscle group at any one time is increasing considerably, it can lead to overworking smaller body parts.
To avoid this, don’t be afraid to decrease the sets and/or exercises you’re doing. For instance, you might do as many as 3-4 triceps exercises in a normal arm workout. However, if your “pushing” workout involves bench press, incline press, and dips, the triceps have already been hit pretty hard. You could easily get away with doing just pushdowns and calling it a day.
One drawback of a push pull routine is that it can end up leading to you putting smaller muscle groups on the back burner. Traditional training logic would dictate that you’d train chest and shoulders before triceps as they’re bigger body parts. The same would go for back over biceps and quads over hamstrings or calves.
Don’t be afraid to include cycles where you spend a few weeks working the smaller muscles first in your workouts. This will put emphasis on them and make sure their development doesn’t fall behind. It can also allow you to get more specific. For instance, working biceps first means you could more easily add a few extra sets dedicated to targeting the biceps peak instead of just doing the normal mass builders.
One way to get even more out of your push pull routine is to be diligent about which exercises you choose. By picking just the right variations, you could spread the emphasis out across all muscle groups more evenly without having to do more exercises.
For instance, doing reverse grip rows and pulldowns will put more emphasis on the biceps when working the back. This means not doing as many direct biceps sets/exercises later on won’t be as likely to lead to less biceps development.
Instead of having to do as many as 5+ compound movements in a “pushing” workout, you could do incline barbell press at 70 degrees or higher, dumbbell bench press, and bench dips. Add in laterals, rear delts, pushdowns, and maybe flies, and you have a very complete workout for chest, shoulders and triceps while still doing only a minimum of total movements.
Push pull workouts have been around forever, and that’s because they work. You can get as good, if not better results with less overall work, you get more dedicated “off” days for body parts, and they allow you to focus your effort much more easily. Don’t be afraid to rearrange your workouts to emphasize particular body parts and diligent exercise selection can improve your gains even more. Be smart about it and you could see your physique getting improving much faster than you expect.