Balancing “Push-Pull” In Your Workouts

12 Week Athlete Development Program
by Henry Gould – Jan 27th, 2021

“It’s all about the push-pull, eh Hank? All about the push-pull…”

A few months ago as I got started a workout in the Yard, Shawzo’s words of advice came ringing through the gym. I can’t recall what prompted it – maybe me asking him for advice on an exercise? – but it’s since become something of an inside joke. Not a particularly funny one, however…

In essence, pretty much all exercise movements can be broken down into either a “push” or a “pull”. A “push” is where you’re pushing weight away from your body (bench press), or pushing the floor away from you (squats). A “pull” is anything where you are pulling your body towards something (chin-ups) or pulling a weight off the ground and towards you (deadlifts, rows).

  • Bench press
  • Shoulder press
  • Pushups
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Box jumps
12 Week Athlete Development Program

Weighted dips = PUSH

  • Chin-ups
  • Deadlifts
  • Rows
  • Sit-ups
  • Banded glute raises
Yard Athletics Workouts

Bent over rows = PULL

If you’ve been following a Yard Online Training Program or training with one of the Yard trainers, the push-pull balance has been carefully laid out in the workout plan so that everything is in sync. However, if you’re training on your own without a program it’s easy to gravitate towards exercises that are easier, which can lead to favoring certain movements over others and eventually bringing on muscle development that is out of balance. Basically too much “push” and not enough “pull”!

Everyone has seen someone in the gym who only does curls and never got the memo about “never skip leg day”. Doing only one type of exercise can lead to bad posture, risk of injury, and muscles that pull too much in one direction, leading a disproportionate physique.

So how do we avoid this? An easy way is to treat each workout in the gym as a balancing act of push and pull. If you structure your workout around 3 exercises done in sequence as a “super set”, you’ll find yourself putting together a program that always includes a push, a pull, and then perhaps some sort of ab or core strength movement to balance things out.

For example, something like the below would be a fairly balanced routine of push and pull.

Functional Mass Program

Squats = PUSH

Round 1

Bench Press (Push) – 4 sets x 8 reps

Chinups (Pull) – 4 sets x 5 reps

Weighted Sit Ups – 4 sets x 10 reps

Round 2

Squats (Push) – 4 sets x 6 reps

Romanian Deadlifts w/ Dumbbells (Pull) – 4 sets x 8 reps

Banded Palloff Press – 4 sets x 10 reps

It might not look like much, but in total that’s 24 sets of exercise. That’s a lot! If you follow that through each set, chances are you’re getting close to an hour in the gym. If you still have some gas left in the tank, 5-10 minutes of steady state cardio on a spin bike, rowing machine or treadmill would be a good way to round it out.

Obviously this is a sample, but the framework of including a push and a pull makes it easy to swap in other exercises.

When in doubt, ask the professionals at Yard Athletics…

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