Push vs Pull Day: What’s The Difference?
Whether you’ve been spending more time at the gym lately or browsing fresh routines on fitness blogs, you’ve probably heard rumblings about the Push-Pull training method.
If the rumors are true, it’s a holistic approach to exercise that lets you build muscle, increase strength, and improve your endurance—all while giving your body a healthy dose of rest between sessions.
But what’s the difference between a Pull day and a Push day, and what do those routines look like in practice?
If you’re interested in this exercise method, it’s crucial to know how this three-part regimen (which also includes a Leg and Core Day) works on the gym room floor. For a play-by-play on how to replicate this workout style—plus four tips for getting the most bang for your next workout push with Chuze Fitness—read on.
The Push-Pull Fitness Method: What You Need To Know
When people talk about hitting the gym for Push day or Pull day, they’re referring to an exercise method known as push-pull.
The push-pull method is designed to support a well-rounded workout routine that evenly distributes your efforts across all zones of your body. In its distilled essence, it involves alternating between workouts that focus on different muscle groups.1
Typically, push-pull routines are divided between three categories of targeted exercise:
- Push day, where you’ll focus on your arms and shoulders
- Pull day, where you’ll focus primarily on your back muscles
- Leg and Core day, where you’ll skip your upper body and work out your core and trunk muscles
It’s worth noting that many people choose to include a rest day between the second and third days of training. Push-pull routines can be strenuous to power through day after day, especially if you’re new to working out.
Push vs Pull Exercises: What to Do On Your Next Push or Pull Day
You might not realize it, but you probably do a lot of pushing and pulling in your day-to-day life already. Even the simplest things, from hoisting yourself out of bed in the morning (which uses a pushing motion) to opening the door open for a stranger (which uses pulling), can engage your pulling and pushing muscles.
That said, performing these actions on the gym floor looks a lot different. Let’s take a look at some push day vs pull day workouts to see how they differ.
Push Day Exercises
On Push day, you’ll focus on exercises that use pushing motions to strengthen the muscles in your upper body. These exercises work to target your triceps and the muscles in your chest and shoulders.1
Some of the most well-known and popular Push day exercises include:
- Pullover exercise
- Shoulder press
- Dumbbell bench press
- Dumbbell chest fly
- Dumbbell overhead triceps extension
- Dumbbell lateral raise
Pull Day Exercises
So how would a pull exercise look? In contrast to Push day, a Pull day workout routine tends to incorporate strength-training exercises that force you to pull weights towards your body (rather than press them away).
Some cornerstone Pull day exercises include:
- Bent over rows
- Renegade rows
- Bicep curls
- Upright dumbbell rows
- Zottman curls
While Push day focuses on muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms, Pull day works to target your biceps, forearms, and, most importantly, the complex network of muscles in your back.1
Though the arms, legs, and core often absorb much of fitness enthusiasts’ attention, strengthening your back is a vital component of your overall physical fitness. Your back muscles have tremendous influence over your mobility, and conditioning them can promote better posture to protect your spine and can help prevent pain in your lumbar.
Leg and Core Day Exercises
The first two days of Push-Pull workout routines are devoted to your upper body, but the pushing and pulling don’t come to a halt on day 3.
On Leg and Core day, your workouts will be focused on strengthening the muscles in your legs using the same technique you did on days 1 and 2: pushing and pulling. Primarily, Leg and Core day works to strengthen your:
- Achilles tendon
- Gluteus maximus
- Pelvic floor muscles
While Push day and Pull day workout routines revolve around the type of exercise you perform, Leg and Core day is designed to encourage different zones of your body to work cooperatively to build strength. This technique can help you improve your balance, stability, and even your awareness of how different muscle groups work in tandem to help you move.
When Leg and Core day rolls around, some popular exercises to try include:
- Barbell back squats
- Quadriceps leg extensions
- Seated hamstring leg curls
- Dumbbell standing calf raises
- Hanging leg raises
Should You Try Push-Pull Training?
Push-Pull training is just one approach fitness enthusiasts take to tending to their overall physique at the gym. This type of exercise regimen might be for you if:
- You want to gain muscle mass – According to one study, resistance training like those involved in Push-Pull regimens may be more effective at building muscle than other methods of working out. Furthermore, it’s also excellent for building muscle endurance and overall strength.2
- You want evenly distributed results – For many gym-goers, the alternating schedule of push-pull routines means they don’t have to worry about overworking or neglecting any one zone of their bodies.
- Your body craves time to recover – While other workout methods force you to work the same muscles many days in a row, push-pull training gives your body time to rest, repair, and build back even stronger between sessions.
- You can access the best gym equipment – Because Push-Pull training is a uniquely intensive approach to working out, you’ll see optimal results if you have a range of gym equipment at your disposal for your workouts. Having full access to a range of exercise machines and weights will enable you to tailor your equipment to each individual exercise, as well as level up your weights as you go.
4 Tips For Maximizing Your Push-Pull Routine
The Push-Pull exercise routine can seem relatively straightforward, but getting the most out of this technique may require you to make some changes to your approach to exercise and overall lifestyle.
With that, let’s review four tactics for optimizing your Push-Pull workouts, no matter which day is coming up next:
- Mix it up – There is no shortage of exercise options for a Push-Pull workout regimen—which is good news for people who tend to get bored by sticking to the same workout. However, it is possible to run up against muscle fatigue if you put your body through the same exercises day after day.3
To avoid getting bogged down by repetitive workouts, try alternating between different exercises as you rotate through Push, Pull, and Leg and Core day. For example, you could spend a week or two devoting your Pull days to Pull-ups, bicep curls, and renegade rows, then swap one or two out for an alternative.
- Weigh your options – It’s difficult to overstate the importance of choosing the right weights for your push-pull workouts, and size can vary between the exercises you’re performing. The right weights for you should spike your heart rate in your first few reps, but they shouldn’t prevent you from feeling so fatigued you can’t proceed with your next exercises after finishing your set.4
- Add in “Rest Days” – As we’ve mentioned, many fitness enthusiasts swear by rotating a “Rest Day” into their three-day Push-Pull regimens. This gives your body a day to recover, thereby promoting tissue repair, muscle growth, and avoiding injuries in the long run.5 Plus, even if you take a day off, push-pull will still enable you to exercise all of your major muscle groups twice a week.
- Ramp up your sleep hygiene – Getting the proper amount of sleep (at least 7 hours per night) is crucial for staying on top of your physical fitness.6 At the gym, you’re breaking down your muscles—and they’re only able to build back stronger while you’re asleep, when your body packs on new fibers and proteins to your muscles.7 In other words, your workout can only come full circle if you get in your nightly Z’s.
Finally, Push-Pull training is recommended for people who can commit to working out between three to six days each week.8
Like many other styles of working out, Push-Pull takes time and determination to yield results—so if you do choose to make it the cornerstone of your fitness regimen, make that commitment in a community that can motivate and encourage you along your journey. The push pull workout routine also helps encourage muscle growth and target almost every muscle group with a simple routine.
Push Your Workout to the Limit with Chuze Fitness
Every so often, the motivation hits to find a new workout routine, take a fresh approach to your fitness goals, and find a gym buddy who’s as motivated to meet them as you are.
Chuze Fitness is that gym buddy—we just haven’t met yet.
At Chuze Fitness, we believe that achieving fitness individual goals depends on the power of the community behind them. With fitness classes, content from our iChuze wellness app, and dedicated fitness experts on stand-by to answer all your exercise questions, our fitness centers aren’t just gyms. They’re vibrant hubs of activity where everyone is encouraged to push (and pull) towards their own fitness standard. Whether you’re looking to incorporate turf workouts into your routine or try out new exercises, we’re here for you.
To join our community and jump-start your personal wellness goals, use our gyms near me feature to find a location and introduce yourself today.
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
- Healthline. Push-Pull Workouts: Routines and Guide for Building Muscle. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/push-pull-workout
- National Library of Medicine. Central and Peripheral Fatigue During Resistance Exercise – A Critical Review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26839616/
- National Library of Medicine. Muscle fatigue: general understanding and treatment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5668469/
- Livestrong. What Weight Dumbbells Should I Use? https://www.livestrong.com/article/344995-how-much-weight-do-i-need-for-dumbbells/
- Huff Post. Why Rest Days Between Workouts Are So Important. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-rest-days-between-workouts-important_l_5f0867f8c5b63a72c340854e
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and Sleep Disorders. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
- College of William & Mary. Sleep and Recovery. https://www.wm.edu/offices/sportsmedicine/_documents/sleep-manual
- Men’s Health. Build Full-Body Muscle Using The ‘Push, Pull, Legs’ Method. https://www.menshealth.com/uk/building-muscle/a38199992/push-pull-legs/