You don’t hear too many bodybuilders refer to a workout as Push or Pull day. It is typically chest day or back day or some single muscle group split. I have stuck to a Pull, Push, Legs split for quite some time, but never really called it that.
The benefit to this type of rotation is an emphasis on big compound lifts and higher training frequency than a traditional bodybuilding split. If you think about training chest once per week and doing 16 work sets versus training it twice per week and doing the same amount of work sets between two sessions, which would give the best recovery? Personally, I have found doing less but more frequently is the key to improvement. I can actually handle more total chest working sets for the week this way, which is exactly how I finally improved my lagging chest.
The set up looks like this:
Day 1: Pull
Day 2: Push
Day 3: Legs
Day 4: Off day
Day 5: Pull
Day 6: Push
Day 7: Legs
Day 8: Off day
Keep repeating this pattern.
My Push day includes chest, shoulders, and triceps. My Pull day includes back, rear delts, and biceps. Legs day includes quads, hams, glutes, and calves. On the leg session I will rotate quad emphasis and ham/glute emphasis days since there are so many muscles included on those days. I make three different workout options for each session as well. So, I rotate between a push workout A, B, and C. This gives me variety and time to make improvements prior to coming back to previous lifts.
Construct each day based on your weak body parts, always starting with compound lifts first. Chest is my weak body part, so I put my two compound chest movements first, followed by my shoulder movements. Keeping my goal of bringing up chest in mind, I also add on a compound tricep exercise to add more volume to chest for the session. If you have great triceps and chest but shoulders are lagging, start out with your compound shoulder press movement first, then an incline press movement, and your third exercise could be your flat chest pressing movement. You would follow this up with shoulder isolation work first and then chest isolation work.
Let’s dive into my Push session. This session was done two weeks out from a show, so training volume is reduced compared to when I am in the off-season.
John’s Push Session:
*All sets are work sets and taken to muscular failure.
*No warm up sets are listed. Take as many warm ups as needed to get to your work sets.
Flat Plate Loaded Chest Press Machine: Set 1 at 6-10 reps. Set 2 at 12-15 reps.
a. Warm up to your first work sets and hit failure between the prescribed rep range. Drop 20-30% of the weight for the second set and try to hit failure between the prescribed rep range.
b. Keep hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep shoulder blades retracted and depressed. I want a 3 second eccentric and explosive concentric phase. Try to pull the handles together as you press.
Smith Machine Incline Bench Press: Set 1 at 6-10 reps. Set 2 at 12-15 reps.
a. The lifting protocol for the Flat Plate Loaded Chest Press Machine is the same for this lift.
b. Hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width. Shoulder blades should be retracted and depressed. I want a 3 second eccentric and explosive concentric phase. Keep the bar 1-2 inches from touching the chest and the elbows tucked slightly at 45 degrees with the body.
Pin Loaded Shoulder Press Machine: Set 1 at 6-10 reps. Set 2 at 12-15 reps.
a. Same lifting protocol as the previous lifts. I now move on to a compound shoulder movement. I perform this on any shoulder press machine that has an adjustable weight stack.
b. Hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width. Sit on the machine reverse facing the pad. Keep the handle path out in front of the body and elbows tucked in, not flared out. I want a 3 second eccentric and explosive concentric phase.
Super Set: Flat Cable Chest Fly into Decline Cable Chest Fly: 3 sets at 10-15 reps. 2-minute rest after each super set.
a. On the first set try to hit failure close to 15 reps. On each subsequent set the reps will be decreasing due to fatigue. You may end up only getting 5 reps on the last set.
b. Perform both cable fly moves standing. Just lean over to perform the decline fly. Keep shoulder blades retracted during the lift.
Super Set: Machine Lateral Raise into Lying Cable Upright Row: Perform 2 work sets of 10-15 reps on each exercise. 2 minutes rest after each super set.
a. On the machine lateral raise, lead the movement with the elbows and don’t use the handles. Only raise the arms to parallel with the ground.
b. On the lying cable upright row, use a cable strap attachment or rope. Perform an upright row only raising arms to 90 degrees with your body. Hands should be out 8-10 inches from the chest for shoulder safety.
Cluster Set: Overhead EZ Bar Cable Extension with Body Weight Dips: Perform 3 sets at 15-20 reps. Perform like a super set but take 60 second rest after every exercise.
a. Start with a weight on overhead extensions you can hit failure with for 20 reps. The reps will be decreasing on each subsequent set. I am just using body weight on the Dips, but if you can perform more than 20 reps add additional weight with a belt.
b. On the overhead extensions, keep the elbows fixed on one position and don’t allow them to flare out or move forward or backwards. I want very strict reps here.
c. On the dips, try to stay fairly upright and only come down to where the top of the arm is parallel to the ground.
Now you have just completed a 2 week out Push day. If you want fast progress, stick to training compounds moves and training them frequently. This is the sure-fire way to add the most muscle tissue in the fastest way possible. Don’t get stuck in the old mindset that you can only train a muscle once per week. Ditch the bodybuilding dogma and go make some gains.
First and foremost, I’m a lifelong fan of lifting weights, so I’ve had an interest in every endeavor that is intrinsically tied to that. Olympic weightlifting, strongman, powerlifting, arm-wrestling, bodybuilding, etc. My competitive career has been predominantly in powerlifting, but I have also done two strongman competitions (in 2014) and have always wanted to try my hand at bodybuilding. After I was injured in November 2021 while preparing for a powerlifting competition, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do any heavy squatting for a while, so I figured going the bodybuilding route would be a way to feed my competitive drive and take on a new challenge that involved a different style of training and dieting. Just to be clear, I am not done powerlifting.
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