Many beginner and intermediate bodybuilder have found great success with a push/pull training method. It allows them to train half of their body’s muscles, twice per week. This results in the training receiving a full-body workout twice each week, and gives them three full days of rest and recovery in which to grow. This method is popular, especially among bodybuilders who are new to training and prefer to use machines in their training, as opposed to free weights. Machines (Hammer Strength, Nautilus, and others) can provide a great foundation for teaching range of motion and allowing the bodybuilder to ‘feel’ the particular muscle group being targeted. However, as one becomes more accustomed to these machines, their training gains begin to subside. At this time, it’s essential to move to free weights and dumbbells. This will keep growth constant, and will challenge the muscle groups in new ways. However, this adjustment from machine to free weights should take place in an organized manner which allows for the most recovery and best use of rest time to continue hitting each muscle group twice weekly and still allow for adequate growth.
Let’s examine a training protocol which incorporates all the training and rest advantages of the push/pull training methodology, using nothing but free weight movements.
Monday – Push Day
Squat (4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 repetitions)
Deadlift (4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 repetitions)
Bench Press (4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 repetitions)
Tuesday – Pull Day
Barbell Military Press (4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 repetitions)
Barbell Biceps Curl (4 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8 repetitions)
Skullcrushers for Triceps (4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 repetitions)
Standing Barbell Calf Raises (4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6 repetitions)
Wednesday – Rest. No cardio scheduled.
Thursday – Same as Monday
Friday – Same as Tuesday
Saturday – Rest. Cardio can be performed on this day.
Sunday – Rest. No cardio scheduled.
If you have a tough work week and find that you have much more time on the weekends to train, you can always switch up this routine so that your rest days fall on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Additionally, you can move one of your rest days back a day so that your schedule looks like this.
Monday – Rest. No cardio scheduled.
Tuesday – Push
Wednesday – Rest. Cardio can be performed on this day.
Thursday – Pull
Friday – Rest. No cardio scheduled.
Saturday – Push
Sunday – Pull
The use of free weights provides many advantages over machine training. Stabilizer muscles are recruited to assist with balance. Additionally, the muscles of the targeted groups themselves receive a constant tension that machines sometimes relieve as you reach the top or bottom of the movement.
The push/pull training style is very popular with trainers of all experience levels, especially those with good natural recovery abilities or those who peruse AAS to assist with quicker recovery. Use these compound movements according to the days prescribed, and be sure to spend every minute you can healing, recovering, and growing on your rest day!