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Push Pull Workout for Powerful Upper Body Strength

Push / Pull Workout for Upper Body Strength

Here is a recent push / pull workout I did.

I remember the first publication I read specifically talking about the balance required in a workout.  It was Alwyn Cosgrove’s The Professional Fitness Coach Program Design Bible.
He specifically talked about you must balance your pressing movements with your pulling movements.  Extension movements should balance flexion movements.  Rotation with the reverse movement, and so on…  It was the first time it was ever explained so simply.

And yes, it can be simple for you and your programs.

If there isn’t a balance of the volume and load (sets x reps x weight) on all movements, then imbalances occur.   And that is when injuries happen.

Simply, look for the balance.

Example 1:

Bench Press, 4×8, 200 lbs = 32×200 = 6400 lbs lifted with a pushing movement.

Bent Over Rows, 3×10, 150lbs = 30×150 = 4500 lbs lifted with a pulling movement.


The bent over rows should be adjusted for volume or weight.

All you would have to do is, change the sets to 4×10 and increase the weight to 160lbs and it will balance.

Bent Over Rows, 4×10, 160lbs = 40×160 = 6400 lbs lifted with a pulling movement.


Or you could do a different technique.  You could balance the pressing movement with MULTIPLE pulling movements within the same workout.

Example 2

Bench Press (pushing exercise)

Bent Over Rows (pulling exercise 1)

Face Pulls (pulling exercise 2)

Band Retractions (pulling exercise 3)

The goal is to maintain the integrity of the joint, balance the musculature to ensure optimal strength.

Here is the workout I performed with some key tips.

Swiss Bar Bench Press

Key coaching points to remember.  Stay tight, chest up and drive the feet down.  Try hard not to let the elbows flare outwards.  Take a breath at the top and create tension.  Hold that tension for the rep.  Reset after each rep.

Check out How to Bench Press Video – The Right Way

Cage Rope Climbing

This movement is extremely hard on the grip, biceps and back.  The rope used in the video is 1.5″ nylon rope and it is anchored to the top bar of the power cage.  In the video I also perform a hand over hand kettlebell lift.  This movement is easy to setup.  Just put the rope over the top of the power cage and anchor to the kettlebell.

Upper Body Push / Pull Workout

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4 Responses to “Push Pull Workout for Powerful Upper Body Strength”

  1. Rob Says:

    While I absolutely agree with the general sentiments being espoused, comparing movements like the bench press and bent row and expecting loads to match up is like comparing apples to oranges, since one is braced on a bench and the other is free standing and doesn’t provide for the same type of leverages. So to equate the loads used in the two never made much sense to me, at least not in trying to say that they should be matched pound for pound or even very close to it. Heck, even a chest-supported row, while close in a sense doesn’t apply the same advantageous leverages as can be had in a bench press.

    And the reverse can be said for something like OH pressing and pull-ups. I don’t know many guys who could, or even should be able to OH Press a load comparable to that used if combining most of their body weight with added load on a pull-up or chin-up.

    I think I even recall Ian King (and he may have been one of many) to suggest that correct deadlifting alone can often go a long way towards maintaining structural balance, and that is a factor that seems to fly under the radar when comparing rowing volume and tonnage/load to horizontal pushing.

    Again, I don’t find fault with the general spirit of keeping things on a relatively level playing field, but I think there are far too many factors at play to think that balance can be reflected in numbers.

    But then again, I may be completely off base here. And I am absolutely not questioning your own results or your ability to get your lifters strong and keep ’em healthy, but merely expressing that I never bought into numbers telling the tale on comparisons like rows and pressing, for a host of reasons.

  2. Jim Smith Says:

    Great points Rob, thanks for your input.

    As you stated and I said in the article, I gave a very simple answer only as a reference.

    I don’t want to get hung up on exercises, instead I’d rather think of it as the integrity of the joint.

    Whenever you push, you must pull and depending on the joint, you must extend when you flex.

    Most trainers and most fitness enthusiasts spend to much time on one movement pattern. The range of motion of the joint and its ability to function properly becomes inhibited.

    Of course it is not a “numbers” gain, but that does provide a baseline reference for anyone to start moving toward balance in their training.

    Thanks again!

  3. Dale Says:

    great video and information. I definitely will be getting some rope, those look awesome. The swiss bar looks good (not in the budget) and unfortunately normal bench pressing is hurting the shoulder :(, even with quite light weight. I really need to pay more attention to the shoulder rehab videos :).

  4. D-Rock Wilson Says:

    great vid smitty, definitely looking for some rope myself, I really like that motion!

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