The PushPull Workout

By Lauren Bedosky |

When you hit the gym, it’s tempting to do only your favorite strength exercises — and often, “favorite” means moves that are fun and comfortable. But favoring only a few isolated, similar movements and neglecting opposing and complementary ones can create muscular imbalances.

If, for instance, you perform only pushes — pushups, squats, overhead presses, glute bridges, dips, and the like — you won’t build fully functional overall strength, says Kansas City–based strength-and-conditioning coach Jay Ashman, developer of the Ashman Strength System. Over time, these muscular imbalances can lead to discomfort, pain, and even injury.

Ashman is a former Strongman competitor who also played baseball and football. He uses a combined push–pull approach in his own training and with clients because it’s time efficient, well balanced, and effective.

Push exercises work the muscles you use to move weight away from your body, specifically the pectorals, triceps, fronts of the shoulders, and quadriceps.

Pull exercises target the lats, biceps, hamstrings, and other muscles that enable you to bring weight toward your body. You’ll feel these muscles kick in anytime you do pull-ups, bent-over rows, deadlifts, or biceps curls.

You can schedule your push and pull moves on separate training days, or tackle both types of movements in a single workout.

The following workout, designed by Ashman, pairs push and pull movements in a superset format. One superset couples a lower-body push with a lower-body pull; another pairs an upper-body push with an upper-body pull; and a third incorporates core stability and conditioning. Core and conditioning work will help integrate the upper- and lower-body moves; plus, it adds a fat-burning boost by ramping up your heart rate.

Once you can perform the workout as described, you can use the format as a template to build your own push–pull routines.

The Workout

Perform this full-body push–pull workout in three supersets. Complete the two movements in each superset for the prescribed number of repetitions or time, and then rest once you’ve finished both exercises.

Select weights you can lift with good form for the noted number of sets and reps. “Focus on form over speed by controlling the tempo,” advises workout designer Jay Ashman. For example, count to two as you lower the weight and repeat that same count as you raise the weight.

The routine — which you can perform up to three times per week — will take approximately 45 minutes to complete.

Superset 1: Lower Body

Push: Goblet Squat

This squat variation is gentle on the back while working the quads and glutes.

  1. Perform 12 to 15 reps.

Pull: Romanian Dumbbell Deadlift

Home in on your hamstrings and focus on proper hinge technique.

  1. Perform 12 to 15 reps.

Superset 2: Upper Body

Push: Dumbbell Bench Press

Target your chest, triceps, and shoulders with this classic upper-body strength builder.

  1. Perform 12 to 15 reps.

Pull: Dumbbell Bent-Over Row

Build upper-back strength and counteract the hours you spend slouching at your desk.

  1. Perform 12 to 15 reps.

Superset 3: Core and Conditioning

Core: Wide Straight-Legged Sit-Ups

Build core strength across a full range of motion by straightening your legs.

  1. Perform as many good-form reps as possible in 60 seconds.

Conditioning: Dumbbell Thrusters

This move will get your heart pumping and work your upper and lower body.

  1. Lower the weights and repeat for as many good-form reps as possible in 60 seconds.

This originally appeared as “Balance It Out” in the December 2017 print issue of Experience Life.

Using the push–pull workout as a template, you can build your own supersets by subbing in other moves that fall under the same category.

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