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Push Day Workout vs Pull Day Workout: What’s the Difference?

There are multiple ways to structure an efficient and effective workout. However, there is something to be said about building a consistent workout routine that offers a balanced and targeted approach. This is the beauty of having a push day workout and a pull day workout.

So, what is a push day workout? What is a pull day workout? Below, we outline what you should know about push day exercises and pull day exercises. Is this the right workout structure for you?

What is a Push Day Workout?

Simply put, a push day workout includes exercises that involve pushing movements. These workouts target muscle groups that are engaged when pushing weight away from the body, which include: 

  • Chest: The pectoralis major is the main muscle of the chest. Extending from your armpit to your collarbone, this muscle contracts when pushing the arms away from the body, such as during a chest press or push-up.
  • Triceps: The muscles that make up the back of the arm, opposite to the biceps. These muscles contract when straightening the arm or “pushing” the arm down or up and away from the body, such as during a tricep pushdown or push-up.
  • Shoulders: The shoulders consist of multiple muscles, which must be worked in different ways with exercises like the shoulder press or lateral raises. 

How to Structure a Good Push Day Workout

An example of an arm push day workout with dumbbells may include:

  1. Regular push-ups: Start in a plank position with your arms about shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower your body to the ground by bending your elbows. Before you reach the ground, pause, and push back up.
  2. Bench press: Lie on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand at chest level, palms facing forward. Press the dumbbells up until your arms are fully extended, then slowly lower back to the starting position.
  3. Overhead tricep extension: Sit or stand holding a dumbbell with both hands behind your head, elbows pointing upwards. Extend your arms to lift the dumbbell overhead, then slowly bend the elbows to lower it back.
  4. Lateral raise: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Keeping your arms straight, lift the weights out to the sides until they reach shoulder height, then slowly lower them back down.
  5. Front raise: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs. Lift one arm straight in front of you to shoulder height, then lower it back down and repeat with the other arm.

What is a Pull Day Workout?

If you haven’t already guessed, a pull day workout entails exercises that involve pulling movements. In other words, it targets the muscles used when pulling weight toward the body, including:

  • Back: The main three muscles of the back include your latissimus dorsi (or “lats”), your trapezius muscles (also called “traps), and the rhomboid muscles. These muscles are activated through pull exercises such as the lat pulldown and rows.
  • Biceps: The biceps make up the front of the arm, with the most well-known bicep exercise being the curl. 
  • Rear Deltoids: These muscles are on the back of the shoulders and help to keep the muscle back and maintain posture. 

How to Structure a Good Pull Day Workout

So, what is the best pull day workout? A complete pull day workout will depend on the equipment available to you. However, a simple pull day workout can generally include:

These exercises offer a great option for any beginner pull day workout. For an advanced pull day workout, similar to push workouts, heading to a gym can offer the versatility of various different equipment. In turn, this can help you target these muscle groups in many different ways.

Check Out Our Video on How to Perform the Perfect Lat Pull-Down!

Which is Better: Push or Pull Day?

Deciding whether a push or pull day is better depends on the individual, their fitness level, and their goals. Both days serve different purposes as part of a well-rounded fitness routine.

Combining Push and Pull Days

Some ways to combine push and pull days into your workout routine include:

  • Weekly split: A common approach is alternating between push and pull workouts throughout the week. This can be structured as a three-day split (Push, Pull, Legs) or a four-day split (Push, Pull, Off, Push, Pull, Off), allowing for adequate rest and recovery for each muscle group.
  • Compound movements: Incorporating compound exercises, which engage multiple muscle groups, can be particularly effective. For example, a push day might include bench presses (targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps), while a pull day could involve deadlifts or pull-ups, engaging the back, biceps, and forearms.
  • Volume and intensity balance: It’s crucial to balance the volume (total reps and sets) and intensity (weight lifted) between push and pull workouts to ensure overall muscular development without overtraining. You can gauge this by assessing how sore you are after a workout and learning your limits during your workout.

The Benefits of a Push and Pull Day Split

1. Enhanced Recovery Time

We never want to work the same muscles back-to-back. In fact, this can be a recipe for disaster, often meaning injury and pain. Yet, the pull-push split allows for 48-72 hours between working the same muscle groups. This not only improves your recovery but can also lead to better gains over time and fewer missed workouts.

2. Decreased Muscle Imbalances

We can all imagine the stereotypical “gym guy” with big shoulders and arms but no leg muscle; the importance of a balanced workout should never be underestimated. And it’s not just about looks. Muscle imbalances can also lead to injury and time spent outside of the gym due to pain. 

Luckily, breaking your workouts into push, pull, and leg days will offer you a way to design your workouts in a balanced approach. This can reduce your odds of injury and foster symmetry when it comes to your physique.

Optimal Push Pull Day Split for Muscle Growth

An optimal push and pull day workout plan for enhanced gains will include working these muscles multiple times a week. This ensures you make progress forward with progressive overload. 

Push or Pull: What Exercises Are Which?

It can be difficult to tell which exercises are which, let’s take a closer at which exercises fall under push and pull workout days look.


Are squats push or pull? Often, squats fall within the “push” category. This is based on the primary movement in the squat when pushing away from the floor. However, due to some confusion with leg movements, many frequently choose to do legs as a separate workout, often called “leg days”, as opposed to incorporating these exercises within the “push” or “pull” categories.

Hip Thrusts

So, what about this popular glute exercise? Are hip thrusts push or pull? Hip thrusts are a “push” exercise due to the primary movement of thrusting the hips upward away from the floor. 


As you can probably guess from the above info, dips are categorised as a “push” exercise. This is because the focus is on the pushing upward movement involved.


Are shrugs push or pull? Well, shrugs are usually a “pull” exercise because the shoulders’ upward movement is the primary movement.


As per the above sections, curls are “pull” exercises. From hammer curls to bicep curls, these all involve pulling as the primary movement.

Skull Crushers 

Are skull crushers push or pull? Also called lying tricep extensions, skull crushers fall into the “push” category. The main “push” movement is when you push the weight up, contracting the triceps and extending the arms.


The trapezius muscle plays a crucial role in proper posture. So, are traps push or pull? Most exercises targeting these muscles are “pull” movements. Often, this involves pulling the weight or cable toward the body, effectively engaging the traps in the back of the torso.


Glutes typically involve “push” exercises, such as the glute thrust or cable kickbacks. However, this isn’t always the case. The glutes are also engaged during various other exercises, such as deadlifts, lunges, squats, and the leg press. Deadlifts, in particular, are considered a “pull” movement.


With leg exercises being the most confusing when it comes to these types of categorisations, are deadlifts push or pull exercises? Deadlifts usually fall under the “pull” category due to the main movement involving lifting the bar off the ground.


Are abs push or pull? Abs also offer a confusing dilemma when determining “push” or “pull” categorisation. In fact, most people don’t bother type-casting them at all. Instead, abs are usually a workout added onto other workouts, such as at the end of a leg day.

Get Started on Your Squat Journey With Our Squat Series on YouTube, Where You’ll Also Find Many More Useful Fitness Videos!

Examples Of Push vs Pull Exercises and Workouts

With the big muscle groups out of the way, let’s quickly look at what exercises fall under where. 

Push Day Exercises:

  • Bench press
  • Push-ups
  • Chest flys
  • Chest dips
  • Overhead press
  • Lateral raise
  • Front raise
  • Military press
  • Upright row
  • Shrugs
  • Tricep dips
  • Tricep push-ups
  • Skull crushers
  • Tricep push-backs

Pull Day Exercises:

  • Pull-ups
  • Lat pull-downs
  • Bent-over rows
  • Seated rows
  • Face pulls
  • Curls

How Many Pull and Push Exercises Should You Do? 

It’s important to keep in mind that both may need adjustments or modifications depending on individual skill levels. However, typically, the recommendation is to focus on four to six main exercises, performing at least two to five sets.

Embrace Push and Pull Day Workouts with Aura Leisure

When planning your workout, make sure to plan for ab, leg, push, and pull exercises. A balanced workout routine targets the entire body, ensuring imbalances and injuries don’t occur.