T Nation

Concerns Building a Push/Pull Split

After losing a bunch of flab, I did Chad Waterbury’s art-of-Waterbury for 10 weeks and his TBT for another 16, and I’ve seen great gains in strength but not so much in size. I’m looking to change up the workout and I’ve decided to try a push/pull split (4 days a week) instead of the total-body ones (3 days a week) I’ve done thus far. I’ve looked at TC’s article on the push pull and have done a bunch of searching, and I have a couple questions/concerns:

  1. I really, really don’t want to stop working the big 3: bench, back squat and deadlifts. I love them and don’t want to drop them off of any program I do. Problem is, I’m concerned about lack a of recovery between push/pull days in reference to deads and squats. Both deads and squats work quads, lower back and I don’t want to get in trouble by doing squats on push days followed directly with deads on pull days. Am I asking for trouble doing squats on one day followed by deads the next?

  2. I am doing light warmup and cooldown cardio on each push/pull day. I lost 30lbs of flab by doing lots of HIIT before focusing on resistance training. I want to stay in good cardiovascular shape, but my primary goal is gaining lean muscle size. Can I do HIIT on my day off (wednesday), or is that not sufficient for recovery before the next thursday/friday push/pull lift days?

Thanks for all the advice

legs/push/pull may be a better option.

squat/bench/dead + other appicable lifts.

Every split routine (and TBT too) has at least one compromise to it. None are perfect. There is always a conflict or non-optimal aspect of some kind.

There are probably people that can do squats one day and DL’s the next and do fine with this, but certainly it would be a compromise. Myself, I could not, at least not without vast compromise to the exercise performed on the second day. If having to do it, I’d do better having the DL’s on the second day rather than the other way around. But I don’t want to do either way.

Some exercises are really not distinctly classifiable under the push/pull analysis. E.g., how are your quads working differently, other than shorter range of motion, in DL’s versus squats? How about hams? How about glutes? Why is one “push” and the other “pull”? Because of what your HANDS are doing?

Now from the standpoint of the traps and rhomboids, the deads do fit into the pull category.

Other than the fact that your hands aren’t pulling, how is the squat so different than the DL that it ought to be trained on the opposite day even if that opposite day is only one day before?

You could consider counting the squat as a pull exercise, as the prime movers (quads, hams, glutes, and spinal erectors) are the exact same ones as in another exercise you are counting as a pull movement, namely the DL.

Alternately if wanting to do squat and DL on different days these days could be half a week apart. While I understand some desire to squat or DL more than once per week, there are a lot of great results happening from not doing so, but doing so only one per week each, whether on the same day or half a week apart.

There you go, a VERY nice push pull

In general I would put legs on the pull day, not the push day. Legs both pull and push so the terms are more to describe the upper body.

So the split really looks like this:

Push: Chest, Sh, Tris, Abs
Pull: Back, Bis, Legs, LB

You can do 2 on 1 off or whatever and go from there, that solves your problem.

Don’t try to squat one day and deadlift the next, that would be problematic.

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
Every split routine (and TBT too) has at least one compromise to it. None are perfect. There is always a conflict or non-optimal aspect of some kind.

There are probably people that can do squats one day and DL’s the next and do fine with this, but certainly it would be a compromise. Myself, I could not, at least not without vast compromise to the exercise performed on the second day. If having to do it, I’d do better having the DL’s on the second day rather than the other way around. But I don’t want to do either way.

Some exercises are really not distinctly classifiable under the push/pull analysis. E.g., how are your quads working differently, other than shorter range of motion, in DL’s versus squats? How about hams? How about glutes? Why is one “push” and the other “pull”? Because of what your HANDS are doing?

Now from the standpoint of the traps and rhomboids, the deads do fit into the pull category.

Other than the fact that your hands aren’t pulling, how is the squat so different than the DL that it ought to be trained on the opposite day even if that opposite day is only one day before?

You could consider counting the squat as a pull exercise, as the prime movers (quads, hams, glutes, and spinal erectors) are the exact same ones as in another exercise you are counting as a pull movement, namely the DL.

Alternately if wanting to do squat and DL on different days these days could be half a week apart. While I understand some desire to squat or DL more than once per week, there are a lot of great results happening from not doing so, but doing so only one per week each, whether on the same day or half a week apart.

[/quote]

Also depends a lot on your Deadlift technique. Some people pull with their legs fairly stiff/hips high while others go into more of a squatting position. Both styles are used by world-class pullers…

I personally have enough trouble squatting, deadlifting and training hamstrings (via sldl’s or some such) in the same week, my lower back just doesn’t like that anymore.

No idea how this works for people who do ME work, but I know that one heavy 8+ rep set of rack pulls, where you have to set the bar down between reps to re-fasten your straps and to get some air in, pretty much prevents me from squatting heavy for reps within the following days.

So in general I agree with Bill’s points.

If it were me, I’d do Front squats on push day and DL’s the following day. Front squats keep you generally upright so it’s a lot more different in comparison to how similar back squats are to deadlifts. I’ve had back problems and my back can handle that set up.

And by looking at that link posted, it looks like I’m on the same page as TC.

[quote]Cephalic_Carnage wrote:
Some exercises are really not distinctly classifiable under the push/pull analysis. E.g., how are your quads working differently, other than shorter range of motion, in DL’s versus squats? How about hams? How about glutes? Why is one “push” and the other “pull”? Because of what your HANDS are doing?

Now from the standpoint of the traps and rhomboids, the deads do fit into the pull category.

Other than the fact that your hands aren’t pulling, how is the squat so different than the DL that it ought to be trained on the opposite day even if that opposite day is only one day before?

You could consider counting the squat as a pull exercise, as the prime movers (quads, hams, glutes, and spinal erectors) are the exact same ones as in another exercise you are counting as a pull movement, namely the DL.

Also depends a lot on your Deadlift technique. Some people pull with their legs fairly stiff/hips high while others go into more of a squatting position. Both styles are used by world-class pullers…[/quote]

Agreed but it’s a difference in how hard these muscles work relative to each other, rather than being categorically separate, as the push/pull approach tries to separate things.

The approach works fine for figuring whether biceps “go,” in terms of the training plan, with chest or with lats, for example. Because the biceps just aren’t prime movers in what are called the push exercises.

It’s generally a quite workable way of dividing the body so that exercises of one day use muscles that are worked relatively little in the other day and vice-versa, but in the case of the squat, calling it “push” may make literal sense but does not accurately reflect what prime movers are involved if calling the DL “pull,” as the same prime movers are required.

Though as you are saying, in different balance with each other. Still that different balance, also as you are saying in your own case, doesn’t necessarily help out sufficiently – and quite probably does NOT help out sufficiently – to make doing them on successive days the best way to go.

If it were radically different muscle involvement between the exercises, for example if let’s say the squat used only the quads and had very little dependence on the lower back, glutes, or hamstrings, then sure dividing them “push” and “pull” could make sense in practice rather than only in the literal sense as I think is actually the case. But of course that’s not so.

Would a solution to the squat/DL classification into pushing or pulling categories be using more quad-dominant squat techniqes (front squat?) and more hip-dominant DL techniques (sumo?) ?

Other than having concern about what the hands are doing, why the effort to classify the squat as being “push” anyway?

So barbell hack squat is pull because of what the hands are doing, and I suppose if one wore a harness that pulled the barbell for something very like a standard back squat that would be pull, and a hip-belt squat would be pull, but for the back squat because the hands are in a pushing position – though the exercise is not for the arms – that makes it push?

As for the barbell, no matter what it’s being pushed from the bottom. It’s just a question of whether it’s the fingers doing it or the palm.

True, in the back squat the weight is not on the hands, but my point is if there were a strap or something on the traps that was pulling the barbell from the floor, the force on the body would be the same but now it would be called “pull.”

I agree with what you are saying. But my concern was how one could incorporate different variants of squats/DLs in the push days or the pull days.

After reading TC’s sample program I’m a little enligthened. DLs, Romanian DLs, SLDLs, etc are done on pulling days, while Leg press, front squats and bulgarian squats are done on pushing days.

As for me I don’t think a regular back squat would fit into a push/pull routine, as I recruit equal amounts of pushing force from the quads as pulling force from hams and glutes.

First off, thanks for all the good responses! I did in fact find TC’s push/pull routine during the search for a good push/pull program, and I liked it with a few concerns (most of which are already voiced in this thread).

First, he has deadlifts on monday, then front squats on tuesday. I really like the regular back squat a lot, but perhaps he dose this because teh front squat is more upright, i.e. little back work? Still, it seems like an overlap of glutes and hams.

Second, it doesn’t have much shoulder work, which is where I feel I need to fill in a bit. My chest and legs are really the only major places I have seen respectable gains since I started bulking on the total-body programs I listed. On TC’s program, it looks like the rows (assuming they’re upright) hit shoulders once on thursdays, and then they’re hit again with the lateral raises on fridays.

I like Bill’s idea of spacing the deads and squats out more, i.e. training regular deads and regular squats once a week: perhaps regular deads on the first pull day of the week and ergular squats on the second push day of the week. I could see that eliminating the overlap, but of course I would need to try to fill the new gap with another similar but non-overlapping exercise.

I guess my main concern is that I really want to focus on hypertrophy and gaining mass, but I like the powerlifting exercises (dead, squat, bench) and compound exercises: I feel like they’re good to get more fone in less time and keep the training even. I don’t feel like the total body programs 3x a week have given me the size gains I’m shooting for. But I’m not sure a push/pull is right either. Now would be a good time to change it up, but I don’t want to backtrack/overtrain/reduce potential gains by doing a bad program for me.

I suppose I could try TC’s push/pull with using the front squats and adding an additional shoulder exercise…

Not to pimp my own stuff but…

There are lots of good programs out there, but the above one is nice because it lets you focus as much as you want on squats, bench, deads, and shoulders and gives you plenty of time for recovery. I think the added intensity will be a nice change of pace from the total body routine and lower frequency is generally better for size. You might try it and if you need a higher frequency you can also switch back to a push/pull or some similar variant.

If you are totally into the idea of separating out squats and deads do this split instead of the one listed in the article, which puts the two together:

Day 1: Legs (squats)
Day 2: Chest and Bis
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Back and Lower back (deads)
Day 5: Shoulders and Tris
Day 6 and 7: Off

I didn’t read the whole thing but did you stop to think that if you were gaining lots of strength and not gaining size you might not have been eating enough?

Bill I agree with you but I think the squat and the DL should be pushes. In the concentric part of the movement your legs are pushing you away from the floor making it a pushing movement. No where in that movement is anything pulling!

[quote]300andabove wrote:

There you go, a VERY nice push pull[/quote]

Probably one of the best splits out there! This is one I’d continue to do for years! I love it!

[quote]BUSHMASTER wrote:
Bill I agree with you but I think the squat and the DL should be pushes. In the concentric part of the movement your legs are pushing you away from the floor making it a pushing movement. No where in that movement is anything pulling![/quote]

The traps and rhomboids are.

As for the glutes, quads, and hams, as they aren’t generally involved in the upper body exercises called “push” exercises, it isn’t necessary to define them as being push.

On the question of whether the DL is a push, it does seem to me that I am pulling the weight towards me.