Your Ratio Of Push To Pull Training Volume Could Influence Your Physique. So Should You Pull Double What You Bench?
Many training programmes recommend specific push to pull ratios. The idea being that most people need to prioritise pulling movements to address imbalances. Be those in their physique and/or in natural levels of strength.
But what does this mean? Should you do 2-3 times as many sets per week of back vs chest? Or should you pull double what you bench press?
In this article you’ll discover everything you need to know about the push to pull ratio. Including, how to structure your training programme so that it brings you the best results. Here’s what you’ll learn:
- What the research says on push to pull ratios.
- The factors you need to consider when programming your training.
- What matters most about any push to pull ratio.
So, if you want to find out more, read on.
And if you’d prefer to listen to the audio version of “Push To Pull Ratio: Is There An Optimal Way To Train?”, click the play button below.
The Most Common Use Of The Push To Pull Ratio
The push to pull ratio is typically used as a programming approach to double (or even triple) the amount of training volume given to pushing vs pulling movements.
And this has merit in certain situations.
For example, many guys are guilty of overtraining chest, compared to back. And ladies tend to over-emphasise glutes, neglecting quads and hamstrings.
So addressing these imbalances through a specific push to pull ratio, might be exactly what your training programme needs.
After all, we know that progressive overload and training volume are associated with more muscle growth. Therefore, doubling or tripling set volume is likely to increase muscle growth and begin to correct an imbalance.
Another aspect of your training programme, which may influence the use of a push to pull ratio, is exercise prioritisation. No doubt, your training is structured with harder exercises at the start. Typically, these are movements such as squats, bench press, shoulder press, and deadlifts. And you’ll notice there’s a slight bias towards push movements.
Is this a bad thing? Maybe…
At the beginning of your workout you’re at your freshest. Motivation is high, energy levels are at their peak, and you’re ready to break PR’s. But as the workout progresses, energy levels fall. So, depending on your workout split and programme setup, your pull movements could be lacklustre.
Does That Make A Specific Push To Pull Ratio Necessary?
Whether you need to correct an imbalance or not, pre-defined ratios between push and pull movements don’t make sense. A 1:2 or 1:3 approach might work for some, but for others it could be the complete opposite of what’s required.
As with many aspects of training and nutrition, 2 guidelines prevail:
- Rules of what you MUST do are wrong, most of the time.
- Assessing your needs and finding what works for you, is most often the best strategy.
The Research On The Push Vs Pull Ratio
Training programme recommendations are one way the push to pull ratio is used. Another, is related to the strength differential. Claiming you should be able to perform double the number of reps with a given weight in pulling movements, versus a similar pushing movement. This makes no sense as a strength standard on which to base your training goals. And I’ll tell you why.
Let’s start by looking at two studies, specifically looking into the comparison of push and pull movements.
- Number of push‐ups completed during 3 sets of 15 seconds (45 second rest between sets).
- Number of inverted barbell rows completed during 3 sets of 15 seconds (45 second rest between sets).
“The results suggest that for our group of healthy recreationally active subjects, the upper body “pushing” musculature is approximately 1.5–2.7 times stronger than the musculature involved for pulling.”
Therefore, an expectation of a 1:2 strength ratio in favour of pulling, defies the capability of the human body.
The Bottom Line On The Push Vs Pull Ratio
Arbitrary rules for training are meaningless. Your individual circumstances and physique dictate the setup of your training programme. The push to pull ratio you need is likely to be very different to the pre-determined structure of workout routines you see online.
Your training programme should be specific to you. Don’t mindlessly apply pre-set rules. More often than not, they won’t work. Follow these rules without knowing why and you’re throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks.
And no-one wants to train in a gym with poo all over the walls!
So, when planning your training programme, make an assessment of your own needs. If you have an imbalance, driven by an over-emphasis on pushing movements, addressing through training volume accordingly.
But never set your goals on the expectation you SHOULD pull double what you push. This defies logic of biomechanics and exercise design.
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