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What Is Pull/Push Powerlifting?

author image Eric Brown
Eric Brown began writing professionally in 1990 and has been a strength and conditioning coach and exercise physiologist for more than 20 years. His published work has appeared in "Powerlifting USA," "Ironsport" and various peer-reviewed journals. Brown has a Bachelor of Science in exercise physiology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science in kinesiology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
What Is Pull/Push Powerlifting?
The bench press is a common pushing exercise. Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Powerlifting is a strength sport in which you compete in the squat, bench press and deadlift. Push-pull can refer to either training or competition. A push-pull meet is more limited in scope than a full meet. Push-pull training is a method of setting up your program to focus on certain muscle groups and get plenty of recovery time. Consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.


Push refers to the bench press and pull refers to the deadlift. The bench press is pushed off of your chest from a dead stop. The deadlift is pulled from the ground. When competing, you must follow the commands and rules at all times. A push-pull meet features only the bench press and deadlift, with the winner in each weight class having the highest total between the two. Some full meets which feature the squat will also have a push-pull division.

Push Training

Push training is training your bench and the muscles that assist you in elevating your arms or extending your arms. These muscles include the chest, shoulders and triceps. Both compound exercises such as the shoulder press and close-grip bench press can be used, and work the triceps heavily. Heavy shoulder pressing may be substituted for benching if you are benching multiple days per week. This allows you to work the shoulders heavily with less weight, giving you something of a rest. Barbell and dumbbell extensions can also be used to work your triceps.

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Pull Training

Pull training usually refers to training your deadlift and many of the supporting muscles, including your middle and upper back. The deadlift itself heavily works your back regardless of deadlift style. Extra training for your latissimus dorsi is commonly performed on this day. Exercises such as chinups and rows work these muscles, which are the widest of your back. These muscles also support your shoulders when benching and squatting, making them important on all three lifts. Shrugs with a barbell or dumbbells can done for extra volume for your upper back.

Training Week

A push-pull training system is usually based around a three or four day training week. A common example would be to pull on Monday, push on Wednesday, squat on Friday, and push again on Saturday. Saturday is often a lighter day where you can work on technique or use bench press variations, such as partial movements, incline bench presses or the military press. This training method allows you to use more volume per muscle group each training session that a whole-body routine, but requires more recovery.

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