Men's Journal

The Push-Pull Workout for a Well-Balanced Upper Body

 Mike Harrington

The “show me” muscles of your anterior chain — biceps, pecs, and six pack abs — may get all the attention, but if you’re ignoring the back half of your body — your lats, traps, rhomboids, and erector spinae — to eke out yet another set of dumbbell chest presses, you’re setting yourself up for pain. “When you don’t train the back, that’s when postural distortions occur and you develop chronic pain, stiffness, and overuse injuries,” says Rui Li, the President of New York Personal Training. “Nature gave you every muscle for a purpose, so it’s important for you to train them all when you hit the gym.”

The key to training, as in life, is to balance your workout with an equal measure of pushing and pulling exercises that hit the posterior chain as much as your anterior one. “If you think about the different ways the upper body can move, you can break it down in four simple ways: vertical pushing, vertical pulling, horizontal pushing, and horizontal pulling,” Li says. “If you perform exercises that are literally opposite movements from each other, then you have the makings of a great push-pull workout.”