One of my favorite ways to train the upper body is to have push/pull days or agonist/antagonist days. The benefits of this type of training are
– Increase in strength and size gains
– Muscular balance
– Efficient workouts
The key to this type of training is to pair two exercises together that train similar planes of motion. For example, with military press you are pressing straight overhead with your elbows locked out, and pull-ups have you starting with locked out arms and ending the movement in a similar position as the starting position for military press (the obvious difference is that the concentric and eccentric phases of each movement are opposites of one another).
Another example would pairing bench press and bent over rows together. With bench press, you face the ceiling and bent over rows face the floor. The prime movers and stabilizers in a bench press are the antagonistic muscles during a row and vice versa. When doing these sets you want to perform them as alternating sets, not to be confused with super-setting. Do a set of bench, rest 2-3 mins, then do a set of rows, rest 2-3 mins and then repeat. Working “opposite” movements in this way has proven to increase pressing strength.
The same pairs can be made with dips and inverted rows, dumbbell overhead press and lat pull downs, incline press and incline pull machine, back flys and chest flys, bicep curls and rope pull downs, and any other exercises that share planes of motion.
From a bodybuilder’s perspective, this type of training ensures that your muscle groups are treated equally, helping to achieve a balanced and symmetrical physique. From an athletic perspective, this type of training can help prevent muscle imbalances or postural issues that can occur by having strength imbalances between the anterior and posterior chains. Being too “press heavy”, for example, can cause you to slouch forward and thus mess with your movement mechanics or cause back pain.
The third benefit of this type of training is that your workouts will be efficient and allow you to get a ton of work done in a shorter amount of time. Instead of crushing your chest with every exercise known to man, the push/pull method gives your chest longer breaks between sets while activating antagonistic muscles that can assist in the following sets.
When applying this to your training week, chest and back (horizontal pushes/pulls) work great together as do vertical presses and pulls. Remember to focus on your bigger lifts like bench press and military press before accessory movements like chest flys and shoulder raises. And last but not least, remember to train like a legend!
– Stefan Lundberg
Legends of Pittsburgh Training