Pushing hard in the gym but still not pulling? How to nail your pushing and pulling ratio

Pushing hard in the gym but still not pulling? How to nail your pushing and pulling ratio

Step into any weight room anywhere in the world and it’ll be immediately obvious just how much we all love to PUSH in the gym. You can’t even walk from one end of the gym to the other without seeing guys busting out their bench presses, huffing their way through sets of pec flyes and sweating out their push up finishers… pretty standard stuff.

But where are all the guys training their pulling movements? It’s far less common you’ll see guys doing chin sets on the pull up bar or busting their balls on the cable row machine.

And we get it. Pulling movements are the less sexy side of lifting. If pushing is the Instagram-famous show reel highlight of lifting, pulling is the behind the scenes ground work left on the cutting room floor.

For one thing, pulling movements work those muscles you can’t immediately see in the mirror, which is no fun, right? And let’s face it, ain’t nobody asking “how much do you row, bro?”.


The problem is, neglecting pulling movements in your training programme will eventually lead to an unequal development of muscles – consider the “cave man” posture of many lifters with the scapula rounding at the shoulders – this is usually the result of a messed up push:pull ratio.

Too much benching and not enough rowing makes Jack an imbalanced boy! And this is no good for aesthetics OR athletics.

That’s why most trainers recommend a ratio of at least 1:1 pull: push in any strength training programme. Many trainers even suggest a 2:1 or even 3:1 pull:push ratio to even out postural imbalances and reduce the risk of overuse injuries caused by too much pushing and not enough pulling.


In simple terms, this means that when planning your strength training programme, you need to remember to AT LEAST balance out your pushing and pulling movements.

Of course, this depends on what strength equipment you have at your disposal but, for example, if you’re doing bench press (a horizontal PUSHING exercise) on upper body day, make sure you also include at least one PULLING exercise too, like seated cable rows on a low pulley row or bent over rows (horizontal PULLING exercises).

If you’ve included an overhead shoulder press (a vertical PUSHING exercise) in your programme, you might balance this out with a lat pull down (a vertical PULLING exercise).

Alternatively, for variation, you can mix your vertical pulls with your horizontal pushes. Or combine horizontal pulling with vertical pushing…

However you choose to do it, the important thing to remember in order to prevent muscle imbalances, postural issues and injury further down the line is this: for every push, there should be at least one pull!