Why You Probably Need to Pull More Often

Trainer Amanda doing cable pull throughs.

Trainer Amanda doing cable pull throughs.


by Devin Sarno, NSCA-CPT

Almost everybody loves to bench press and squat with extreme frequency during their training, but are you giving your posterior chain enough attention? You may or may not have heard that you should have about a 1:1 push to pull ratio in your training. In a perfect world, this is how it should be. However, given the fact that many of you probably sit at a desk for a good chunk of the day, you should actually probably train more pulling muscles a little more frequently than push muscles. Given the frequency of sitting and rounding those shoulders, those anterior muscles tend to tighten up and bad posture develops. Because of this, more attention should be place on those posterior upper body muscles in order to combat those postural issues as well as prevent imbalances in your training.

Although the biceps are very involved in pulling, this does not necessarily mean you should just go hammer out as many bicep curls as you can and you’re good to go. What this means is you need to put as much work into strengthening your rear deltoids, rhomboids, lats, biceps, traps, glutes, hamstrings, and trunk extensors as you put into building your chest, triceps, anterior delts, quads, and abs. You need balance in those push and pull muscles to help create more joint stability and help prevent injury and joint pain. Your glutes and hamstrings, for example, are what are really going to help you move more efficiently. On the contrary, having huge quads will not make you a better mover. While it might be a good look aesthetically, it will not benefit your movement efficiency or quality of life by building the quads without the posterior muscles. You also need that joint stability, particularly in your shoulders and hips, to be healthy in your training and everyday life.

But what are some of the best ways to build those pull muscles? You may understand that you need to incorporate more of these exercises, but what exercises exactly? For your upper body, one of the most underrated exercises is also extremely important and going to help you tremendously in your training. I’ve heard and seen hundreds of people work so hard to try to build their bench press so when they get asked the age old question, “How much do you bench?”, they can give an answer they are proud of. But the often ignored benchmark of upper body strength that you should be asking about it the row. Not only is this a great movement to build your back and accessory pulling muscles, but by incorporating the row into your training you should also increase your bench press as well due to the increased shoulder stability that evening out that training stimulus provides. Beyond the row, you should also incorporate movements such as: deadlifts (conventional or Romanian), pull-ups, pull-downs, reverse fly, reverse hyper extensions, leg curls, and bicep curls (to a certain degree).

Beyond just sheer importance for your body and training over time, working those pull muscles can also potentially have some immediate positive impacts on your push exercises. If you get those pull muscles activated prior to doing a push exercise, you are inherently increasing joint stability and giving yourself a better and more stable base to push from. For example, if you do a set of bent over rows before a set of bench press, your shoulders are much better prepared to support that load. So do yourself a favor and get in the gym and pull some weight! Make sure that you do not sucked into doing a ton of pushing and overtraining your quads, pecs and triceps, while leaving your pulling muscles behind. Imbalances are absolutely sure to happen, and there is a good chance that injury could also follow. Take care of your body and make sure you have a well-rounded training program that thoroughly addresses your pull muscles, as well as your push muscles.




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