Complete horizontal push-pull workout for your upper body. Everything you need!
You can get far with just one horizontal push and one horizontal pull exercise, but eventually you want to spice things up and expand your repertoire of exercises.
This won't only help you progress further when it comes to strength and size but this will also make sure the body stays balanced and healthy.
There are actually two common ways to push and pull when it comes to the horizontal plane of the body: in layman terms elbows in and elbows out.
It makes a major difference whether your elbows go inside or outside the body.
Below is a workout routine that includes both 2 ways for both pulling and pushing. This is a great workout if you really want to hit the entire upper body at once.
You can add some overhead pressing or pull ups if you feel like it, but otherwise this workout will suffice just fine.
Horizontal Workout for the Upper Body
A1 Inverted rows or front lever rows: 5 x 5 repetitions.
A2 Pseudo planche push ups or narrow push ups: 5 x 5-10 repetitions.
B1 Bulgarian rows: 5 x 5 repetitions.
B2 Wide push ups: 5 x 5-20 repetitions.
You do A1 & A2 and B1 & B2 as a superset - this means that after you have finished the set of A1, you immediately start doing the A2.
Take 2 minutes of rest between sets.
Narrow Push/Pull Exercises
Beginner: Inverted Rows
Inverted rows are one of the best back exercises out there. We have a comprehensive video about it here.
You can do inverted rows on rings (the best option) or with a bar. You can also substitute this exercise with narrow cable rows.
The key here is to pull in a way your elbows go in close to your body (not flare outside).
This will increase the activation of lats. Your biceps, rear delts and middle back are also worked very nicely.
Beginner: Narrow Push Ups
Basic narrow push up where your elbows go inside is a great way to train the pushing muscles of the upper body.
The narrow stance will engage more triceps and front delts, but your chest muscles are also heavily targeted. Push your shoulders forward at the top and your serratus anterior muscles will also get work done.
Focus on relatively slow tempo and full range of motion to acquire the best results.
Advanced: Front Lever Rows
Compared to the inverted rows, the front lever row is a much harder exercise due to the fact you are pulling more of your bodyweight with every repetition.
Moreover, holding the lever position is very taxing for your back but also for your abs. The more you can extend your legs, the harder it will be.
Start from having your legs tucked (like in the picture above), but eventually you can progress towards a full front lever row (elite level pulling strength!).
Advanced: Pseudo Planche Push Ups
Pseudo planche push ups are an advanced pushing exercise where you are heavily leaning forward and then making a push up while holding the forward lean.
The forward lean will not only force you to push more of your own bodyweight, but holding the forward lean will also demand lots of strength from the shoulders.
At the top, it's crucial for you to push the shoulders forward. Contract your abs and flex your glutes for the hollow body shape.
Focus on control and slow tempo.
Wide Push/Pull Exercises
Bulgarian rows will kill your rear delts and the entire upper back area.
The key to bulgarian rows is to pull OUTSIDE so your elbows are directing outward and not inward like in the inverted row.
This is a challenging exercise when done right so start light and slow. The gymnastic rings are the best tool for the exercise, but a substitute exercise can also be an exercises called a rear delt row with a dumbbell or a kettlebell.
Wide Push Ups
Forget about the advice "Don't let your elbows flare with push ups!", because in this case you actually want your elbows to go outward.
In addition, take the widest push up stance you can do good repetitions with. Keep your shoulders in a good posture. Focus on control and full range of motion.
You can elevate your hands for added depth and range of motion. Feel a nice stretch in your pecs at the bottom!
Train hard, stay safe.