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The Push and Pull of Balanced Strength Training

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The Push and Pull of Balanced Strength Training

Aerobic exercise has proven to be incredibly beneficial for one’s overall health and well-being showing it significantly reduces chronic disease, decreases depression and anxiety and improves sleep. But what part does strength training play in your exercise program? Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer Shannon Edwards, MS, explains the importance of strength training and how to achieve an effective and balanced strength routine through the push-pull training method.

Perks of strength training

  • Faster metabolism, which aids in weight loss
  • Reduced chance of injury due to stronger muscles
  • Improved overall athletic performance seen in sprint speed, jumping height and throwing velocity
  • Boosted confidence in personal appearance
  • Improved ability to perform daily functions such as getting up out of a chair or lifting objects around the house

Strength training can be considered as any type of workout that produces force. A number of items can be used in a creative method to create this force in strength training, including dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance machines, bands and even body weight. Even if you are limited to working out at home, there are plenty of household items which can serve as ideal substitutes for gym equipment such as paint cans, milk jugs, water bottles and canned goods!

“I believe strength training is one of the quickest, most effective ways to reduce body fat,” says Edwards. He encourages his clients to aim for a strength training routine that is metabolically challenging, meaning one that builds muscle and increases the heart rate with shorter rest times.

Strength training is beneficial and necessary for all age groups. It in fact plays a fundamental role in Cooper Aerobics’ purpose to improve the quality and quantity of life. To ward off threats to one’s health, Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, Founder and Chairman of Cooper Aerobics, recommends these specific aerobic-strength training ratios:

  • 40 years old or younger: 80 percent aerobic exercise; 20 percent strength training
  • 41 to 50 years old: 70 percent aerobic exercise; 30 percent strength training
  • 51 to 60 years old: 60 percent aerobic exercise; 40 percent strength training
  • 60+ years old: 55 percent aerobic exercise; 45 percent strength training

While cardiovascular endurance is vital to building one’s overall physical fitness, strength training builds the muscles needed to do most daily activities and movements such as getting up off the ground, rising out of a chair or walking up a flight of stairs. This is why Edwards states he views strength training especially important for people 50 and older.

Effectively train with a push-pull routine
For a strength routine that is safe, effective and time-efficient, Edwards says a push-pull routine is ideal. The routine alternates working out opposing muscle groups in a single workout in order to achieve a safe and balanced workout.

Push exercises
“The simplest way to define a push exercise is one that focuses on joint extension,” explains Edwards. Many of the muscles used to push are on the front of your body such as the triceps, chest, quadriceps, calves and hip abductors. Examples of push exercises include:

  • Bench press
  • Squat
  • Lunge
  • Tricep extension
  • Calf raises
  • Hip abduction
  • Chest fly

Pull exercises
Edwards explains pull exercises as exercises that focus on joint flexion. Some of the major pulling muscles are located on the back part of your body and include the back, rear shoulders, biceps, glutes, hamstrings and inner thighs. Examples of pull exercises include:

  • Seated rows
  • Lat pulldowns
  • Bicep curls
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Hamstring curl
  • Glute bridge

Push-pull resistance training can be incorporated in several ways. See below for a few of Edwards’ favorite ways to implement a push-pull routine based on the number of days per week your schedule allows you to strength train.

2x per week routine
Day 1:
upper body push + lower body pull
Day 2: upper body pull + lower body push

3x per week routine
Day 1:
upper body push + lower body pull
Day 2: upper body pull + lower body push
Day 3: full body circuit

4x per week routine
Day 1:
(heavy) upper body pull + legs
Day 2: (light) upper body push + core
Day 3: (light) upper body pull + legs
Day 4: (heavy) upper body push + core

Strength training is important to include in your overall workout regimen. It not only improves your metabolism and your ability to perform daily movement, but also boosts your confidence and reduces your risk of injury. Whether you’re working out at the gym or at home, a push-pull strength training routine is an ideal option for anyone who is looking to get the most out of their time and effort.

For more information about Cooper Fitness Center or to schedule a session with a Professional Fitness Trainer, visit or call 972.233.4832.