Is Push Pull Good for Losing Weight?

is push pull good for losing weight

If your goal is to lose weight while maintaining (or building) muscle mass then you may be wondering if a push pull split will be effective.

A push pull workout split can be good for losing weight if you’re managing your volume and intensity to promote recovery. A push-pull workout split will only be effective for weight loss if paired with a calorie deficit.

To help you maximize your weight loss results using a push pull split, I’ll teach you how to implement it and provide you with a sample workout template to follow.

If you want to use the push-pull split during a weight loss phase (and ensure you do not lose muscle or strength), let Fitbod help. On average, a new Fitbod user who trains 3 times a week for about 45 minutes will see a 34% strength increase after 3 months. Try Fitbod for free.

What Is A Push Pull Split?

A push pull split is a workout split with you training pushing muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps, quadriceps) in one session and pulling muscles (back, traps, biceps, hamstrings, and glutes) in another session. 

You will typically follow a 4, 5, or 6-day split, allowing you to train all muscle groups 2-3 times a week.

This is a very popular program for all levels and goals, as it allows you to incorporate heavier rep ranges to develop strength and moderate rep ranges to develop muscle mass. You can also include compound (free weight and machine) and isolation exercises based on your goals and abilities.

Related Article: 4-Day Push Pull Workout Split to Build Muscle and Strength 

Can You Lose Weight With A Push Pull Split?

Yes, you can 100% lose weight and preserve lean muscle and strength with a push pull split as long as you are in a caloric deficit throughout the entire period.

A calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than your body needs to maintain weight) is required for fat loss. A push pull split can help you achieve a calorie deficit more easily by increasing the number of calories you’re burning.

Strength training in general also helps to encourage fat loss rather than weight loss, meaning that if you’re strength training while dieting you’re more likely to lose fat and preserve muscle rather than losing both fat and muscle.

How much of a calorie deficit you need will depend on your sex, age, activity levels, lean body mass, and prior training history.

For more details about calorie deficits, check out the following resources:

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Benefits of A Push Pull Split For Weight Loss

benefits of a push pull split for weight loss

The 4 benefits of a push pull split for weight loss are:

Trains Muscles Multiple Times a Week

A push-pull split is a great way to train your muscles at a higher frequency throughout the week, which is exactly what you want to do when eating less. 

When losing weight, you must deliver enough stimulus to the muscles to ensure that the body keeps them around (and doesn’t break down muscle tissue for energy).

Providing consistent training to each muscle group by training more often is a great way to retain muscle and ensure you lose fat, not muscle, during your cutting phase.

Keeps Training Volume High

When losing weight, you also want to keep your overall training volume higher, as this will help improve your chances of preserving lean muscle mass while also increasing your energy expenditure from your workouts.  

Because this workout split trains larger muscle groups twice, sometimes three times per week, you can deliver higher amounts of volume (the amount of total work a muscle must do) to the tissues to ensure you are preserving as much lean mass as possible and improving your ability to lose fat.

Easy to Structure and Progress

By breaking down your training into a push or pull split, you can easily choose 1-2 movements per muscle group each day and keep your programming simple. 

Seeing that each day trains 3-4 large muscle groups, you can get your workouts done with 5-6 total movements and focus on doing them well, rather than overcomplicating them.

When you are not eating as many calories, you will notice your recovery may take longer between sessions, and energy may dip faster than when you are well-fed. Keeping things simple and concise should help you do what is necessary to get the best results without compromising your recovery.

Related Article: 4 Day Push Pull Workout Routine To Build Muscle & Strength

Allows for Variety (If You Want More)

With a push pull split, you will be training most muscle groups multiple times a week, so you can add in more variations to keep yourself from getting bored. However, this won’t necessarily be any more effective than if you did the same movements.

Some lifters get bored easily doing the same movements every workout and want more variety in their training, but if you’re someone who likes repetition then you can choose 2-3 exercises per muscle group per month and work on mastering those. 

Drawbacks Of A Push Pull Split For Weight Loss

drawbacks of a push pull split for weight loss

The drawbacks of a push pull split for weight loss are:

May Be Fatiguing for More Advanced Lifters

Stronger lifters may find that a push-pull workout program leaves them feeling pretty beat up, especially if they do a lot of compound movements.

For example, a lifter may do a back squat, bench press, and overhead press on a push day. They may do deadlifts, bent-over rows, and pull-ups when they are training to push the following day. 

Although those days train different muscle groups, some muscles get worked pretty hard in both sessions (glutes, back, erectors, core). This may be fine for some, but others may find it challenging to do that four times a week, especially while dieting.

However, this can be combated by having days where loading is lighter for some movements and heavier for others or choosing multi-joint machine exercises (like hack squat vs. back squat) to better isolate a muscle group without relying too much on the trunk and other stabilizing muscles.

Some Workouts Can Get Lengthy

This is only an issue if you are trying to perform many isolation movements for muscle groups like arms and deltoids. 

The priority should be to train the larger muscle groups like the chest, back, shoulders, and legs with compound exercises (which will help maintain muscle in other areas), and reserve isolation exercises for when you have more energy.

If you find adding more isolation exercises in workouts is now making them 60-90 minute sessions, which is causing you to feel overly fatigued then it’s best to exclude them.

I will often include a 5th training session devoted to smaller muscle groups like arms and delts if that is an area I want to make sure I do not lose size when losing weight.

How To Maximize A Push Pull Split For Weight Loss

For the most part, maximizing a push-pull split for weight loss is not different from training a push-pull split for muscle growth. There are only a few key differences, mainly in overall training intensity with hefty loads (which may only be a concern of more advanced lifters).

Nonetheless, here are some considerations for choosing the right exercises, sets, reps, loads, and progressions to maximize your push-pull split during weight loss training.

Exercise Selection

With a push pull split for weight loss, you should try to rely heavily on compound movements (free weight and machine), such as squats, presses, rows, pulldowns, deadlifts, and single-leg work.

Adding in some isolation exercises for smaller muscle groups (like the biceps, triceps, and delts) can also be helpful, however, your main emphasis should be to train as much tissue as you can and keep workouts time efficient.

You may also want to choose more machine-based compound movements (such as hack squats instead of front squats) more often if your energy is dipping too much on heavy barbell compound exercises.

This, of course, depends on the individual, so some lifters may have no issues maintaining the same exercises that they train when they aren’t dieting.


During your weight loss phase, you will want to ensure you get enough training volume in each session to preserve lean muscle mass. 

You also want to make sure that the reps you are doing are high quality, meaning that they are performed with good technique and not becoming sloppy or tiring to the entire body.

For most compound exercises, 2-3 hard effort sets will suffice (that does not include warm-ups). 

Machine and single joint movements can also be done for 2-3 sets, with a total set count per session not exceeding 20.

Ideally, you would start your program doing 2-3 sets per exercise and end it by adding in extra sets along the way so that you are doing 3-4 total sets per exercise in the last week of your program.

By adding sets as weekly progressions, you can increase your overall work volume (the amount of work the muscles do) and drive adaptations without aggressively increasing loads or reps every week, which may get more challenging as you get further along in your diet.


When looking to preserve muscle mass (or build it), you want to train mostly in the 5-15 rep range. The majority of your training can be done in the 5-8 (25-30% of your reps), 8-15 (50%), and 15-30 (20-25%) rep range. 

Each rep range offers a unique stimulus that allows you to retain as much muscle, strength, and size as possible while losing weight.

  • Lower rep ranges (5-8) can help preserve and potentially increase your strength and muscle mass. However, it can also increase systemic fatigue (central nervous system, joint, and connective tissue) making this rep range harder to recover from.
  • Moderate rep ranges (8-15) can help you retain muscle mass.
  • High rep ranges (15-30) can also help you train muscle mass and keep your muscle size (pumps), without accumulating a lot of systemic fatigue.


When losing weight, your main goal should not be to max out your lifts or increase your top-end strength. This doesn’t mean you cannot lift with heavy loads relative to the rep range you are training, but it does mean that you should not be focusing on lifting heavier weights for less than five reps. 

The exception to this is if you’re losing weight to compete in a powerlifting or strength sport competition.

As a general rule of thumb, aim to lift with as heavy of a load as possible based on the rep range you are training. 

When training low and moderate rep ranges, especially with compound exercises, aim to keep 1-2 perfect reps in the tank (do not train to failure). 

When training moderate to higher rep ranges with isolation or machine exercises, you can push closer to failure (within a rep of failure, or sometimes to failure), as long as your form is controlled.


To progress your workouts during a weight loss phase, you should focus on adding more sets and reps or increasing each session’s load each week.

That said, the rate at which you can increase may be slower due to you being in a calorie deficit, so try to make small improvements each week. Avoid pushing yourself to the limit (failure) because you want to set yourself up for success week after week.

Sample Push Pull Workouts For Losing Weight

sample push pull workouts for losing weight

Below is a sample push-pull workout split that you can do to maintain (or gain) strength and muscle during a weight loss phase. 

It is important to note that these workouts are done not to burn more calories and lose weight but rather to help maintain muscle mass and strength (these workouts do burn calories, but that is not their primary purpose). 

You will also notice that each day is broken down into two segments, one focused on building strength and the other on hypertrophy (muscle growth). Each week, you will train all muscles twice, with one session focusing more on heavier loads and others on moderate loads.

Day 1 – Push

Upper Strength

  • Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
  • Dip: 3 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets

Lower Hypertrophy

  • Hack Squat or Leg Press: 3 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets
  • Step Up: 3 sets of 10 reps per leg, resting 2 minutes between sets

Day 2 – Pull

Lower Strength

  • Barbell Deadlifts: 3 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
  • Bulgarian Split Squat: 3 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets

Upper Hypertrophy

  • Assisted Pull-Up Machine or Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets
  • Dumbbell Row: 3 sets of 10-15 reps per arm, resting 2 minutes between sets
  • Barbell Curl: 3 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets

Day 3 – Push

Lower Strength

  • Barbell Back Squat: 3 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
  • Hack Squat: 3 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets

Upper Hypertrophy

  • Seated Barbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets
  • Hammer Chest Press or Dumbbell Flat Bench Press: 3 sets of 10-15, resting 2 minutes between sets
  • Skullcrusher: 3 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets

Day 4 – Pull

Upper Strength

  • Barbell Bent Over Row: 3 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
  • Chin Up: 3 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets
  • Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets

Lower Hypertrophy

  • Romanian Deadlift or Goodmorning: 3 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets
  • Seated Hamstring Curl: 3 sets of 10-15 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets

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About The Author

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.