noticed that the middle and lower trapezius muscles are worked
in back exercises, such as one arm dumbbell rows, but that the
upper traps are worked during deltoid exercises such as the military
press. My question is when to do shrugs, with shoulders or with
back. Is it okay to work the middle and lower traps with rowing
exercises during my back workout, and then do shrugs to hit the
upper traps during my shoulder workout, or should I keep lower,
middle, and upper traps all together on one day?
Although I suggest working Upper
Traps on Back Day (See Chest
& Back / Legs / Shoulders & Arms Template), working
upper traps on shoulder day is also acceptable particularly since
the upper trap is worked isometrically as a stabilizer on most
front and side delt exercises. Keep in mind, however, during
programs where you perform deadlifts
or Olympic-style Weightlifts (eg: Power
Cleans or Power
Snatches) you will likely find you do not need to incorporate
isolated upper trap work since the traps are already heavily
stimulated during those movements.
With a split program, it is common to have movements that
exercise muscles that have already been worked on another day.
For example, many back and lat exercises also involve the chest
(potentially effecting a push/pull program). In addition many
chest and back exercises involve the shoulders and arms (possibly
effecting a torso/shoulders and arm program).
The idea is to maximize recovery for muscles of greatest priority
while minimizing overtraining for those muscle groups and joints
that are prone to injury, like the lower
back and supraspinatus.
For example, performing squats one day and barbell bent-over
rows the next day may increase risk of low back injury over time
by overuse, see Lower
First, I love your site because of the scope of the information
and the fact that it is based on science. Now, my issue is with
the push vs pull split workouts. I think the hip abductor (a
pushing motion) and the hip adductors (a pulling motion) are
listed under the incorrect workouts. Shouldn't the hip abductors
be listed under the "push" workout and the hip adductors
listed under the "pull" workout?
Thank you for your kind words on the ExRx site. You are correct
that Hip Adductors and Hip Abductors are switched according to
their stated function on the Push
and Pull Workout Templates. I understand why this is confusing,
but they have been inversely assigned to those particular days
according to how these muscles are used on the majority of the
Muscle groups are classified push or pull according to their
function during direct work. The discrepancy occurs when the
muscles are being exercised indirectly through other basic exercises.
With the Hip Adductors,
weight is pulled toward the midline of the body when they are
exercised directly, as in hip
adduction work, so then their function is generally classified
as 'Pull'. However, during heavy compound lower body movements
such as squats
presses, the Adductor Magnus, the strongest of the three
heads, assists in the lower portion of these movements. A wide
stance during those exercises also engages other heads of the
hip adductors, the Adductor Longest and Adductor Brevis. To complicate
matters, those other two heads assist in the opposite movement,
the initial phase of hip
The case with the hip
abductors being placed with the opposite pulling muscles
is not as strong. One argument is that, it is the opposite movement
of adduction and therefore a pulling muscle by default. However,
the more convincing rationale is that, 2 of the 4 hip abductors
Latae and Sartorius)
are also involved in hip flexor exercises like leg
raises and sit-ups
which are considered pulling exercises (opposite of hip extension).
On the other hand, the other two hip abductors, the Gluteus
Medius and Gluteus
Minimus, are involved isometrically to stabilize the hips
during single leg push exercises such as step-ups,
squats, and lunges.
I suppose, one could assert that Hip Adductors and Abductors
are actually push and pull muscles respectively (opposite of
how they are classified now). Such an argument would be based
on the general rule in which other ambiguous muscle groups are
commonly classified; its function as push or pull muscle is determined
not by its isolated movement but by its compound counterpart.
This is why front delts
are considered pushing muscles (as in shoulder press) and side delts are considered
pulling muscles (as in upright rows). Actually, attempting to
look at the isolated movement is typically not as insightful
and can be quite confusing for some muscle groups.
However, performing hip adductors and abductors
on push or pull days might be a relatively inconsequential decision,
as compared to what days other major muscle groups are exercised,
unless the training focus is on the Hip Adductors and Abductors,
or an existing vulnerability (ie: past injury) affecting these
muscle groups or joint functions exists. Notice in the Guidelines
section at the bottom of the Push/Pull
programs where we mention that hip adductors and abductors
can be exercised exclusively with either the push or pull workout.
Placing these more inconsequential or ambiguous muscle groups
in one or the other workout provides an opportunity to balance
out workouts that ends up having more or less optional exercises
Other examples of ambiguous muscles classifications include
the Pectoralis Major,
generally thought of as a pushing muscle group (eg: Bench
Dips), which also assist during pulling exercises, such as
and even pull-ups.
This is why recovery can be compromised when performing an upper
body push workout following an upper pull workout the previous
day, and visa versa. Therefore, it is advisable to plan split
workouts so prioritized muscle groups are not exercises the day
following a workout in which they have already been involved.
Also consider the supraspinatus
which stabilizes the shoulder and assists in both the Shoulder
Press (a pushing exercise) and the Upright
Row (a pulling exercise). It is reasonable and often advisable
to train side delt,
technically a pulling muscle, on push day, typically just after
front delt work
to avoid overusing the supraspinatus, a venerable and commonly
injured muscle. However, with the decision to perform upright
rows on push day, then we risk compromising the recovery of arm
flexors and gripping muscles, with their accompanying joint structures,
particularly if other upper body pulling exercises (eg Row,
are scheduled the day before or the day afterwards. Also see
Split Program Design Flaws.
The goal should be to choose exercises according to your training
goals, orthopedic vulnerabilities (possibly judged by past injuries),
and group them in a way that permits adequate recovery between
each workout. Certain split programs favor the development of
certain muscle groups. Likewise, certain splits allow for greater
or less recovery of particular muscle groups and joint structures
than others. Choose a split program according to training level,
goals, schedule constraints, and personal preferences. However,
consider periodically changing your split as well as your exercise
selection (also see Benefits
of Changing Exercises). Doing so may help vary what muscle
groups you emphasize and decrease the possibility of overuse
injuries which may eventually manifest by favoring a particular
splits for extended periods of time.
Placing some muscles into either a push or pull category is
far from perfect, as with most classification systems. The main
objective of classifying muscle groups is to allow muscle groups'
sufficient recovery time between workouts. It's somewhat straight
forward when it comes to most muscle groups, but as I've pointed
out, there are some cases where compromises and exceptions may
be in order.