Bench Press
Credit: Wikipedia Commons - United States Navy

Man doing bench press

Muscle balance

Have you ever been to the gym and noticed guys who only d0 bench press and curls?  While they can achieve some benefits from this mode of training, they are definitely missing out on a multitude of benefits by not working other body parts.

Opposing Muscle Groups

Each muscle in the body has an opposing muscle which performs a movement in the opposite direction.  The biceps pull up and the triceps push down.  The quadriceps extend your leg to push and the hamstrings contract your leg to pull.  Contracting your abdominals curls your body toward your legs.  On the other hand, activating your lower back muscles straightens the body.

When planning my workout routine, I like to divide training sessions between pushing and pulling type movements.  The idea is to keep the number of sets roughly equal between push and pull type exercises.  If you do too many sets of bench press and military press to the exclusion of back exercises such as pull ups and rows, your body will be out of balance. Further, you can even reach diminishing returns on your bench press because the back platform you need for pushing is not strong enough to keep up with your chest strength.  

Lower Body Exercise

Particularly for men over forty, concentrating solely on upper body exercises leaves strength and muscle gains on the table.  As we age, the body produces less testosterone and HGH (human growth hormone), which are both required for strength and muscle gains to occur. Doing compound lower body movements such as squats and deadlifts stress most of the muscle groups in the body.  This stress causes the body to produce testosterone and HGH.  The increased testosterone and HGH levels caused by the leg work helps you achieve better strength gains from your chest and arm movements.  While the legs and arms are not opposing muscle groups, ignoring the legs reduces the potential benefits of working the arms and chest.   For guys in their twenties, they can still develop strong arms by concentrating solely on arm work. Older guys need to mix in compound exercises involving the legs in order to fully benefit from their upper body work.

Daily Workout Splits

I prefer a whole body workout each session and then resting a day between workouts.  Other people prefer to work out different parts of their body nearly every day.  For me, doing a whole body workout every other day instead of a split workout each day is primarily a concession to age.  I feel more tired if I strength train every day, even with split workouts.  My twenty something son is very comfortable working out five or six days a week.  For those who split their workouts and train on consecutive days, the plan is generally chest and arms on day 1, shoulders and back on day 2, and legs on day 3.  The fourth day is rest.  Core work can be done on day 1 and day 3.


In order to achieve the full benefits of weight training, you should try to balance pushing and pulling exercises benefiting opposing muscle groups and be sure to include a significant component of leg training.

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