A male bodybuilder doing a Pull Day hypertrophy workout to build bigger back muscles.

The Best Pull Day Workout for Building Muscle

Pull Days can give you a wide back, a sturdy torso, and big biceps. They’re tricky, though. You’ve got a glorious mess of muscles back there, all of them yearning to grow, but each demanding a different elbow position or pulling angle.

Then come deadlifts and bent-over rows, which work your upper back and lats, but also your spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings. That makes them amazing lifts for stimulating muscle growth, but they can also interfere with Leg Days.

There’s a system for programming Pull Days. It’s not as simple as our systems for Push Days and Leg Days, but we’ll give you plenty of examples, along with some workout routines you can choose from.

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Illustration of a lifter flexing his chest muscles during his Push Day workout.

The Best Push Day Workout for Building Muscle

As an underweight beginner, I gained my first 20 pounds from doing poorly programmed Push Days. Only Push Days. No Leg or Back days. The only exercise I knew how to do properly was the push-up. That was enough to bring me up to a healthy body weight.

Another 40 pounds later, I used a Push Day specialization routine to accomplish my lifetime goal of benching 3 plates. My bench press had plateaued for years. What finally got it moving again was having 2 dedicated Push Days every week.

I love these workouts. They’re what sparked my love of lifting. They’re also quite simple to program.

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Illustration of a weight lifter doing a 6-day workout split to build muscle.

The Best 6-Day Workout Split for Building Muscle

6-day workout splits can be remarkably good for building muscle. With so many training days to play with, you can take several different approaches, ranging from minimalism to total maximalism. You can get great results with 20-minute workouts. You could also lift for an hour every day, building a truly terrifying amount of muscle.

However, when you’re training this often, it’s easy to wear yourself out. You’re stressing your hands, postural muscles, and joints almost every day of the week. You need to be smart about it. Fortunately, there’s a long tradition of training 6 days per week. All the lumps have been hammered flat.

The two most popular 6-day workout splits are the push/pull/legs split and the upper/lower split. Both can be great for building muscle, but one makes for a better default, especially when done right.

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Illustration of a man doing push-ups to build muscle.

How Many Push-Ups Should You Do Per Day?

The number of push-ups you should do depends on how many you did last time. To get bigger, stronger, and fitter, you have to focus on progressive overload. You have to do more push-ups than last time.

For example, let’s say in your last workout, you got 13 push-ups in your first set, 11 in your second, and 9 in your third. That’s 33 push-ups. Today, your goal is to do 34 push-ups or more.

If you can do more push-ups than last time, that’s progressive overload. It’s by far the most important part of gaining muscle and strength. It proves you’ve gotten stronger, and it stimulates a new wave of growth. It’s both the sign and signal of muscle growth.

Here’s the catch: to have any hope of getting more push-ups than last time, you need to follow a sensible workout plan, eat a diet that supports muscle growth, and live a good lifestyle. Let’s delve into how to do that.

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Illustration of a man doing the 100 push-ups a day challenge to build muscle.

100 Push-Ups a Day? You Can Do Better

The 100 Push-ups a Day Challenge is when you do 100 push-ups every day, usually for 30 days in a row. The goal is to improve your strength and fitness, building a bigger upper body as you go. It’s an admirable challenge. It’s also controversial.

Muscles take 2–4 days to recover from a strenuous workout. It’s during those days of recovery that they grow bigger and stronger. You won’t gain more muscle and strength by doing push-ups every day. In fact, you may gain less.

On the other hand, repeating the same exercise every day is a great way to practice your form. It can be great for your health and fitness, too. But if that were your goal, you’d want to keep your workouts easier. That way, you aren’t accumulating muscle damage.

The final problem is that push-ups work your chest, shoulders, triceps, and a slew of postural muscles in your torso. That’s fantastic. Push-ups are one of the best muscle-building exercises. Still, that leaves 3/4 of your body untrained.

We can solve all these problems, creating a much better challenge.

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Illustration of a skinny person building muscle.

How Many Calories Does It Take To Build a Pound of Muscle?

A pound of muscle contains about 1,200 calories of stored energy (study, study). However, just like a mason spends energy laying stones, it also takes energy to construct that muscle, adding another 500–1,000 calories. And so, overall, it takes about 2,000 calories to build a pound of muscle (study).

Now, a mason can only lay so many stones in a day. Giving him more energy than he can use won’t help him lay those stones any faster. Instead, the extra calories will simply be saved for later. They’ll be stored as body fat. So, how many extra calories should you eat every day to maximize your rate of muscle growth?

To answer that question, we have to consider the hardgainer issue. Some people have more aggressive metabolisms than others. It might take 2,000 calories to build a pound of muscle on average, but it varies from about 1,500 to 2,500 calories, depending on the person. We’ll delve into that, too.

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Illustration of a buff weightlifter confused at why he isn't losing weight.

Why Aren’t You Losing Weight in a Calorie Deficit?

If you ask about why you aren’t losing weight in a calorie deficit, the common answer is: “Because you’re not in a calorie deficit. You need to eat fewer calories.” That’s not entirely wrong, and we’ll get into it, but it’s factually wrong.

You can maintain or even gain weight in a calorie deficit. In fact, there are several different ways this can happen, all of which make perfect scientific and logical sense. By shining light on these exceptions, we can fully illuminate the truth.

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Illustration of a person burning calories by lifting weights.

How Many Calories Does Weight Lifting Burn? (With Calculator)

How many calories you burn while lifting weights depends on how much you weigh and how much lean mass you’re carrying. It also depends on how much weight you’re lifting, how long you’re resting, and how long your workout is. It quickly gets complicated.

Fortunately, we have Greg Nuckols, MA, who reviews muscle and strength research on his site, Stronger by Science. He figured out a simple heuristic for estimating how many calories a workout burns. I’ve built his formula into a simple calorie calculator you can use.

All we need to know is your weight, body-fat percentage, and the length of your workout.

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Illustration of a bodybuilder doing biceps curls for the Arm Day of his Bro Split Workout routine.

The Perfect Bro Split Workout Routine

The Bro Split is surprisingly controversial. Most guys assume it’s for casual lifters who never took the time to learn how to program a proper workout split. That’s not the case. 2/3rds of competitive bodybuilders use Bro Splits (study).

Well-designed Bro Splits can be incredibly good for building muscle, especially in your arms and shoulders. In this article, we’ll teach you how to do it right. We’ll talk about why it works, how to build your own Bro Split, and then give you a sample routine you can follow (and customize).

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Diagram showing the various back muscles.

What Muscles Do Pull-Ups Work?

Pull-ups, often conflated with chin-ups, are a compound upper-back exercise. They’ll give you a wide back and thick arms—and we’ll talk about which back muscles they’re best for—but what makes pull-ups even more interesting is how they work muscles you never would have expected.

There are a few interesting things to cover:

  • Which back muscles do pull-ups work?
  • Are pull-ups good for building bigger biceps?
  • Are pull-ups good for building bigger triceps?
  • Why are pull-ups so famous for building bigger lower lats?
  • How do pull-ups train your abs?
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