By now we are all well acquainted with the muscles that help perform pushing movements – movements in which you push the weight or resistance away from your body. Examples include the triceps, pectorals, quadriceps, and calves. Yes, you have noticed well. Shoulders are not classified in this category despite the fact that you push the weight away from your body when you do barbell or dumbbell shoulder presses. You’ll see why is that so in a couple of minutes.
We are also very familiar with the muscles that help generate pulling movement – a movement in which the muscle pulls weight or resistance toward your body. This group of muscles include the latissimus dorsi, hamstrings, trapezius and rhomboids, biceps brachii and forearms.
There are certain muscles in the human body that help push and pull at the same time. These muscles are deltoids (shoulder muscles) and gluteals. It is these muscles that are the focus of this article.
And finally, we also have some muscles whose main job is to produce swinging movements. These muscles assist and support in moving your torso through various planes of motion. For example, bending your body from side to side, twisting right and left, lowering and rising your torso, etc. Examples include the abdominals, lower back muscles (erector spinae), and hip flexors.
Human muscles involved in both pushing and pulling actions
All remaining muscles in your body are exclusively pushing or pulling. In other words, they are not designed to support both pushing and pulling movements.
The muscles you confidently hang your coat over are actually divided into three heads. These three heads are as follows: anterior deltoids (located in the front of your shoulders), your medial deltoids (located along the sides), and your posterior deltoids (located behind your shoulders).
The anterior and medial deltoids start at your collarbone, while the posterior deltoids start on your scapula (your shoulder blade). All three heads come together and attach themselves to your humerus (upper arm bone).
HOW THEY WORK: Collectively, all three parts of your deltoids are responsible for moving your arms away from your torso, even though each performs a different task. Your anterior deltoids raise your arms up in front of you. Your medial deltoids lift your arms up and out to your sides. Finally, your posterior deltoids raise your arms up and behind your body.
The three heads also act as secondary movers during many pushing and pulling exercises. Your anterior deltoids assist your pectoral muscles in many pushing exercises that strengthen your chest. On the other hand, your posterior deltoids assist in many pulling exercises that involve your teres major (upper back), trapezius, and rhomboid muscles (powerful scapular retractors).
You have three separate muscles to thank if you’ve ever been complemented on your backside. Your gluteus maximus – one of the largest and strongest muscles in your body – is responsible for creating the rounded shape of your rear end. It originates at your pelvic bone and ends along the back of your thighbone. Your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus start and end in the same two places, but they rest directly below your gluteus maximus, along the outside of your hips.
HOW THEY WORK: Besides providing convenient padding every time you sit down, your gluteus maximus’s main job is hip extension. This is what happens whenever you kick your leg back behind you. The gluteus medius and minimus work together to extend your leg out to the side (hip abduction).
Your “glutes” are major players when it comes to your overall mobility – especially at your hips. They also help you extend and rotate your legs, two important movements that decide just how flexible and powerful they are. Luckily, many hip-dominant exercises that train your hamstrings also work your glutes simultaneously.