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Best Push Day Exercises: Lifts & Workout Splits


A push workout is a strength training routine targeting the muscles involved in pushing things away from your torso.

You train these muscles by doing “push exercises.”

Typically, push day exercises are press variations, such as the flat, incline, and close-grip bench press, overhead press, and shoulder press.

In this article, you’ll learn exactly what a push day workout routine is, which muscles you train in a push day workout, why push workouts are beneficial, the best push exercises to include in your workouts, an example push workout plan, and more. 

What Is A Push Day Workout?

A push day workout trains the main upper body muscles involved in pushing things away from your torso. Typically, they emphasize compound pushing exercises, including the flat and incline barbell bench press and overhead press.

They also usually include a few isolation exercises to target the parts of your pushing muscles that compound push exercises don’t train well, such as the dumbbell side lateral raise, overhead triceps extension, and triceps pushdown.

Push workout plans are typically part of “push pull legs split,” which is a method of organizing your training that dedicates specific days to exercises that focus on either pushing, pulling, or training your lower body.

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Muscles Worked in a Push Day Workout

The main muscle groups worked in a push day workout are:

Here’s how these muscles look on your body:


Push Day Workout MusclesPush Day Workout Muscles


What Are the Benefits of Push Day Workouts?

The main benefits of push day workout are:

  1. Time Efficiency: Push day routines train your chest, shoulders, and triceps in one session, eliminating the need for separate workouts for each muscle group and making it ideal for those with limited time.
  2. Higher-quality training: When you train one muscle group per workout, its performance decreases as the workout progresses. To compensate, you have to use lighter weights or do fewer reps, which isn’t ideal for muscle and strength gain. Push day workouts avoid this issue by distributing the effort across several muscles.
  3. Less Soreness: Since you’re not overdoing it with any one muscle group, most find they’re less sore from push day workouts and can recover faster, making it easier to maintain training intensity across the week without one session negatively affecting the next.

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The 14 Best Push Day Exercises

1. Barbell Bench Press


Barbell Bench PressBarbell Bench Press


The barbell bench press is one of the single best push day exercises for building almost every major muscle in your upper body, particularly your pecs, triceps, and deltoids. This is why almost all well-designed push day workouts revolve around heavy benching. 

How to:

  1. Lie on a flat bench and place your feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together and down, and without lifting your butt or shoulders off the bench, slightly arch your back. 
  3. Grab the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip and unrack the barbell.
  4. Lower the barbell to your chest, keeping your elbows tucked 6-to-8 inches from your sides.
  5. Press the bar back to the starting position.

2. Incline Barbell Bench Press


Incline Barbell Bench PressIncline Barbell Bench Press


The incline barbell bench press trains your chest, triceps, and shoulders, but it’s also one of the best push exercises for training your “upper chest.” Including it in your push day workouts ensures you build proportionate chest mass—“filling out” your entire pecs. 

How to:

  1. Lie on a bench angled at 30-to-45 degrees and plant your feet on the floor. 
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together and down, and without lifting your butt or shoulders off the bench, slightly arch your back. 
  3. Grab the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip and unrack the barbell.
  4. Lower the barbell to your upper chest, keeping your elbows tucked 6-to-8 inches from your sides.
  5. Press the bar back to the starting position.

3. Dumbbell Bench Press


Dumbbell Bench PressDumbbell Bench Press


The dumbbell bench press trains your pushing muscles similarly to the barbell bench press. The difference is the dumbbell variation allows you to use a greater range of motion, which is beneficial for muscle growth.

How to:

  1. While sitting on a flat bench, hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest them on your thighs. 
  2. Lie back and bring the dumbbells up so you’re holding them on either side of your chest by giving them a nudge with your thighs.
  3. Press the dumbbells over your chest until your arms are straight and your elbows are locked. 
  4. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

4. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press


Incline Dumbbell Bench PressIncline Dumbbell Bench Press


The incline dumbbell bench press trains your chest (and particularly your “upper chest”), triceps, and shoulders in a similar way to the barbell variation. However, the incline dumbbell bench press allows you to use a greater range of motion and stretch your chest muscles slightly more than the barbell bench press, which benefits muscle growth. 

How to:

  1. While lying on a bench angled at 30-to-45 degrees, hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest them on your thighs. 
  2. Lie back, hoisting the dumbbells up so you’re holding them on either side of your chest by giving them a nudge with your thighs.
  3. Press the dumbbells over your upper chest until your arms are straight and your elbows are locked.
  4. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

5. Dip


DipDip


The dip is a fantastic push day exercise because it trains all of your upper-body pushing muscles at the same time. What’s more, if you use a dip belt, it allows you to use heavy weights safely, which is important for gaining muscle and strength.

How to:

  1. If you’re using a dip belt, wrap the chain around your waist, add the desired amount of weight to the chain, and fasten the carabiner.
  2. Grab both handles of a dip station, then press yourself up by straightening your arms and gently jumping off the ground so your arms are straight and supporting your entire body weight. 
  3. Bend your knees to keep your feet from touching the ground, then lower your body by bending your elbows until your upper arms are roughly parallel to the floor.
  4. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

6. Close-Grip Bench Press


Close-Grip Bench PressClose-Grip Bench Press


The close-grip bench press trains your chest (and your upper chest in particular), shoulders, and triceps, making it an outstanding push day exercise.

How to:

  1. Lie on a flat bench and place your feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together and down, and without lifting your butt or shoulders off the bench, slightly arch your back. 
  3. Grip the barbell with a shoulder-width grip or slightly narrower and unrack the barbell.
  4. Lower the barbell to your lower chest, keeping your elbows tucked 2-to-4 inches from your sides.
  5. Press the bar back to the starting position.

7. Standing Overhead Press


Standing Overhead PressStanding Overhead Press


In addition to improving upper-body strength and shoulder, triceps, and upper chest size, the overhead press develops your whole-body balance and coordination.

How to:

  1. Set a barbell in a rack at the same height as your upper chest. 
  2. Grip the bar with a shoulder-width grip and your palms facing away from you.
  3. Unrack the barbell, step backward, and plant your feet just outside of shoulder width.
  4. Push the bar toward the ceiling until your arms are straight.
  5. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

8. Seated Overhead Press


Seated Overhead PressSeated Overhead Press


The seated overhead press trains your shoulders, triceps, and upper chest like the standing variation. However, because the seated overhead press doesn’t require as much full-body coordination, you can lift heavier weights and progress faster, which is generally better for muscle growth.

How to:

  1. Set up an upright bench in a squat rack or use a seated barbell overhead press station.
  2. Set a barbell in the rack at about shoulder height when standing.
  3. Sit down and grip the bar with a shoulder-width grip and your palms facing away from you.
  4. Unrack the barbell and lower it to your collarbone.
  5. Press the bar toward the ceiling and return to the starting position.

9. Shoulder Press


Shoulder PressShoulder Press


The main benefit of the shoulder press is that it allows you to train through a longer range of motion than barbell overhead press variations, which is generally beneficial for muscle growth

How to:

  1. Sit on an upright bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand, resting them on your thighs. 
  2. Hoist the dumbbells up so you’re holding them just above your shoulders with your palms facing away from you.
  3. Press the dumbbells toward the ceiling until your arms are straight.
  4. Lower the dumbbells and return to the starting position.

10. Arnold Press


Arnold PressArnold Press


The Arnold press emphasizes your side delts more than other overhead pressing variations, making it an excellent pushing movement for balanced shoulder development. 

How to:

  1. Sit on an upright bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand, resting them on your thighs.
  2. Hoist the dumbbells up so you’re holding them just in front of your shoulders with your palms facing you.
  3. Press the dumbbells straight overhead while rotating your wrists until your arms are straight and your palms are facing away from you.
  4. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

11. Triceps Pushdown


Triceps PushdownTriceps Pushdown


The triceps pushdown is particularly good for targeting the long head of the triceps, especially if you keep your elbows slightly behind your torso. It also trains the triceps through a full range of motion, which is ideal for muscle growth. 

How to:

  1. Set the pulley on a cable machine to slightly above head height and attach the rope and straight bar handle.
  2. Stand upright or lean slightly forward (you can adopt a staggered stance if it helps you balance), grab one end of the handle in each hand, and push it downward by straightening your elbows. 
  3. Once your arms are straight and at your sides, reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

12. Overhead Triceps Extension


Overhead Triceps ExtensionOverhead Triceps Extension


The overhead triceps extension trains the entire triceps (especially the long head) when fully stretched, which maximizes growth.

How to:

  1. Sit up straight on a bench. 
  2. Grip one end of a dumbbell using both palms and lift it overhead so your arms are straight. Your palms should be flat against the end of the dumbbell and facing the ceiling. 
  3. Lower the weight until it’s behind your head by bending your elbows, then straighten your arms and return to the starting position.

13. Lying Triceps Extension (“Skullcrusher”)


Lying Triceps Extension (“Skullcrusher”)Lying Triceps Extension (“Skullcrusher”)


The skullcrusher is an outstanding exercise for training all parts of the triceps, ensuring you have defined, proportional upper arms.

How to:

  1. While lying on a flat bench, hold an EZ Bar above your chest with a shoulder-width grip. 
  2. Bring the bar down to your forehead by bending at the elbow, then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

14. Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise


Dumbbell Side Lateral RaiseDumbbell Side Lateral Raise


The dumbbell side lateral raise isolates the lateral (side) head of the deltoids, which is important if you want your shoulders to have full, proportionate development.

How to:

  1. Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. 
  2. Raise the dumbbells out to your sides until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  3. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

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The Best Push Day Workout Routine

Below are two top-tier push day workout routines. If you only have time for one push day workout weekly, do Push Day Workout #1.

If you have more time to train, do both push workouts each week, separated by at least two days. For example, you could do Push Day Workout #1 on Monday, rest or do a leg or pull day on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then do Push Day Workout #2 on Thursday.

Push Day Workout #1

  • Bench Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest

Push Day Workout #2

  • Overhead Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Incline Bench Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Close-Grip Bench Press: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Overhead Triceps Extension: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest

3 Tips for More Productive Push Workouts

1.   End every set 1-to-3 reps shy of muscle failure.

As I explain in my fitness books for men and women, to maximize your results, you must take most of the sets in your push workouts to within a rep or two of failure.

Ask yourself at the end of each set, “If I had to, how many more reps could I have gotten with good form?” If the answer is more than two, increase the weight or reps to make your next set more challenging.

2.  Once you hit the top of your rep range for a set, move up in weight. 

If your push workout plan calls for 4-to-6 reps of the bench press and you get 6 reps for a set, add 10 pounds to your next set.

If you manage 3 or fewer reps with the new weight, reduce the weight by 5 pounds to ensure you stay in the 4-to-6 rep range. 

Follow this pattern of trying to add reps or weight to every exercise in every workout.

3. Take the right supplements. 

These supplements can help you optimize your push day workout performance and gains:

  • Protein powder: Protein powder provides your body with the nutrients needed to build muscle tissue and recover from workouts.
  • Creatine: Creatine boosts muscle and strength gain, improves anaerobic endurance, and reduces muscle damage and soreness from your workouts. 
  • Pre-workout: A high-quality pre-workout enhances energy, mood, and focus, increases strength and endurance, and reduces fatigue.

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Push Day Workout FAQs

FAQ #1: What exercises are in push day?

Push days workouts generally comprise compound exercises that train the muscles involved in pushing things away from your torso, including the flat and incline barbell and dumbbell bench press, standing and seated overhead press, and dip. 

They often also include isolation exercises that train the parts of your pushing muscles that compound push exercises train insufficiently.

FAQ #2: How many exercises should I do on push day?

The number of exercises you do during a push day workout depends on your experience level. 

As a rule of thumb, beginners (those with less than one year of training experience) should do 3 sets of 3-to-4 push exercises once weekly.

More advanced weightlifters (those with more than a year of training experience) should aim to train each major muscle group involved in pushing movements (pecs, shoulder, and triceps) with 15-to-20 weekly sets spread over 2-to-3 workouts. 

FAQ #3: What should I do first in push day?

Which exercise you do first in a push day workout depends on your goals. To focus on chest development, begin with the bench press. If building your shoulders is your focus, start your push workouts with the overhead press. And if you want to emphasize your triceps over your other pushing muscles, do the close-grip bench press or dip first.

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