Table of Contents
Splitting up your training program is a great way of providing structure to your workouts so that you can effectively work each muscle group whilst factoring in adequate time for rest and recovery.
- Recommended Reading – Compound Exercises List : 5 Effective Upper And Lower Body Movements
There are several ways of dividing up your training such as upper body and lower body, a 4 day workout split or push-pull workouts. A push-pull workout divides the training into two separate upper body training days, with legs being worked out on a separate day.
In this article we’re going to look in more detail at exercises that you can incorporate into your push day workout. But before that, let’s briefly consider the differences between push and pull exercises.
Push Exercises vs Pull Exercises
A pull workout focusses on a variety of exercises that target the back, biceps and forearms and include movements such as bicep curls, a barbell row, and lateral raises. Essentially, an exercise that involves pulling weight towards you.
Conversely, a push workout would comprise of exercises that target the chest, triceps, and shoulders. These would be movements whereby you push resistance away from your body. Exercises such as the overhead press and barbell bench press would be considered as push exercises.
Benefits Of Push Exercises
Whether you perform them by themselves or as part of a push-pull split, push exercises are a crucial component of any well-rounded workout routine. They offer a range of benefits that go far beyond just building muscle and increasing strength.
Below are several benefits of push day exercises:
Increased Upper Body Strength
Focussing on lifting heavier weights will help to increase strength. However, it’s important to remember that the muscles can tire quickly when compared to light weight and high reps, so be sure to keep the rep range low.
Improved Muscle Definition
Push exercises, whether compound or isolation exercises, are great for sculpting and defining the muscles. They can help you achieve a toned and muscular chest, shoulders, triceps, along with other upper body muscles.
Many push exercises involve activating the core muscles, which are essential for maintaining proper posture. By training and strengthening your core and upper body, you can improve your posture and reduce your risk of developing back pain.
- Recommended Reading – 7 Best Lower Trap Exercises For Posture And Improved Body Positioning
Increased Bone Density
Like other weight-bearing exercises, push exercises can help increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Improved Athletic Performance
Countless sports require ample upper body strength, making push exercises an available tool for athletes. If you want to boost your performance, push exercises can help you build strength and power in the chest, shoulders, and triceps. .
Upper Body Push Exercises
Below we’ve suggested some of the best exercises that you can incorporate into your push routine.
The bench press is a classic compound exercise that involves pushing and lowering a loaded barbell above your chest whilst lying on a weight bench.
The primary muscles activated during this movement are the chest and triceps with the shoulders coming in to play as stabiliser muscles. As this is a technical exercise start out with a lighter weight as good form is essential to prevent injury.
How To Do The Bench Press:
Before getting into position ensure the bench press is set up to suit you, you should be able to easily un-rack and re-rack the barbell.
- Lie back on the bench keeping your feet flat on the ground with a slight arch to your lower back.
- Your ankles should be under your knees with toes pointing slightly out.
- Take hold of the barbell with an overhand grip, hands should be just beyond shoulder width apart.
- Lift the barbell up and position it over your upper chest. Your arms should be straight out in front of you. This is your starting position.
- Inhale, brace your core and slowly bend the elbows bringing the barbell towards your upper chest.
- Stop once the bar has reached your chest and pause briefly.
- Create tension through the chest and triceps and begin to push the barbell back up to the starting position.
- Aim to complete around 5 to 10 repetitions and always perform this exercise slowly and with control.
Variations of the standard bench press include the close grip bench press where you position your hands closer together or the incline bench press where the upper body is positioned between 30 or 45 degrees. These variations will activate muscles groups to a different degree, but both involve pushing against resistance.
The push up is a great bodyweight exercise to do anywhere and at any time so if you don’t have access to any equipment this would be ideal. This exercise will target the chest muscles, anterior deltoids, arms, and core.
How To Do A Push Up:
- Start by lying face down on the floor.
- Place your hands palms down at chest height around shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your feet hip-width apart raise up onto your toes.
- Push up onto your palms so your body is slightly elevated.
- Brace your core and extend your arms at the elbow pushing your chest away from the floor.
- Pause at the top before lowering yourself back down towards the floor.
- Make sure to keep your body in alignment throughout the movement and perform the exercise with control.
- Complete around 10 to 20 repetitions.
Banded Chest Press
The banded chest press is a great low impact exercise that allows you to practice the movement patterns of the barbell bench press, making it ideal for those new to training. It’s also a good one to perform either at the gym or home as all you need are a set of resistance bands.
How To Do The Banded Chest Press:
- Take hold of your chosen resistance band and anchor it at around chest height (or higher) either on a door (if at home) or power rack (if in the gym).
- With your back to the anchor point take hold of each end of the band holding them at around chest height.
- Adopt a staggered stance so that one foot is in front of the other. This should create some resistance in the bands.
- Slowly extend your arms out in front of you, you should feet tension across your chest and shoulders.
- Hold for a couple of seconds, before allowing the bands to return back to the starting position.
- Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Barbell Overhead Shoulder Press
The barbell shoulder press targets a number of different muscle groups including the shoulder muscles and the triceps. It also activates the upper back and abdominals for work to provide stability during the exercise.
This movement can be performed either standing or seated. If you find yourself using your legs as momentum, do them whilst seated for a more effective way of isolating the upper body muscles. If doing this one seated, you’ll need access to an adjustable bench and a rack to hold the barbell.
How To Do The Seated Overhead Shoulder Press:
- Position your bench in the rack so that you can reach up and take hold of the barbell when seated without straining your shoulder joints.
- Take a sit on the bench and rest your back against the pad.
- Keep your knees bent to 90 degrees and feet flat on the ground.
- Reach up and take hold of the barbell, now hold it just under your chin and against your upper chest. This is your start position.
- Engage your core and slowly push the barbell up and overhead by extending your elbows. Keep your chin tucked in throughout the movement.
- Once at the top, pause and then slowly lower the barbell back down towards your chest.
- Repeat points 5 and 6 for around 10 repetitions. Perform 3 sets.
Dumbbell Triceps Extension
The dumbbell triceps extension, sometimes referred to as the skullcrusher, is an isolation exercise that works the triceps. You’ll need a pair of dumbbells for this exercise and a weight bench. Whilst this movement can be performed on the floor, you’ll achieve a greater range of motion when utilising a bench.
How To Do The Dumbbell Triceps Extension:
- Start by lying back on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Your back, glutes and head should be fully supported.
- Position your feet just past shoulder-width apart for stability.
- Extend your arms up towards the ceiling so that the dumbbells are in line with your shoulders.
- Brace your core whilst flexing at the elbows, lowering the dumbbells towards the top of your head. The only movement should be elbow extension.
- Keep your wrist straight throughout to prevent any stress to the joints.
- Using your triceps, slowly start to raise the dumbbells back towards the upright position.
Rope Triceps Pushdown
As it’s name suggests, the triceps pushdown will activate the muscles of the triceps helping to increase muscle mass and strength. This is one for the gym as you’ll need access to a cable machine and a rope attachment.
How To Do The Rope Triceps Pushdown:
- Start by setting the pulley to the top of the cable machine and attach the rope.
- Choose your desired weight from the stack.
- Take hold of each end of the rope and step back to create some resistance in the cable. Your forearms should be parallel to the ground.
- Maintain a neutral spine, with head and chest up and don’t let your elbows flare out.
- Using your triceps, extend your elbows pushing the weight down.
- Hold briefly and return back to the start.
- Aim to complete around 3 to 5 sets of 10 repetitions.
Tips For Optimizing Push Exercises
To get the most out of your strength training, make sure to consider the following:
- Focus on proper form as this is essential for targeting the right muscles and preventing injury. Incorrect form is usually due to mobility issues or lifting heavy weight. If you’re unsure, it’s worth seeking advice from a personal trainer.
- Factor in to plenty of recovery time to allow your muscles to grow. However, you set up your workout routine always include a rest day.
- Keep things interesting by adding in pull day workouts alongside push training and don’t forget your legs!
- Before jumping into your push exercises, warm up your muscles properly with some light cardio and dynamic stretching.
Push exercises are a crucial component of any well-rounded workout routine, offering a variety of benefits for both strength and muscle building. Whether you’re looking to sculpt a chiseled upper body, increase power or endurance, there are plenty of push exercises to choose from.
But remember, simply doing push exercises alone isn’t enough to reach your fitness goals. You need to combine them with a healthy diet, proper rest, and other forms of exercises to achieve best results.