One of the most effective ways to plan your workouts is to organize them according to the “movement patterns” you want to train.

In other words, instead of organizing workouts based on which muscle group you’re going to train (“back,” “biceps,” “chest,” etc.), you organize them by how you move while you perform each exercise.

When using this strategy, most people divide their exercises into one of three categories: push exercises, pull exercises, and squat exercises.

In this article, you’re going to learn everything you need to know about how to organize a workout that emphasizes push exercises, also known as a “push day” workout.

You’ll also learn what a push day workout is, the benefits of push workouts, the best push exercises there are, and the best push day workout routines you can do in the gym and at home.

What Is A Push Day Workout?

A push day workout trains all of the main upper-body muscles involved in pushing things away from your torso.

Specifically, push exercises train your . . .

. . . and also train some other smaller muscle groups like your forearms, core, etc. 

What Are the Benefits of Push Day Workouts?

Instead of spending an entire workout training just your chest, shoulders, or triceps, push workouts allow you to train all of these muscle groups in a single workout.

This is beneficial for a few reasons:

  1. It makes for higher-quality training because when you train one muscle group in a workout, its performance usually begins to plummet before your workout is finished. This means you have to compensate by using lighter weights or doing fewer reps in your later sets, which isn’t ideal for gaining muscle and strength.
  2. If you have time for more than three workouts per week, and you want to develop your chest, shoulders, and triceps, you can simply repeat your push workout again—there’s no need to come up with another upper body workout. This is beneficial because research shows that training your muscles more than once a week is likely better for building muscle.
  3. It limits the amount of soreness and fatigue you feel between workouts. For example, if you “crush” your chest on Monday, your triceps and delts may still be sore when it’s time for your shoulder workout on Wednesday, which will likely limit your performance.

When you do push workouts, however, you rarely train any one muscle group to the point of exhaustion, which means you experience less muscle soreness and fatigue from individual training sessions, and your training at the end of the week isn’t negatively affected by the workouts you did earlier in the week.

The 14 Best Push Exercises

1. Barbell Bench Press

1.PUSH-Barbell Bench Press

The barbell bench press is one of the single best 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 are built around heavy benching. 

How to:

  1. Lie on a flat bench with your feet flat on the floor, directly under your knees. 
  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 your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart, take a deep breath, brace your core, and unrack the barbell.
  4. Bring the barbell to the middle of your chest, making sure to keep your elbows tucked at about a 45-degree angle relative to your body. 
  5. When the bar touches your chest, explosively press the bar back to the starting position.

2. Incline Barbell Bench Press

Incline 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 chest workouts ensures you build proportionate chest mass—“filling out” your entire pecs. 

How to:

  1. Lie on a bench that’s angled at 30-to-45 degrees 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 your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, take a deep breath, brace your core, and unrack the barbell.
  4. Bring the barbell to your upper chest, making sure to keep your elbows tucked at about a 45-degree angle relative to your body. 
  5. When the bar touches your chest, explosively press the bar back to the starting position.

3. Dumbbell Bench Press

PUSH-Dumbbell Bench Press

The dumbbell bench press trains your pushing muscles in a similar way to the barbell bench press. The difference is the dumbbell variation allows you to use a greater range of motion, which is normally better for muscle growth. The downside, however, is that you can’t lift as much weight when using dumbbells.

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 straight up 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 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 should lead to more muscle growth). The drawback, however, is you can’t lift as much weight when you use dumbbells.

How to:

  1. While lying on a bench that’s 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 straight up over your upper chest until your arms are straight and your elbows are locked.
  4. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

5. Dip

Dip

The dip is a fantastic push exercise because it trains all of your upper-body pushing muscles at the same time, and 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 hold of both handles of a dip bar or dip station, then press yourself up by straightening your arms and gently jumping off the ground so that your arms are straight and supporting your entire body weight. 
  3. Keep your torso upright to emphasize your triceps, bend your knees to keep your feet from touching the ground, and lower your body by bending your elbows until your upper arms are roughly parallel to the floor.
  4. Press hard into the handles to drive your body back up to the starting position.

6. Close-Grip Bench Press

Close-Grip Bench Press

The close-grip bench press trains your chest (and your upper chest in particular), shoulders, and biceps, making it an outstanding all-around upper-body exercise. However, its main benefit is that it allows you to safely and effectively train all three heads of the triceps with heavy weights (which can be difficult with other triceps exercises, like the skullcrusher).

How to:

  1. Lie on a flat bench, pull your shoulder blades together and down, and without lifting your butt or shoulders off the bench, slightly arch your back.
  2. Grip the barbell with a shoulder-width grip or slightly narrower and unrack the barbell so it’s directly above your chest.
  3. Lower the barbell to your lower chest while keeping your elbows tucked at about a 30-degree angle relative to your torso.
  4. When the bar touches your chest, explosively press the bar back to the starting position.

7. Standing Barbell Overhead Press

PUSH-Standing Barbell Overhead Press

In addition to improving upper-body strength and shoulder, triceps, and upper-chest size, the barbell 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 and take a small step backwards with each foot, keeping your forearms vertical, and your elbows tucked close to your sides.
  4. Plant your feet just outside of shoulder-width, brace your core, squeeze your glutes, and push the bar toward the ceiling. 
  5. Once your arms are straight, reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

8. Seated Barbell Overhead Press

Seated Barbell Overhead Press

The seated barbell overhead press trains your shoulders, triceps, and upper chest like the standing variation. However, because the seated barbell 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 power rack, or use a seated barbell press station.
  2. Sit in the seat and press your back against the bench, reach your arms overhead, and take a note of the height of your wrists in relation to the rack—this is the height you should set the barbell on the hooks.
  3. Set the barbell on the hooks, 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. Once the bar reaches your collarbone, press the bar toward the ceiling and return to the starting position.

9. Seated Dumbbell Press

9. Seated Dumbbell Press

The seated dumbbell press trains the shoulder, triceps, and upper chest in a similar way to other overhead pressing exercises. The main benefits of the seated dumbbells press are that it has a longer range of motion than the barbell variation which tends to be better for muscle growth, and because both sides of your body must lift the same amount of weight independently, it’s a good exercise for finding and fixing muscle imbalances.

How to:

  1. While sitting on an upright bench, hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest 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, nudging them with your thighs to get them into position.
  3. Press the dumbbells straight up toward the ceiling until your arms are straight and your elbows are almost locked. 
  4. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

10. Arnold Dumbbell Press

Arnold Dumbbell Press

Most overhead pressing exercises emphasize the anterior deltoid (front part of the shoulder), but because of the way you rotate your wrists in the Arnold press, you shift some of the emphasis to the side delts, ensuring you develop proportional shoulders.

How to:

  1. While sitting on an upright bench, hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest them on your thighs.
  2. Hoist the dumbbells up so you’re holding them just in front of your shoulders with your palms facing toward you, giving them a little nudge with your thighs. 
  3. Press the dumbbells straight up over your head while rotating your wrists until your arms are straight, your elbows are locked, and your palms are facing away from you.
  4. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

11. Triceps Pushdown

Triceps Pushdown

Research shows the cable triceps pushdown is particularly good for emphasizing the long head of the triceps. This is important because the long head is the largest of the three sections of the triceps, so training this portion of your triceps will have the biggest impact on your upper arm size. 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 handle.
  2. Stand upright or lean slightly forward (you can adopt a staggered stance if it helps you balance), grab one end of the rope in each hand, and push the rope downward by straightening your elbows. 
  3. Once your arms are straight and at your sides, reverse the motion to return to the starting position.

12. Seated Triceps Press

PUSH-Seated Triceps Press

The dumbbell overhead triceps extension positions the arms overhead, which trains the triceps in a different way than most other pressing exercises. Specifically, it fully stretches the long head of the triceps, which research shows likely leads to more muscle 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 that your arms are straight. Your palms should be flat against the end of the dumbbell, and facing toward the ceiling. 
  3. Lower the weight until it’s behind your head by bending at the elbow, then straighten your arms and return to the starting position.

13. Lying Triceps Extension (“Skullcrusher”)

Skullcrusher

The skullcrusher is a great 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.

(Tip: If you want to increase the range of motion of this exercise, lower the bar behind your head until it’s almost touching the bench.)

14. Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

Dumbbell 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. Keeping your back straight and your core tight, raise the dumbbells out to the side until your upper arm is parallel to the floor. You don’t have to keep your arms perfectly straight—having a small bend in your elbows is normally more comfortable. 
  3. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

The Best Push Day Workout Routine

The best push day workouts for mass include push exercises that . . .

  • Allow you to lift heavy weights safely
  • Are easy to add weight to so you can progress regularly
  • Train all of your pushing muscles, including your pecs (both the “upper” clavicular head, and the “lower” sternocostal head), deltoids (particularly the “front” and “side” delts), and all three heads of the triceps

For example:

  • Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Standing Barbell Overhead 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
  • Triceps Pushdown: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest

The Best Push Day Workout With Dumbbells

Not every gym is stocked with barbells and weight plates (home gyms or hotel gyms, for example). Fortunately, you can still do a solid push workout when you only have access to dumbbells. 

Here’s the best push day workout with dumbbells:

  • Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps with 2-to-3 min rest
  • Arnold Dumbbell 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
  • Seated Triceps Press: 3 sets of 6-to-8 reps with 2-to-3 min rest

The Best Push Day Workout at Home

While you can train your pushing muscles hard using only your body weight, your push day workouts at home will be more productive if you use some dumbbells or resistance bands.

In case you’re working with no equipment whatsoever, though, here’s an example of a bodyweight push workout you can do anywhere:

  • Feet-Elevated Push-Up: 4 sets of 10-to-20 reps with 2 min rest
  • Diamond Push-Up: 4 sets of 10-to-20 reps with 2 min rest
  • Push-Up: 4 sets of 10-to-20 reps with 2 min rest
  • Triceps “Bench” Dip: 4 sets of 10-to-20 reps with 2 min rest

3 Tips for More Productive Push Workouts

1. End every set 1-to-2 reps shy of muscle failure.

In order to maximize muscle and strength gains, you need to take most of your sets close (but not all the way) to muscle failure, which is the point at which you can’t complete a rep despite giving maximum effort.

To ensure you’re taking your sets close enough to failure, ask yourself this question at the end of each set, just before re-racking the weight: “If I absolutely had to, how many more reps could I get with good form?”

If the answer is more than two, then you should increase the weight or reps to make your next set more challenging. This ensures you’re including the right balance of volume and intensity in your push workouts.

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

For instance, let’s say your workout calls for 4-to-6 reps of flat barbell bench press (as this one does). If you get 6 reps for a set of bench press, add 5 pounds to each side of the bar (10 pounds total) for your next set and work with that weight until you can (eventually) press it for 6 reps, and so forth.

If you get 3 or fewer reps with your new (higher) weight on your next sets, reduce the weight by 5 pounds to ensure you can stay within your target rep range (4-to-6) for all sets.

Follow this same pattern of trying to add reps or weight to every exercise in every workout. This method is known as double progression, and it’s a highly effective way to get fitter and stronger.

3. Take the right supplements.

Unfortunately, no amount of pills and powders are going to give you a “godlike” upper body. In fact, most muscle-building supplements are completely worthless.

But here’s the good news:

If you know how to eat and train to build muscle, certain supplements can speed up the process.  

Here are the best supplements for supporting your push day workouts:

  • 0.8-to-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This provides your body with the “building blocks” it needs to build and repair muscle tissue and help you recover from your workouts. If you want a clean, convenient, and delicious source of protein, try Whey+ or Casein+.
  • 3-to-5 grams of creatine per day. This will boost muscle and strength gain, improve anaerobic endurance, and reduce muscle damage and soreness from your push workouts. If you want a 100% natural source of creatine that also includes two other ingredients that will help boost muscle growth and improve recovery, try Recharge.
  • One serving of Pulse per day. Pulse is a 100% natural pre-workout drink that enhances energy, mood, and focus; increases strength and endurance; and reduces fatigue. You can also get Pulse with caffeine or without.

+ Scientific References