Training is a whole lot easier if you have some sort of game plan. The easiest way to do this is to follow atraining split that divides the major muscle groups to be trained on separate days. That being said, there are a few ways to divide up muscle groups. There's a push-pull split, an upper-lower split, or a push-pull legs split, to name a few of the more popular options. Further, you need to know what muscle groups go with each day and the best way to train them. This article is going to go over everything you need about one of these muscle groups, or better yet, training days, the push day workout.
- What are the different major muscle groups
- Pushing muscles
- Benefits of using push day workouts
- The best push day exercises
- The best push workout plan for you to follow
The Major Muscle Groups
Our body contains a ton of muscles, making it a bit confusing for new people to start working out. Walking into a gym with absolutely no workout routine in mind is asking for failure.
Therefore, lifters will use what's known as a "training split," which will basically act as a training template. A split divides the various muscles into groups which will then be trained on their specific day. It's a very easy and effective way to add structure to your workout routine.
That said, there are primarily two ways to divide the muscle groups:
- Upper Body and Lower Body
- Pushing And Pulling
Strictly for your education, we're gonna look at what these look like just so you can compare.
Upper Body And Lower Body Muscle Groups:
Dividing your muscles by upper body muscle groups and lower body muscle groups is pretty straightforward. Your upper body muscles are those that are located above your hips, while your lower body muscle groups are those that are located below your hips.
Upper Body Muscles:
Lower Body Muscles:
Pulling And Pushing Muscles:
Dividing the muscles by using pushing and pulling muscle groups is still pretty easy to do but requires minimal understanding of mechanics. The best way to distinguish between pushing and pulling muscles is where you are going to pull a weight closer to the body.
As you see, pushing and pulling muscles will include muscles from both the upper and lower body.
Different Splits for Different People
As the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat. This is also true for how you can effectively split up your muscle groups.From here, you can even combine the two groups, which is what we are going to do for this push day. Again, there's no perfect split, as that depends on your specific circumstances and goals. Regardless, it's always a good idea to get a glimpse of other options in order to fully understand what makes the difference. Regardless, we're here today to talk about what an awesome push workout would look like within the context of a push/pull/legs split.
Upper Body Pushing Muscles:
As mentioned, we are going to be looking at this push day in the context of using a push-pull leg training split. That means you are going to be using your upper body pushing muscles. This includes:
- Pectorals (Chest Muscles)
- Deltoids (Shoulder Muscles)
These three muscle groups are going to be your primary upper body pushing muscles. All of them are vital as they all have different functions.
The pectorals, commonly referred to as chest muscles, are a large set of fan-shaped muscles positioned across your chest (hence being called chest muscles). Sometimes referred to as a “show muscle”, they do a lot mroe than look good
While a set of massive pecs definitely enhances your aesthetics, they do a lot more. The pecs are your strongest upper body pushing muscles and play a large role in manipulating your arms.
In reality, there are actually two sets of pectoral muscles, the pectoralis major muscle and the pectoralis minor muscle.
The pectoralis major is what we described above, and it is what most people think of when they hear pectorals. Still, the pectoralis major muscle group contains two heads.
- Sternocostal Head:The sternocostal head is the larger of the two heads and makes up the middle and lower chest.
- Clavicular Head:The clavicular head sits under the clavicle and is also known as the upper chest.
In addition to the pectoralis major is the pectoralis minor. This is a smaller muscle that looks like a triangle and sits underneath the pectoralis major.
This entire muscle group is largely responsible for controlling the arm by manipulating the shoulder joint. By doing so, the pectorals perform several jobs.
- Flexion Of The Humerus:Flexion of the humerus occurs when the arm comes out in front of the body and moves upward. This is similar to throwing a ball underhand. In fact, this fact is what makes the dip such an effective chest exercise when done in a particular manner.
- Adduction Of The Humerus:Adduction means to move a body part toward the midline of the body. Adduction of the arm is the down portion of flapping your arms like a bird.
- Horizontal Adduction Of The Humerus:Horizontal adduction refers to when your arms come together in front of your body like you're going in for a big hug. When we talk about training the chest muscles, horizontal adduction is one of the primary movements we use. Think the bench press or chest fly.
- Rotates The Humerus Medially:This occurs when the humerus comes inward, as in arm wrestling.
The deltoids are the actual term for the "shoulder muscles" that sit atop the shoulder joint. While some research has identified up to 7 different muscle heads, it's generally agreed that there are 3. The reason there are so many heads is due to the fact that the shoulder is the most mobile joint, being able to move in any direction thanks to being a ball-in-socket. In other words, these heads are needed to manipulate the shoulder in any direction, even those that are completely opposite.
The three primary muscle heads are:
Anterior Deltoid:The anterior deltoid sits on the anterior (front) side of the shoulder. It is used in just about every movement other than pulling exercises. This means it aids in lateral movements, horizontal adduction, overhead pressing, and flexion of the arm. Because of this, out of the three deltoids, it's generally the most developed.
Lateral Deltoid:The lateral deltoids are often referred to incorrectly as the medial deltoid as it sits in the "middle" of the anterior and posterior deltoid. However, "medial" does not necessarily mean middle, as it's a directional term meaning "towards the midline." On the other hand, "lateral" is actually the opposite of "medial" and means "farthest to outside."
That being said, the lateral deltoid sits on the furthest part of the body and makes up the side of the deltoids. When guys have developed delts, they'll refer to them as "capped," and usually refers to large medial delt hanging off the shoulder. Regardless, it's primarily used for shoulder abduction (the "up" part of flapping your arms) as in the lateral raise. It also assists in overhead pressing.
Posterior Deltoid:The posterior deltoid sits on the posterior (back) of the shoulder and is actually used for pulling exercises. However, it also assists in overhead pressing. That being said, you’ll train this during your pulling workout.
The triceps are composed of three muscle heads that sit on the posterior of the arm. Together, these three heads work together to extend the elbow. This is the last action of any pushing movement and, oftentimes, the hardest. This is why it's common for powerlifters to specifically train the triceps to increase their lockout strength, the term used for fully extending the elbow as in the bench press. That said, these three heads have slightly different functions.
Lateral Head:The lateral head sits on the outside of the arm. It contains the highest number of type II muscle fibers, so it is responsible for creating high levels of force.
Medial Head:The medial head sits along the middle of the arm, with the majority located under the other two heads. It contains the highest number of type I muscle fibers and is responsible for providing force for the majority of smaller movements.
Long Head:The long head is the longest of the heads and crosses both the shoulder and elbow joint. This gives it the unique function of stabilizing the arm (by way of the shoulder joint) and extension of the elbow joint.
Benefits Of Using A Push Day:
There is no right or wrong way to split the muscle groups, as the best way will depend on your specific circumstances. That being said, having a push day workout routine in your training plan brings quite a few special circumstances. Whether you run a push-pull legs split or just push-pull, these are some of the top benefits of having a push day workout.
1) Optimize Recovery Time:
One of the best reasons to use a push workout day is it's going to ensure you are getting enough recovery time in between training sessions; that's assuming you are doing more than push workouts. Since you're a SET FOR SETreader, we're going to assume you're including your pull exercises as well. Being so, you will be rotating through these different training days allowing plenty of recovery time in between your training sessions. As proper recovery is vital for muscle growth, using a push-pull type split will almost guarantee you're getting enough recovery.
2) Ensures Equal Training:
When some guys go to the gym with no plan, they will tend to favor the muscles they like more. For example, the chest muscles are one muscle group that tends to be a favorite for a lot of trainees. This can cause one muscle group to be over-trained and another to be under-trained. This can not only cause muscle imbalances but a disproportionate looking body.
Again, assuming that you're using a push-pull type split, you can be sure to have an equal training balance. What this means is that you are definitely going to train your pushing muscles and pulling muscles with approximately the same volume.
3) Easy To Organize:
Similar to most training splits, they are relatively easy to organize. This means that when you go to the gym, you will have a good plan to follow. Even if you have minimal knowledge of training, when you go to the gym, you'll have a basic idea of what you are going to train that day. On your push day, you're going to train your pushing muscles. While there's obviously more to it than that, it can get you pointed in the right direction.
This can also help lay the groundwork for building your very own program. While there's a lot more to building an effective program than just dividing muscle groups, it is definitely the first step.
The Best Push Exercises
At the end of the day, a push day workout routine is nothing without the right pushing exercises. The best push workouts are going to the movements that are the best at building muscle and strength. Therefore, we are going to go over what exercises you need to include in your push training split.
Remember from above that upper-body exercises will push the load away from your body. This might be your chest muscles pushing a weight out in front of your body or your shoulder muscles pushing a weight above. Whatever the case may be, these exercises are guaranteed to cause massive muscle growth in your upper bodies push muscles.
1. Push Press:
The push press is a must-have exercise for anyone wanting to improve the power of their pushing muscles. Arguably the easiest power exercise to perform, the push press is unique on this list, being the only true power movement. Regardless of what your goals are, the push press can definitely help you get there.
Tips For The Push Press:
- Stand with feet flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart.
- Maintain good form with elbows under the bar the whole time.
- When performing the dip, utilize a minimal dip (1/4 squat).
- Extend with power.
- Think about sending the load up in a straight line.
- Lockout with arms extended fully overhead.
2. Barbell Bench Press and Dumbbell Chest Press:
While technically two exercises, we're going to put these two bench press chest exercises together. This is because they both use a flat bench and use a very similar movement pattern. Further, because they are so similar, you don't need to perform both of them at the same time. In other words, instead of performing these at the same time, you can swap them out every 8 weeks or so to add a different stimulus.
Tips For The Bench Press And Chest Press:
- Keep your feet on the ground and butt on the bench.
- Bring the bar down to your nipples.
- Be sure to have your elbows come down at a 45-degree angle.
- Think about blowing the bar up when you exhale.
- Try squeezing the bar to get more power.
3. Incline Bench Press and Incline Dumbbell Chest Press:
Same as the flat bench press, but these two exercises are going to train the upper chest. Further, because you perform the incline bench on an incline, you're going to hit your shoulder muscles more. Regardless, what we like to do is perform the flat bench and incline press on separate training days and use different implements.
Tips For The Incline Bench Press And Chest Press:
- Keep your feet on the ground and butt on the bench.
- Bring the bar down to your upper chest.
- Be sure to have your elbows come down at a 45-degree angle.
- Think about blowing the bar up when you exhale.
- Try squeezing the bar to get more power.
4. Close Grip Bench Press:
The close grip bench press is an awesome triceps exercise but also acts as an effective upper chest exercise. Because you take a narrower grip, your elbows are going to see more flexion. Further, they’ll be tucked slightly closer to the body meaning the arms will experience less horizontal adduction. This means the chest muscles will be used slightly less.
Tips For The Close Grip Bench Press:
- Grab the bar slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. Many people grab the bar way too narrow.
- No need to tuck the elbows to the body! Again, many people will tuck way too much. In reality, they only need to be slightly more tucked than the bench press.
- Be sure to lockout at the top with arms straight every rep. People tend to stop just short of the full lockout on these.
5. Military Press:
The military press (or strict press) is the premier exercise to demonstrate your overhead pushing strength. Being so, a lot of guys don't like it because, quite frankly, their overhead pressing strength sucks. In fact, that's exactly why you need to be doing the military press on your push days. No other exercise will create brute strength in your shoulders and triceps the way the military press. Stop looking at the deltoids as one of the smaller muscle groups and only use lateral raises; it's time to seriously start training your delts with this awesome compound exercise.
While the military press generally refers to using a barbell standing, you can alter the exercise slightly for a different stimulus such as using dumbbells and sitting.
Tips For The Military Press:
- Grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Keep the elbows tucked under the bar.
- Keep your core tight and your glutes tight. This will help brace your torso.
- Drive the barbell up in a straight line.
6. Lateral Raises:
We know we just talked about how you need more than lateral raises, but that doesn't mean they're not awesome deltoid exercises. We just want you to use them in conjunction with the military press.
That said, the lateral raise is one of the most important shoulder isolation exercises to perform as it isolates your medial delts. Remember that when you perform almost any compound pushing exercise(and even some isolation), you will train your anterior deltoids. And when you train your pulling exercises, you almost always train your posterior deltoids. This means that your lateral deltoid is almost always undertrained. While the dumbbell lateral raise is a great exercise as well, we prefer using the cable machine.
Tips For Lateral Raises:
- Allow the cable to drag your arm across your body.
- Pull the arm, thinking about a swooping motion.
- Keep the elbows slightly bent.
- Concentrate on bringing your elbow to parallel level with your shoulder. Your hand should not be higher than shoulder height.
7. Chest Fly:
The chest fly is one of the best isolation exercises for the chest muscles. Remember above when we talked about how horizontal adduction is one of the primary movements to train the pectorals? Well, that's literally all the chest fly is; one big horizontal adduction exercise. While you can definitely use dumbbells, we recommend using the cable pulley system as it allows constant tension throughout the range of motion.
Further, the cable allows you to direct the resistance from a wide range of angles. This allows you to train the muscle fibers in every direction, which is vital for muscle growth. For example, a rising angle will target your upper chest more while a declining angle hits the lower chest. Use this in your training to ensure a full chest.
Tips For The Chest Fly:
- Your hands should be slightly past your torso in the starting position.
- Keep your elbows slightly bent.
- Your arms will maintain the same bend throughout the movement.
- Think about "swooping" your hands, trying to make the biggest circle as they come together.
Dips are the king of body weight pushing exercises. While many people think of push-ups, you have to lift your entire body weight when performing dips; it's like a pull-up but pushing. Further, due to the biomechanics of a dip (which involves flexion and adduction), the dip is actually a killer chest exercise. Still, it's also going to build some massive triceps.
Because there are such wide varieties of the dip, you can perform them virtually anywhere with minimal equipment. In addition, they are very easy to scale for any training level. At the end of the day, dips are one of our favorite exercises, pushing or not.
Tips For The Dip:
- Wrap your hands around the bars so that the crease of your thumb sits on top of the bar.
- Start with your arms fully extended and torso straight.
- Slowly lower your body down.
- As you come down, keep your forearms vertical. Bend at your elbow to let your torso come forward.
- In order to hit your chest more, tuck your chin and allow your torso to lean over more.
- Come down, so your arms are parallel to the ground.
9. Dumbbell Pullover:
The dumbbell pullover is a classic bodybuilding movement that targets the chest. It's often credited for being the secret to the massive pecs of bodybuilders during the golden age of bodybuilding. Unfortunately, it isn't used as often anymore as it should be. None of that matters, as you're going to be doing them now. One of the top reasons we love the dumbbell pullover is that it really allows you to hit the pushing muscles from every angle.
Tips For The Dumbbell Pullover:
- Use a lighter dumbbell so you can concentrate on the stretch.
- Only allow the dumbbell to go slightly past your head, basically to the spot where you can't go lower comfortably.
- Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement.
- Think about "swooping" the dumbbell as it comes over your head.
10. Upright Row:
The upright row is a great exercise for not only the deltoids but all the upper back muscles. Further, it's the only compound exercise that targets the lateral deltoids. Remember, this is important as the anterior and posterior delts already get trained with your other pushing and pulling exercises. That said, many people will claim you can hurt your shoulders performing this exercise. That’s because they’re not using good form. Follow the tips below to ensure no shoulder pain.
Tips For The Upright Row:
- Usea wide grip.
- As you pull up, concentrate on pulling your elbows up rather than the hands.
- Pull the rope apart as you pull up.
- Pull up until your elbows hit shoulder level, don’t go higher.
The Best Push Day Workout
Because we like variation in our workout, we're going to give you two push workout days to use. When using a push, pull, leg routine, you'll train your “push day” once every 3 sessions meaning that you'll hit a muscle group once or twice every week.
Therefore, use just one session at a time for about 6-8 weeks. At this time, if things start becoming stale, go ahead and swap days. What this will do is introduce a new stimulus to encourage consistent growth.
Push Day 1:
|Push Press||3 sets||3 reps|
|Dumbbell Flat Bench Press||4 sets||4 reps|
|Close Grip Bench Press||3 sets||8 reps|
|Arnold Press||3 sets||8 reps|
|Chest Fly||3 sets||10-12 reps|
|Lateral Raises||3 sets||10-12 reps|
|Triceps Overhead Extension||3 sets||12+ reps|
Push Day 2:
|Military Press||3 sets||5 reps|
|Incline Bench Press||4 sets||6 reps|
|Chest Dips||3 sets||8 reps|
|Seated Dumbbell Press||3 sets||8 reps|
|Upright Row||3 sets||10-12 reps|
|Dumbbell Pullover||3 sets||10-12 reps|
|Triceps Pushdown||3 sets||12+ reps|
As you can see, many of the exercises in the two days are similar but vary by implementation. These two variables are the key to producing consistent results long-term. Further, notice that the bigger compound movements will use heavy loads for strength training, the smaller accessory and isolation movements use lighter loads for muscle hypertrophy. The best of both worlds.
The Perfect Push Day
We just laid out two awesome push day routines that will work for anyone's goals. Now it's just up to you. In order to maximize this plan, you're going to need to follow a proper diet and get adequate sleep for recovery. Both of these can have a massive impact on not only your muscle growth but your muscle soreness as well. And always use proper form to optimize training adaptations and mitigate injury.
Also, make sure to pair it with a pull day workout so you're developing your muscles evenly. Other than that, you can now see that this program will hit every muscle in a variety of angles AND loads. Continue to use progressive overload and switch things up when things get stale. Just be sure to follow an equally badass pulling program to compliment this push training plan.
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What is the best push day workout for muscle gain? ›
The Best Push Day Workout Routine
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 ...
- Push-up. Assume a high-plank position with your feet together, your body straight from head to heels, and your hands in line with (but slightly wider than) your shoulders. ...
- Shoulder press. ...
- Dumbbell bench press. ...
- Dumbbell chest fly. ...
- Dumbbell overhead triceps extension. ...
- Dumbbell lateral raise.
3-4 exercises per workout is enough to accomplish your fitness goals. If you program your workout correctly, more than 4 exercises per day can become counterproductive. You only need to focus on 6 major movement patterns when selecting your exercises.How many exercises are enough for Push day? ›
How many exercises should be in a push day? A typical push day workout will have 6-8 different exercises. While it may seem like a lot, the set-up of these exercises is such that you are able to do them relatively quickly.How many sets for push day? ›
Perform 3–4 sets of 8–12 repetitions for each exercise, and rest for 2–3 minutes between sets.What should I train on push days? ›
In the “push” workout you train all the upper body pushing muscles, i.e. the chest, shoulders and triceps. In the “pull” workout you train all the upper body pulling muscles, i.e. the back and biceps. And in the “legs” workout you train the entire lower body, i.e. the quads, hamstrings, calves and abdominals.How many sets of push-ups should i do a day to build muscle? ›
Ideally, you should try to do 3 sets of 12 reps each day. This will help you gain muscle strength. If you want to gain benefit from this form of exercise then do it in the right way. Performing the wrong form of exercise will not benefit you anyway.How many reps should I do on a push day? ›
You will notice that the rep range is commonly set at 6-8 repetitions or 8-10 repetitions. There is a reason for this: You build the most strength within this range. However, if gaining muscle is not your goal, you can increase the number of repetitions to 12-15 for more endurance work.Is 2 chest exercises enough for Push day? ›
You should perform 1-4 chest exercises per workout, with the most optimal range being 2-3 different chest exercises in a single training session. Why? For most lifters, performing any more than 3-4 various movements can result in diminished returns, excessive “trash” volume, and suboptimal quality volume.Should I do push-ups everyday to get stronger? ›
Doing pushups every day will help you gain upper body strength. But keep in mind you'll need to mix up the types of pushups you're doing after a while to continue to challenge your muscles. If you want to try a pushup challenge to do the exercise daily or several times a week, try different types of pushups.
Will I gain muscle if I do push ups everyday? ›
Doing daily pushups can help build muscle tone and strength in the upper body. Other potential benefits include improved cardiovascular health and better support around the shoulder joints.Can I build muscle by doing 100 push ups every other day? ›
Over time, your strength will improve and you will feel stronger. The difference from the 1000 pushups challenge, is that you complete 100 pushups a day for 30 days, so you build muscle daily and improve your strength.How many push ups should i do a day to build muscle? ›
Ideally, you should try to do 3 sets of 12 reps each day. This will help you gain muscle strength. If you want to gain benefit from this form of exercise then do it in the right way. Performing the wrong form of exercise will not benefit you anyway.What type of push ups build the most muscle? ›
"The regular push-up provides the most amount of stability and the greatest opportunity to train strength in your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core with your legs extended," says Ben Lauder-Dykes, Fhitting Room trainer.