Choosing the right workout to follow is one of the very first things you must do when you get into health and fitness, but it is also one of the most important as well. After all, while an effective workout can quickly help you attain your goals, choosing poorly can leave you in limbo indefinitely.
The decision can then be made even harder by social media, where you will have influencers and celebrities who often have little real knowledge on physical development promoting workouts as the best way to train, purely because they have been paid to do so.
Occasionally though, a style of workout will naturally gain popularity, due to the fact that it generally is extremely effective. This is the case with the push – pull – legs split workout. However, even a proven way of training won’t produce the same effects for everyone, as our bodies are all different.
That means answering one question poses another, as you now need to work out exactly how best to do the workout you have selected. As luck would have it though, we have decided to make that job a little easier for you, by giving you a step by step guide to one third of this type of training split.
In the following article, we will show you what we feel is the ultimate push day workout, complete with a full list of exercises and how to do them. So, if you want to jump straight into your push – pull – legs training and get the best results possible, this is the article for you.
What Is A Push Day Workout Routine?
A push day workout is the part of a push – pull – legs training split that focuses on exercises which work the upper body muscles involved in pushing movements. It mainly includes the chest, shoulders, and triceps, but also targets many of the smaller stabiliser muscles as well.
A typical push day workout will include exercises with obvious pushing movements, such as a bench press, military press, or close grip bench press, but may also include some less obvious “push” exercises as well, like dumbbell flyes, lateral raises, or overhead presses.
A push day workout routine should also include a warm up before you begin, like any other workout, as this is very important to avoid injury and optimise performance. To warm up properly before you start a workout, focus on mobility exercises, dynamic stretches, and light sets of the actual exercises.
When it comes to the working sets, you want to aim to do 3 or 4 sets of each exercise, with 8 to 12 reps per set. If you are specifically training for strength, you can also increase the sets to 5 to 6 and decrease the reps to 5 to 6.
Don’t forget to include rest periods in between sets, to allow your muscles to recover. You ideally want to rest for about 45 seconds after each set, as this allows you to recover, without letting the muscles get too cold.
To maximize your gains, it is vital you challenge yourself by increasing the weight and/or reps over time. You also need to remember to cool down and stretch after your workout, to help dispel any built up lactic acid and prevent muscle soreness and tightness.
Push Day Exercises
We will now look at the individual exercises we will be using in our ultimate push day workout. We are going to look at three exercises for each of the chest, shoulders, and triceps, and will use the best options to ensure every part of each of these muscle groups gets sufficiently worked.
The bench press is one of the best exercises to build upper body strength and muscle mass. While it primarily targets all of the chest muscles, it also engages multiple other muscle groups, including the triceps, shoulders, and even the biceps, forearms, and trapezius and rhomboid muscles
It can be modified to target specific parts of the chest or different muscle groups to achieve different fitness goals. Being such a large, compound exercise, it will improve the overall fitness and athletic performance of the upper body and can help to increase bone density and promote joint health.
How To Do A Bench Press
Lie flat on your back on a bench press station, with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Lay so the bar is over your neck while it is racked. Reach up with your hands, grip the barbell with your hands just slightly wider than shoulder width apart, and engage your core to give you maximum stability.
Slightly arch your lower back, but keep both your buttocks and upper back flat on the bench. This puts your shoulders in a more natural position and alleviates any unnecessary strain. Carefully un-rack the bar and bring it forward so it is directly over your chest and engage the pecs to control it.
Slowly lower the bar down while keeping your elbows tucked in to roughly a 45 degree angle from your sides. Keep going until the bar is just a few inches from your chest. Pause here for a moment and really squeeze the pecs, then drive the bar back up to a few inches short of the starting position.
Immediately start the next rep and repeat until you have completed the desired number.
Incline Dumbbell Flyes
Incline dumbbell flyes are an isolation exercise that primarily targets the inner and outer sections of the upper chest. It involves more biceps than a bench press, and also works the triceps, forearms, and front deltoids as well.
How To Do Incline Dumbbell Flyes
Set the back rest on a bench to between 30 and 45 degrees and then lay back on it while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Press them straight up over you, so that the weights are touching, your palms are facing each other, and your arms are completely straight.
Slowly lower the weights out to your sides, until there is a deep stretch in your chest. Keep the arms as straight as possible, allowing only a slight bend in the elbows at the bottom of the movement.
Engage your pecs and use just them to drive the weights back up and in to the starting position, all while keeping your arms as straight as you can. Pause for a sec and squeeze the pecs as hard as you can, then slowly lower the weights back down and repeat until you hit your target number of reps.
Weighted dips are a calisthenic exercise, meaning they use your own bodyweight as the resistance that you train against. They are fantastic for working both the lower portion of the chest and the triceps, and can be adjusted, depending on which of these areas you prioritise training.
Dips also hit the shoulders and biceps and, as a calisthenic exercise, they are also great for working the core and all of the stabiliser muscles and connective tissues around the working muscles.
How To Do Weighted Dips
Hold two dip bars with an overhand grip, so that your palms are facing each other. Lift your feet off of the floor, support your weight on your hands, and tuck your heels up into your butt. Engage both the pecs and triceps and slowly lower yourself towards the ground with as much control as possible.
When you reach the bottom you’ll feel a deep stretch in the pecs and triceps. Squeeze these muscles as hard as you can and use them to drive you back up, going on until your arms are almost totally straight. Pause here for a moment and then repeat till you hit the desired number of reps or failure.
By using a weight belt, you have the opportunity to push yourself harder and train with more than the weight of your body. The wider you put your hands on this exercise, the more it will hit your pecs, while a narrower grip will target the triceps more, allowing you to vary it to hit both muscles.
When using dips to train chest, allow your elbows to flare out to the sides. Conversely, when targeting the triceps, focus on squeezing your elbows together and try to keep them as close to the sides of your body as you can throughout.
Much like the bench press, the military press is considered one of the “big four”, which is a group of compound exercises thought to be the most important of all.
It primarily works your front and side deltoids and triceps, but also involves your upper chest, traps, forearms, biceps, and core, as well as a great number of stabiliser muscles, connective tissues, and even your cardiovascular system.
How To Do A Military Press
Stand in front of a rack set so that a barbell is suspended just slightly below shoulder height. Place your hands on the bar just outside of shoulder width apart and bend your wrists back, so that the bar is sitting on the heels of your hands, with your fingers only used to keep it in place.
Stand so that your chest is slightly under the bar and lift it off of the rack, then take a step back. Engage your delts and triceps to use them to press the bar straight up towards the ceiling and keep going until your arms are almost at full extension.
Squeeze the delts as hard as possible for a second and then slowly lower the bar back to the starting position and then repeat immediately and keep going till you have done the target number of reps. Those focusing on strength can also use their legs to turn it into a push press and move more weight.
Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Lateral raises help to build shoulder strength and muscle definition and can be done with a relatively light weight to avoid joint stress and injury. They specifically hit the medial (side) head of the delts, while also working the trapezius and rhomboids in the upper back and the biceps to a lesser extent.
They can also improve overall shoulder health and stability, boost posture, and prevent shoulder injuries, while providing a little variety in upper body workouts.
How To Do Dumbbell Lateral Raises
Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, back straight, arms at full extension, and feet shoulder width apart, with the weights hanging by your waist and palms facing your body. Engage your delts and use just them to lift both weights up and out to the sides, keeping your arms almost completely straight.
Keep going until you are standing in a crucifix position, with your arms parallel with the ground and your palms facing the floor. Tilt your hands so that your little fingers rise and your thumbs drop. This is called supination and will help you to contract and develop the delts as much as possible.
Pause here for a second and squeeze the delts as hard as you can, while still keeping your arms mostly straight and your core tight. Slowly lower both the weights back down to the starting position in the same fashion and then repeat until you have hit the desired number of reps.
Bent Over Dumbbell Raises (Rear Dumbbell Flyes)
Bent over dumbbell raises primarily target the rear head of the delts but also hits the traps and upper back quite hard too, while also working the biceps and triceps. It is a particularly good exercise for your posture as well, as it helps to pull your shoulders back into the correct alignment.
How To Do Bent Over Dumbbell Raises (Rear Dumbbell Flyes)
Take a dumbbell in each hand and either sit on the end of a flat bench or stand with a solid base and bend over until your upper body is almost parallel with the floor. Let the weights hang down towards the floor, with your arms both perfectly vertical and fully extended.
The weights should be touching and your palms facing each other. If you’re seated, put your feet far enough forward that the weights can come together under your hamstrings. Engage the rear delts and use them to raise the weights out to your sides while keeping your arms as straight as you can
Keep going until your arms are parallel with the ground and then really squeeze the delts by tilting your thumbs towards the floor. Return to the starting position in an identical fashion and repeat until you have completed your target number of reps.
EZ Bar Skull Crushers/Close Grip Bench Press
Skull crushers target the medial head of the triceps, while close grip bench press targets the lateral head. This makes performing this superset a great way to hit two thirds of the triceps, while also working the inner chest, front delts, biceps, forearms, and traps to different degrees.
How To Do EZ Bar Skull Crushers
Sit on a flat bench with an ez bar resting on your knees and grip it so that your hands are far enough apart that your thumbs can just about touch when your extend them. Lay back and use your momentum to drive the bar straight up over your chest.
Keep your elbows straight and slightly tilt your arms back towards your head, till they are at roughly a 45 degree angle. Keep your upper arms still, bend your elbows, and slowly lower the bar towards your head, going as low as your range of motion will allow, so there is a deep stretch in both triceps.
While keeping your upper arms totally still, engage your triceps and use them to extend your elbows and drive the weights back up. When your arms are just short of fully extended and still at a slight angle, pause for a moment and squeeze the triceps as hard as you can to achieve maximum tension.
Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position in a controlled manner, then keep repeating the process until you have completed your target number of reps. However, on the final rep, don’t lower the weight back down, as you will be going straight into the next exercise.
How To Do Close Grip Bench Press
Immediately after completing your last skull crusher rep, keep your hands where they are and start lowering the bar straight down towards your upper abdomen by bending your elbows and keeping them tucked in by your sides.
Keep going until you can’t go any lower and then use only the triceps to press the bar straight back up until just short of full extension. Continue to repeat the process until you hit failure.
Overhead Dumbbell Extensions
Overhead dumbbell extensions are a great way to work the long head of the triceps and, when combined with the previous two exercises, ensures that the entire muscle has been worked hard. It is also a good exercise for posture, and can work the entire delt muscle, plus the traps and biceps.
How To Do Overhead Dumbbell Extensions
Stand with a straight back and lift a dumbbell onto your shoulder. Put the palms of both your hands on the underside of the top weight of the dumbbell, so that your thumbs and forefingers form a diamond around the bar.
Drive the weight into the air till it is above and just slightly behind your head, with both your arms at full extension. Try and squeeze your elbows together, so your upper arms are parallel at all times.
With your upper arms completely stationary, bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell down behind you and keep going until you feel a deep stretch and can’t go any further. Engage the triceps and use them to extend your elbows and drive the weight back up.
Pause at the top for a second and squeeze the triceps as hard as you can, then repeat until you have achieved your target number of reps.
The Ultimate Push Day Workout Routine
Now that you know how to perform all of the exercises, you are ready to complete our ultimate push day workout, which looks like this:
- Bench Press – 3 to 4 sets, 10 to 12 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Flyes – 3 to 4 sets, 10 to 12 reps
- Weighted Dips – 3 to 4 sets, 10 to 12 reps
- Military Press – 3 to 4 sets, 10 to 12 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raises – 3 to 4 sets, 10 to 12 reps
- Bent Over Dumbbell Raises – 3 to 4 sets, 10 to 12 reps
- EZ Bar Skull Crushers/Close Grip Bench Press Superset – 3 to 4 sets, 10 to 12 reps of each
- Overhead Dumbbell Extensions – 3 to 4 sets, 10 to 12 reps
Tips For A Successful Push Day Workout
While our ultimate push day workout is a great way to get results, as we mentioned at the outset of this article, everybody is slightly different, so you may want to make some slight modifications. If you decide to do this, there are a few tips to keep in mind, to make sure you are successful.
Always start with a warm-up that targets the muscles you’ll be working. This will help to increase blood flow and mobility, which enhances both performance and recovery. You also want to ensure you use proper form and technique for each exercise to further avoid injury and maximize results.
Consider working with a personal trainer or watching instructional videos if you are at all unsure.
Choose exercises that work different areas of the upper body, so that the chest, shoulders, and triceps are all covered. This will also add variety to your routine and prevent boredom and plateaus.
Focus on the mind-muscle connection, which means you actively engage and concentrate on the muscle that you’re working during each exercise, as this helps you to achieve a stronger contraction.
Incorporate progressive overload by gradually increasing the weight, reps, or sets of each exercise, to continually challenge your muscles and keep seeing improvements. Take adequate rest periods between sets to let your muscles recover, but keep your heart rate elevated by not resting too long.
Consider using pre-workout supplements or drinks that contain caffeine, creatine, or other ingredients to enhance your energy and performance. Make sure you stretch and cool down after a workout to prevent muscle soreness and tightness.
Finally, rest and recover properly, fuel your body with nutritious food, and drink enough water, as all of this will help to support your progress.
What Are The Benefits Of Splitting Your Workouts Into Push & Pull Days?
The main benefit of splitting your upper body training into push and pull days is that it allows you to train each area more than once.
Condensing your whole upper body into two days, instead of four like you would in a traditional split, means you can work it multiple times per week, reducing the time between sessions and potentially increasing your potential to grow.
The other benefit is that muscles are trained in groups that work well together. For example, many people feel the biceps grow better when they are trained straight after a back workout.
What’s more, training two adjacent areas like this together can also give the stabiliser muscles and connective tissues more work than they would usually get, helping them to develop and get stronger much faster.
Final Thoughts On The Ultimate Push Day Workout
A push – pull – legs split is a great way to maximise your time and develop all of the major muscles in your body, while also enhancing the stabiliser muscles and connective tissues that often get overlooked as well.
For those deciding to give this style of training a go, our ultimate push day workout should give you all you need to get started and begin making gains quickly. It targets each part of all the major pushing muscles in the body, to make sure nothing gets overlooked which could cause an imbalance.
All you have left to do now then is decide on what sort of workout you are going to do for your leg training and to develop the pulling muscles of your upper body as well. That way, you will be able to achieve the kind of total body development you are dreaming of.