Push Day Workout to Build Strong & Shaped Upper Body Muscles

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: March 12, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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Throughout my years as a fitness coach, I’ve guided my readers and clients into achieving their fitness goals with different workout splits.

The push, pull, and leg split are among the best for gaining muscles and building strength and suit almost everyone in the weights room.

In this article, I will guide you through knowing what a push-day workout is, the best exercises for optimum growth, and some tips for maximizing your workouts.

Quick Summary

  • A push day workout routine focuses on sculpting your chest, shoulders, and triceps, providing a comprehensive approach for a powerful and shaped upper body.
  • This workout incorporates upper body pushing movements like the overhead press, barbell press, and their variations to enhance strength and promote muscle growth in the targeted muscle group.
  • Research from the Mayo Clinic suggests that performing a single set of 12 to 15 repetitions with the appropriate weight can efficiently build muscle in most individuals.
  • As a fitness trainer, starting your workout with major lifts and incorporating pre-workout supplements can significantly enhance your ability to power through muscle movements.

What Is a Push Day Workout?

A person in the gym doing push day workout

A push day is a focused upper body exercise targeting muscles responsible for pushing weight away during the week. It's part of the push, pull, leg exercise routine, which divides exercises into pull, push, and leg categories.

On a push day, you work on the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Depending on your fitness goals and schedule, aim for 1-2 sessions weekly.

This regimen combines isolation and compound exercises to stimulate multiple muscle groups before isolating specific target muscles.

Over the years, I've learned that a push day workout differs from a full-body workout in that it targets both lower and upper body muscles in a single session, supported by research from PubMed [1].

Push Day Workout Routine

A person doing bench presses in the gym

This push day program effectively targets all necessary pushing muscles with complex isolation exercises for chest, shoulders, and triceps.

You can follow this program exactly or modify it to meet your individual needs.

  • Flat Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 sets, 6-8 reps. Use challenging weight while maintaining proper form.
  • Incline Bench Press: 3-4 sets, 8-12 reps, targeting chest muscles.
  • Dips: 3 sets to failure, focusing on chest and triceps.
  • Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets, 6-8 reps, transitioning to shoulder compound exercises.
  • Side Lateral Raises: 3 sets, 12-15 reps, isolating lateral deltoid muscles.
  • Skull Crushers: 3 sets, 6-8 reps, targeting triceps after shoulder training.
  • Tricep Pushdowns: 3 sets, 8-12 reps, concluding the workout.

As a fitness trainer, I always advise my clients to keep up the intensity and take a 30-90 second rest between sets to maximize force production, and this approach is backed by research from PubMed [2].

Best Push Day Exercises For Growth

A person doing push day exercises in the gym

1. Flat Dumbbell Bench Press

Start your push day with the flat dumbbell bench press, a key exercise focusing on the chest, triceps, and shoulders.

How to perform:

  1. Lie on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Lift the dumbbells to shoulder height, arms straight.
  3. Lower the dumbbells until arms are 90 degrees apart, or lower for a good stretch.
  4. Raise the dumbbells until arms are straight.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

2. Incline Bench Press

A person doing inclined bench presses in the gym

The incline bench press, a variation of the flat bench press, targets the upper chest for a fuller appearance and engages the front deltoids.

How to perform:

  1. Lie on an incline bench with a bar above your head.
  2. Secure your stance by pushing your shoulder blades together.
  3. Lift the weight until your arms are straight.
  4. Lower the weight a few inches from your chest.
  5. Raise the weights until your hands are straight.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

3. Close Grip Bench Press

For a focused triceps workout, try the close-grip bench press. Change your grip to a tighter posture, closer than shoulder-width apart, extending your range of motion and challenging your triceps.

How to perform:

  1. Lie on a bench press with your legs firmly on the floor.
  2. Hold the barbell above with your hands a few inches narrower than shoulder-width.
  3. Unrack the barbell and bring it in front of you, directly over the shoulder joint.
  4. Pull the bar to the rib cage, lower it to your chest, and raise it back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

"The grip closeness is the most misunderstood aspect of the close-grip press. People frequently grab the bar with both hands almost touching, but you don't have to go that narrow."

- Brett Williams, NASM Certified Personal Trainer

4. Side Lateral Raises

A person doing side lateral raises in the gym

According to a study published by PubMed, side lateral raises target the lateral fibers of your shoulder muscles, creating a broader and more prominent appearance [3].

How to perform:

  1. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells.
  2. Lift your hands to the side until slightly above shoulder height.
  3. Drop your arms back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

5. Triceps Pushdowns

The triceps pushdown effectively isolates the tricep muscles using a cable machine.

How to perform:

  1. Face the tricep pushdown cable machine, holding the rope attachment or horizontal cable bar with an overhand grip.
  2. Adjust the grips at chest height.
  3. Use pin-and-place adjustments and add a little weight.
  4. Brace your abdominal muscles, tuck your elbows in, and slightly spread your feet apart.
  5. Inhale and press down until the elbows are fully stretched but not locked.
  6. Keep your elbows close and legs slightly bent, avoiding leaning forward.
  7. Maintain a straight back during the pushdown.
  8. Return to the starting position in a controlled movement as you exhale.
  9. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

You May Also Like: Alternatives to Triceps Pushdown Workout

6. Skull Crushers

A person doing skull crusher workouts

Skull crushers, or lying triceps extensions, are done on a bench using dumbbells or a barbell.

How to perform:

  1. Lie face up on a bench with a pair of dumbbells, legs flat on the floor.
  2. Raise arms over your chest, palms facing each other.
  3. Contract the glutes and core, tuck your elbows, and gently bend them to drop the weights an inch over your head.
  4. Avoid moving upper arms, anchor shoulders down to isolate triceps.
  5. Straighten elbows, stretch arms back over your chest with control.
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat for reps.

"By utilizing a bench, you may set your feet on the ground, necessitating different engagement in your core and lower body; engaging the glutes, tucking the pelvis, and maintaining your core engaged and ribs down all need deliberate effort."

- Ash Wilking, Nike Master Trainer & Tonal Coach

7. Dips

Dips are effective bodyweight exercises for strengthening the triceps and upper-body muscles.

How to perform:

  1. Grab parallel bars, jump up, keeping arms straight.
  2. Lean forward at a 45° angle, bend at the waist, lift toes toward shins.
  3. Pull shoulders back and down, holding this posture.
  4. Gently lower torso into the dip by bending elbows until upper arms are nearly parallel to the floor.
  5. Maintain a firm grip on elbows.
  6. Straighten arms to return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Read Also: Is Bench Press Better Than Dips for Chest Exercise

8. Overhead Shoulder Press

A person doing an overhead shoulder press

Unlike the bench press, where the bench supports your back, the overhead shoulder press is the ultimate pressing exercise as it requires stability without bench support.

How to perform:

  1. Place a barbell on an elevated rack under the chin, about shoulder level.
  2. Hold the barbell with both hands and walk back to unrack it.
  3. Lift the barbell over the head, ensuring it rests directly above the shoulder joints.
  4. Maintain balance by standing straight; avoid leaning back.
  5. Lower the bar to the starting position or height of your chest/shoulders.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

9. Push-up

Push-ups are a versatile outdoor workout, requiring no equipment.

How to perform:

  1. Adopt a high-plank stance with feet together, hands slightly broader than shoulders.
  2. Engage glutes and core for stability.
  3. Lower your body a few inches off the ground, keeping elbows tucked and head neutral.
  4. Push your torso back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

"Push-ups are commonly considered an upper-body workout, but they truly engage the entire body. You'll build your arm, chest, and back muscles while strengthening your abdomen and quads."

- Lisa Toscano, Professor of Kinesiology

Read More:

Importance of a Push Day Workout Routine

A person doing push workouts with a dumbbell

A push-day workout routine is essential, targeting key muscle groups, complementing overall fitness, and providing versatility for goals like muscle growth, strength, or weight loss, all while remaining accessible for beginners due to its simplicity.

It Addresses Key Muscle Groups

The most effective push day exercises enable you to focus on one primary aspect – pushing weight – while simultaneously engaging three important muscle groups. When executed correctly, this routine targets essential muscles in the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

It Distributes Your Training Throughout the Week

A push day complements pull and lower body days, ensuring a comprehensive weekly workout plan (push, pull, legs). The push/pull/lower split efficiently concentrates on one body part per session, facilitating recovery on alternate days. Typically, this split involves working each body part twice for a well-rounded training approach.

It May Be Used To Achieve a Variety of Objectives

A person doing push exercises with a barbell in the gym

A push day is versatile, serving purposes such as muscle growth, strength, weight loss, or overall health.

  • To enhance weight loss, incorporate hypertrophy-focused push workouts to elevate metabolic rate and calorie burn.
  • For muscle building, pair a push workout with a caloric surplus.
  • For strength, a push exercise routine challenges you with overhead or barbell presses.

It's Simple to Learn and Remember

Observing and identifying weight pushing or pulling activities doesn't demand extensive knowledge. Even someone new to lifting can choose four push workouts, complete three to four sets, and enjoy a great workout without overthinking.

Tips for Maximizing Your Push Day Exercises

A coach helping a person in the gym do push exercises

Apply these tips whether you're doing push day routines at home or in the gym for power, size, or weight reduction.

Advance Your Program

Regularly increase the bar weight or add an extra repetition if the current week's weight is challenging. Consider an additional set if the last sets are challenging. Keep your training rigorous without starting over.

Eat Well to Achieve Your Objectives

Tailor your program based on your goals—size, strength, weight reduction, or overall health. Adjust your diet accordingly, eating in a surplus for muscle growth or a deficit for weight loss. Ensure carb intake for energy on push day if strength is your focus, as per the National Institute of Health [4].

Maintain Consistency

According to PubMed Research, consistency is key for actual benefits from push exercises. Transformations take time, especially for experienced lifters. Convey your desired adaptations by being consistent with your body's stress response [5].


What Exercises Are Best for Push Day?

The best push day exercises include push-ups, shoulder presses, chest flyes, lateral raises, overhead triceps extensions, and bench presses. These target essential muscles like the chest, shoulders, and triceps for a comprehensive workout routine.

How Many Workouts Should You Do on Push Day?

The number of workouts you should do on a push day is 6 to 8 different workouts. While it may appear to be a lot, the layout of these exercises allows you to complete them fast. You must aim for 1-2 minutes for every workout, followed by a 2-minute rest before going on to the next.

Is Push Day Necessary?

Yes, a push day workout is necessary. By performing push exercises one day and pull workouts the next, you guarantee that you exercise different muscle groups, allowing the other muscles to recover correctly.


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34468591/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19691365/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32824894/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8878406/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31267674/
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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