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September 17, 2023
Training is a whole lot easier if you have some sort of game plan. The easiest way to do this is to follow a training 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.
Table of Contents:
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:
Strictly for your education, we're gonna look at what these look like just so you can compare.
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.
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 the pulling muscles will help pull a weight closer to your body.
As you see, pushing and pulling muscles will include muscles from both the upper and lower body.
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 in the workouts featured in this article.
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.
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, including flexing the humerus, adducting the humerus, horizontal adduction of the humerus, and rotating the humerus medially.
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:
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.
Because we like variation in our push day routine, we're going to give you two push day workouts 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 push day workout 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.
Stay tuned after the workouts for details on how to perform the push workout exercises featured in these routines.
|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|
|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.
One other key thing to keep in mind: Progressive overload is essential. If your goal is to increase your strength and build muscle, make sure you are consistently adding a set, rep, or weight to your program. This is where the muscle-building magic happens.
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. Again, there's no perfect split, as that depends on your specific circumstances and goals.
And, it's always a good idea to get a glimpse of other options in order to fully understand what makes the difference. Regardless, in this article we're talking about what an awesome push workout would look like within the context of a push/pull/legs split.
For more great routines, check out our article: The 5 All-Time Best Workout Splits.
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.
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 SET reader, 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.
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.
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.
We've already gone over the routine, and now it's time to learn how to perform each of the exercises in the program. Because, 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.
The push press is a must-have push day 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:
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:
Same as the flat bench press, but these two push 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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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 complement this push training plan.
Now that you've got your push workout routine, it's time to learn about the pulling portion of this split. You can find a great pull day workout and exercises in our article: The Best Pull Day Workout To Build Muscle & Strength!
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