Push Day Exercises List

40 Movements to Inspire Your Upper & Lower Body Push Workouts

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: August 14, 2023

Get the most out of your push day workout with this comprehensive list of push exercises for different muscle groups, complete with short descriptions and instructional videos.

Push Day Exercises

What Is Push Day?

Let’s start with a brief introduction to the definition and terminology of push day to ensure we are all on the same page.

Your body can be divided into front and back, left and right, and top and bottom. These segments are called the coronal (frontal), sagittal, and transverse planes in exercise physiology.

In addition, we can classify exercises in these two-dimensional planes based on the direction of movement. For instance, push exercises usually involve the weight moving forward, upward, away from the center, or a combination of these. 

Push Day Exercises Movement Planes

Dividing Push Day Exercises by Muscle Group

Push exercises can work muscles from head to toe on the back and front of your body. So it’s helpful to group push day exercises into a few buckets when designing your workout.

An upper body push day consists of exercises that work the muscles of your chest, front and side shoulders, and triceps, such as presses or extensions.

A lower body push day includes exercises that work the muscles of your quads, glutes, and calves, such as squats and calf raises.

You can also combine upper and lower body exercises for a total body push day workout or do an upper lower split.

Designing a Push/Pull Workout Split

Push workouts are part of a push/pull or push/pull/legs training split. The advantage of push/pull splits is they are relatively easy to program, and you can train each muscle group twice each week if you want.

Each push/pull split variation has pros and cons. So which one you use depends on your schedule, experience level, and fitness goals.

For example, the basic push/pull split includes upper-body and lower-body movements in every workout. This split allows you to train your whole body in fewer days per week. However, each muscle group gets less individual attention.

By comparison, a push/pull/legs split involves only upper body push days and pull days, while the leg day includes both push and pull movements for the lower body. Therefore, this split allows more training volume for the upper body.

Example: Chris Bumstead’s Push Pull Legs Routine

Next, let’s dive into the complete list of push day exercises. I’ve segmented the list into different upper and lower body muscle groups to make it easier to find specific exercises.

Upper Body Push Exercises

Upper body push day exercises include movements targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps. And this section includes exercises you can use to work those muscle groups.

Push Day Exercises for Chest

The pectorals, or pecs, are the largest muscles on your chest, and they are involved in several types of pushing movements. Here are the top push day exercises for the upper, middle, and lower chest.

1. Bench Press

The bench press is a foundational powerlifting and bodybuilding movement due to its effectiveness in building chest strength and muscle size. The standard flat bench setup works the majority of the chest with emphasis on the middle of the pecs.

2. Incline Bench Press

Lying on an incline bench at an angle of 15-60 degrees changes the direction of the force relative to your arms and body. As a result, the incline bench press is better for targeting the upper pectorals.

Push Day Exercises Bench Press

3. Dumbbell Bench Press

The dumbbell bench press differs from the barbell version in that you must control each arm independently. In addition, your arms are able to move through an arcing path, which feels more natural for some.

This type of exercise is better for strengthening stabilizer muscles and is considered a more functional movement.

4. Incline Dumbbell Press

The incline dumbbell press also requires independent arm control, but the angle of the bench results in more activation from the upper chest. Here’s a short video demonstrating how to perform the incline press with dumbbells.

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

5. Smith Machine Bench Press

The Smith machine consists of a barbell on vertical rails that control the weight’s movement path for you. And you can use the Smith machine for a variety of exercises, including the bench press.

Performing the bench press on the Smith machine combines the gravity resistance of free weights with the safety and control of a machine. Also, the guide rails reduce the need to stabilize the weight, which can put more loading on the major muscles of the pectorals.

6. Incline Smith Machine Press

Like the other angled chest exercises, the incline Smith machine press targets the upper chest. This particular variation helps you focus on contracting the upper chest instead of balancing the weight.

7. Decline Bench Press

The decline bench press targets the lower chest muscles and uses less anterior deltoids than other bench press variations due to its downward slope. This makes it a great exercise for building strength and definition in the chest.

8. Dips

Parallel bar dips are an underrated push day exercise. While typically done with just body weight, they are extremely effective for building the triceps and chest.

When your body weight isn’t enough resistance, you can use weighted dips to increase the difficulty and continue progressing. The video below shows you how to do dips with a weight belt and plate.

9. Dumbbell Fly

The dumbbell fly primarily involves rotating around a single joint, the shoulder, making it an isolation chest exercise. This means that the chest muscles bear the brunt of the load with very little help from the shoulders and triceps. As such, you don’t need to use heavy weights to build your chest.

10. Incline Dumbbell Fly

The incline dumbbell fly is an effective exercise for the upper and inner chest. Proper form is crucial, and you don’t need heavy weights. Check out the video below for some quick form tips.

11. Machine Fly

The machine chest fly is an exercise done on a piece of equipment called a “pec deck.” It has an upright seat and two independent handles attached to a weight stack, as illustrated below.

The advantage of this exercise is that the movement path is totally fixed, so you can focus on squeezing your pecs.

Push Day Exercises Machine Fly

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Push Day Exercises for Shoulders

Let’s move on to the best push day exercises for your anterior and lateral deltoids. The anterior delts are the muscles on the front of your shoulders, while the lateral delts are on the side.

12. Overhead Press

The standing barbell overhead press is like a vertical bench press, which shifts the loading from the chest to the shoulders. As such, this exercise is superb for building shoulder size and strength.

Most often, this exercise is performed with strict form to minimize momentum generated by the lower body.

Push Day Exercises Overhead Press

13. Push Press

The push press involves a deliberate leg drive to generate momentum for lifting heavier weights. It trains multiple muscle groups, improving overall power and functional strength.

14. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The dumbbell shoulder press can be performed either standing or seated. Performing the exercise while seated removes lower body momentum and helps to isolate the upper body.

Compared to barbells, dumbbells require more balance and stabilization. Additionally, not having your hands connected enables a more natural movement path.

15. Arnold Dumbbell Press

In the golden age of bodybuilding, Arnold Schwarzenegger popularized the Arnold dumbbell press. This is a variation of the dumbbell shoulder press where you rotate your arms while performing the exercise.

Learn More: Arnold Press vs Shoulder Press Differences

Follow the short video below to learn how to do it.

16. Machine Shoulder Press

Most gyms offer machines for shoulder press exercises, including plate-loaded unilateral machines and weight stack pivot presses.

17. Barbell Front Raise

The barbell front raise is an isolation exercise for targeting the anterior and lateral delts. An overhand grip engages the front and side delts, while an underhand grip isolates the front delts.

Alternative: Cable Front Raise

18. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Dumbbell lateral raises are arguably the best exercise for working the lateral or side delt. You can perform this exercise while standing, sitting, or leaning to hit your shoulders in different ways.

19. Machine Lateral Raise

Another way to perform lateral raises is on a machine where you push your forearms up against rotating pads while in the seated position. The nice part about machine lateral raises is that the resistance doesn’t change throughout the range of motion like it does with free weights.

Push Day Exercises Machine Lateral Raise

Push Day Exercises for Triceps

Here are the best triceps exercises for upper body push day. Don’t underestimate their importance!

20. Skull Crushers

Skull crushers are a dangerously cool-sounding tricep exercise that involves lying on a bench and lowering a weight toward the top of your head. But don’t worry, they are relatively safe!

Moreover, skull crushers are an excellent exercise for loading up your triceps and building size and strength in the back of your arms.

21. Incline Skull Crusher

Performing skull crushers on an incline bench targets the medial and lateral heads of the outer tricep. Incline skull crushers can also be done with dumbbells to work each arm independently.

Related: 13 Best Skull Crusher Alternatives

22. Dumbbell French Press

The dumbbell French press exercise is essentially an upright skull crusher, typically performed with a single dumbbell. Again, the arm angle favors the lateral head which is the outer part of the horseshoe shape.

23. Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press is a tricep exercise disguised as a chest exercise. Although it is a straight pressing movement, the narrow grip results in greater elbow flexion and extension, which works the triceps.

In addition, the heavy loading possible with the close grip bench is excellent for developing tricep size and power.

24. Tricep Pressdown

The tricep pressdown is one of the most popular arm exercises in the gym. And it is extremely effective for working all three heads of the triceps when done properly.

However, there are a few common mistakes most people make when performing this exercise. Watch the short video below to see how to correct tricep pressdown mistakes.

25. Tricep Kickback

The tricep kickback is an effective isolation exercise that targets the long head of the triceps. The exercise requires minimal weight as the upper arm stays close to the body.

You can perform kickbacks using a cable machine or dumbbells, as illustrated below.

Lower Body Push Exercises

Here are some of the best push day exercises for your lower body. The list is segmented into different muscle groups: quadricep exercises, glute-focused exercises, and calf exercises.

Quad Push Day Exercises

Quadriceps exercises include knee extension movements that target all the major muscles on the front of your thighs. The most common example of which is the squat.

26. Narrow Stance Squats

The conventional squat is the king of lower body exercises. But it works every muscle in your legs, including pull day muscles like the hamstrings, which isn’t ideal for a push-pull split where you train hamstrings the next day.

Therefore, I recommend using quad-focused squat variations on your push day to minimize overlap and overtraining. One example is the narrow stance squat, which has been shown to activate more quads and less hamstrings compared to a wider stance.

Learn More: Wide vs Narrow Stance Squat Mechanics & Muscle Activation

My YouTube channel has dozens of videos showing you how to do a variety of bodybuilding exercises. You’ll learn how to target and build specific muscle groups in 90 seconds or less. Click HERE to subscribe, or click on the button below!

27. Heel Elevated Squat

Another way to target push muscles like the quads is to elevate your heels during squats. This minor change in foot placement has a significant impact on the degree of knee bend and the resulting quad activation.

Learn More: Flat Footed vs Heel Elevated Squats Compared

28. Front Squat

Continuing with the quad-focused theme, front squats achieve the same objective by shifting the center of gravity forward. With the bar on the front of your shoulders, your back stays more upright, and your knees bend more as you squat down.

29. Hack Squats

The hack squat machine is similar to a leg press but with the weight sled on your shoulders. It promotes a more upright body position and deeper knee bend, making it an effective quad exercise.

If you don’t have a hack squat machine, you can also try doing Smith machine hack squats instead.

30. Goblet Squat

The goblet squat exercise involves holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your body, shifting your center of gravity forward. Heel-elevated goblet squats can isolate your quadriceps even more.

31. Sissy Squat

Sissy squats are an intense bodyweight exercise that requires squatting down without bending your hips, placing almost all the load on your quads. In addition, you must balance your body throughout the movement, which engages every stabilizer muscle in your hips and core.

32. Leg Extensions

The leg extension machine provides a true quadricep isolation exercise where only your knee moves. If you don’t have a leg extension machine to use, there are several alternatives to work your quads in the same way.

See More: 16 Leg Extension Alternatives for Any Gym Setup

Glute Push Day Exercises

Next, let’s change gears and look at some push day exercises for working your glutes.

33. Conventional Barbell Squat

Back squats effectively work the glutes, with wider stances providing deeper hip flexion. Low bar squats shift your center of gravity back for a glute-dominant movement.

34. Box Squat

Box squats are a variation of squats that focus on targeting the glutes more than the quads. This exercise involves stopping at the bottom of the squat, which is great for building explosive power.

35. Smith Machine Squat

The Smith machine allows you to position your feet such that the squat exercise requires more hip bend, which targets the glutes. To do the glute-focused Smith machine squat, place your feet about shoulder width apart directly under the bar and push your hips back as you squat down.

36. Hip Thrusts

Hip thrusts are great for targeting and activating the glutes. You can also increase resistance with dumbbells, barbells, or machines to enhance glute size and strength.

Calves Push Day Exercises

Last but not least are some push day exercises for working your calves.

37. Standing Barbell Calf Raises

Standing calf raises are the best exercise for working the gastrocnemius of the upper calves due to the straight leg position. And performing this exercise with a barbell creates the added challenge of balancing the weight on your toes.

38. Smith Machine Calf Raises

Doing standing calf raises on the Smith machine makes it much easier to balance the weight. As a result, Smith machine calf raises allow you to focus more effort on contracting your calves with heavier loads.

39. Leg Press Calf Raises

You can perform calf raises on the leg press machine by placing your toes on the foot platform and pushing the sled up with your ankles while keeping your hips and knees still.

Learn More: Leg Press Calf Raise Foot Placement

40. Seated Machine Calf Raises

Many gyms have a plate-loaded seated calf raise machine, which targets the soleus muscle due to the bent leg position. When performing seated calf raises, it’s important to control the weight and not bounce it haphazardly.

41. Donkey Calf Raises

Donkey calf raises are performed by leaning forward with straight legs to stretch the calves and target the gastrocnemius. While the machine for this exercise is uncommon, it can also be done with free weights. 

More Exercises & Workouts

These push day exercises are vital to any successful push/pull workout split. And I’ve included a link to my complete pull day exercises list below.

But if you have a different workout split or specific gym equipment, you might still need more ideas. So here are some additional exercise and workout articles I know you’ll find helpful.

Cable Chest Exercises for Mid, Upper, & Lower Pecs

Bill Pearl Workout Routine From Beginner to Advanced

11 Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises

Barbell Chest Exercises With or Without Bench

Chris Bumstead Offseason Leg Workout

Top 10 Landmine Leg Exercises

Landmine Shoulder Exercise Ideas

Complete Pull Day Exercises List (with videos)

With this information, you’re well on your way to your ultimate push day workout routine. And if you found this article helpful, take a look at some of my other great content below!

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By |August 14, 2023|Workouts|Comments Off on List of 40 Best Push Day Exercises for Upper & Lower Body
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