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Push Day Workout: Your Blueprint to Powerful Chest, Shoulder, and Tricep Muscles

Pushing is one of five primary movement patterns that the human body performs. The others are pulling, hinging, squatting, and carrying. Each of these movements is integral to our daily life and overall fitness. For example, every time you close the fridge door or use a shopping cart, you’re doing a push movement.

Beyond functional use, understanding and training these movements can greatly enhance your physical performance and aesthetics.

A push workout, focusing on chest, shoulder, and tricep muscles, can build definition and strength in your upper body, giving you a more powerful and sculpted look.

If your goal is to increase muscle mass, improve your athletic performance, or simply have a more balanced and functional body, a well-structured push workout can be your blueprint to success.

In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to make the most of your push-day workout.

Why Push Day and Pull Day?

A push-day workout is part of the classic push-pull-legs (PPL) routine, widely used in bodybuilding and strength training. This routine is based on the principle that you should train opposing muscle groups (i.e. push muscles and pull muscles) on different days to allow for proper recovery and growth.

Having a day dedicated to pushing or pulling exercises has 6 major benefits:

Optimized Recovery: When you work out, you create microscopic damage to your muscle fibers. This damage stimulates the body to repair and grow stronger muscles during recovery periods (2). By separating push and pull exercises into different days you give opposing muscle groups ample time to recover and grow.

Focused Training: Having dedicated push and pull days allows you to concentrate on specific muscle groups during each workout. This focus can lead to better form, greater muscle engagement, and more intense workouts, which can translate to superior results.

Increased Frequency: The push-pull-legs routine allows you to work each muscle group multiple times per week without overtraining. This increased frequency can accelerate muscle growth and strength gains.


Balance and Symmetry: By training opposing muscle groups on different days you can help ensure a balanced development of your physique. This balance is not only aesthetically pleasing but also important for maintaining proper body alignment and reducing the risk of injury (1).

Versatility: The push-pull-legs routine is versatile. It can be adapted to match your fitness level, available time, and specific training goals. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced lifter, you can adjust this routine to fit your needs.

Prevention of Overuse Injuries: Training in a push-pull format can help you avoid overuse injuries that can occur from overworking a muscle group (3). By allowing sufficient rest between workouts for the same muscle group, you reduce the risk of injuries that could derail your progress.

Our 3-day Push Pull Workout guide illustrates how to structure your workouts and gives you tips on exercises, sets, reps, and rest times.

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What Workout Is Push Day?

A push day workout involves muscles that are involved in pushing movements, which primarily include the chest, shoulders, and triceps. More specifically, the main muscles targeted during a push day workout are:

  • Chest: The pectoralis major and minor (or pecs) are the primary muscles that make up the chest. The pecs are responsible for pushing movements, such as when you push on a door or lift weights.
  • Shoulders: The deltoids (or delts) are the muscles that make up the shoulders. There are three heads of the deltoid muscle: anterior (front), medial (middle), and posterior (rear). These muscles play a vital role in shoulder movements and are involved in pushing exercises.
  • Triceps: The triceps brachii (or triceps) is the muscle located at the back of your upper arm. This muscle is responsible for extending (straightening) the elbow joint, which is essential for pushing movements.

Push Day Exercises List, and How to Do Them

Bench Press

The bench press is the ultimate compound exercise for building a powerful chest, shoulders, and triceps. To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Lie on your back on a flat bench with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
  2. Grab the barbell at shoulder-width apart with an overhand grip.
  3. Unrack the bar and slowly lower it towards your chest, keeping your elbows at a 45-60 degree angle.
  4. Engage your chest muscles to push the bar back up to the starting position.

Overhead Press

The overhead press is a compound exercise that primarily targets the shoulders but also works the triceps and upper chest. To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold the barbell at shoulder level with an overhand grip.
  2. Press the bar overhead until your arms are fully extended.
  3. Lower the bar back to shoulder height.

Tricep Pushdown

This exercise targets the triceps specifically. To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Attach a rope handle or straight bar to a cable machine, and stand facing the machine.
  2. Grab the handle or bar with an overhand grip and keep your elbows close to your body.
  3. Push the handle or bar down until your arms are fully extended, then slowly release back to starting position.

Dumbbell Fly

This exercise mainly targets the chest muscles. To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Lie on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand, and extend your arms out to the sides so they are parallel with the floor, make sure to have a slight bend in your elbow.
  2. Slowly bring the weights together above your chest, squeezing your chest muscles as you do so.
  3. Lower the weights back to the starting position.


Lateral Raise

This exercise targets the lateral (middle) deltoid muscles. To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, with a slight bend in your elbow.
  2. Raise the weights out to the sides until they are parallel with the floor.
  3. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.

Push Ups: A classic bodyweight exercise that targets multiple muscles in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower your body towards the floor, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle.
  3. Push back up to the starting position.

Read more: 10 Wall Pilates Arms Exercises, and Everything Else You Need for Toned Arms

Incline Dumbbell Press

This exercise primarily targets the upper chest and also works the shoulders and triceps. To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Lie on an incline bench at a 30-45 degree angle with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Start with the dumbbells at shoulder height, palms facing away from you.
  3. Extend your arms straight up above your chest.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to starting position.

Skull Crushers

This exercise targets the triceps specifically. To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Lie on your back on a flat bench, holding a barbell or EZ curl bar at arms width.
  2. Lower the bar by bending at the elbows while keeping your upper arms stationary.
  3. Extend your arms to return the bar to the starting position.

Military Press

This compound exercise targets the shoulders but also involves the triceps. To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Sit on a bench with back support, holding a barbell at the front of your shoulders.
  2. Push the bar straight up until your arms are fully extended.
  3. Lower the bar back to the front of your shoulders.


An excellent bodyweight exercise for the chest and triceps. To perform this exercise correctly:

  1. Hoist yourself up on parallel bars with your torso perpendicular to the floor.
  2. Lower your body until your shoulders are slightly below your elbows.
  3. Push yourself back up to the starting position.

Discover more exercise variations in our Push Day Dumbbell Workout guide

Best Push Day Workout

  • Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Overhead Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
  • Tricep Pushdown: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Dumbbell Fly: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
  • Push Ups: 3 sets of max reps

When starting a push day workout, choose a weight that you can comfortably lift for the desired number of reps. You should aim for a weight that challenges you but still allows you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise. As you progress, gradually increase the weight to continue challenging and improving your muscles.

For muscle growth and strength gains, aim for 8-12 reps for each exercise. This rep range stimulates muscle hypertrophy (growth) and allows you to lift a challenging weight while maintaining proper form.

As for sets, start with 3 sets per exercise and adjust as needed based on your fitness level and specific goals. You can increase the number of sets as you become stronger and more advanced.

Our Push Day Workout Routine guide goes into more detail about designing a push day workout that suits your fitness level and goals.

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  • What Groups Are Included in Push Day?

Push day primarily targets the muscles involved in pushing movements. These muscles include the chest (pectoralis major and minor), shoulders (deltoids), and triceps.

  • Are Squats Push or Pull?

Squats are primarily considered a lower body push exercise. This is because the movement involves pushing through the legs into the ground. The quadriceps and gluteal muscles are the predominant drivers, which are responsible for extending the knee and hip joints respectively.

  • How Many Exercises Should I Include in a Push Day?

Good starting point is around 5 to 7 exercises, which allows for a thorough workout of the muscle groups involved in pushing movements. 

Compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups, such as the bench press and overhead press, can be included in a push day workout to maximize efficiency. A few isolation exercises, such as tricep pushdowns, can also be incorporated for added muscle development.

  • Is It Okay to Combine Push and Pull Days?

Yes, you can combine push and pull days under the umbrella of “upper body” workouts. Such a split may be slightly lengthier but is simpler to follow for individuals who prefer working out fewer days per week.

The Bottom Line

A push/pull workout split is an effective and efficient way to train your muscles. By targeting specific muscle groups on push days, you can effectively work those muscles while also giving other muscle groups a break for proper recovery. 

Remember to always use proper form and gradually increase the weight as you progress in your training to achieve optimal results and keep pushing towards your goals! 


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Balancing Act: Muscle Imbalance Effects on Musculoskeletal Injuries (2022,nih.gov)
  2. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training (2010,nih.gov)
  3. What are some signs of overtraining? (2023,mayoclinichealthsystem.org)
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