If you want to build muscle and if you know your way around the gym, one of the best tried-and-tested ways to achieve this is to follow a push/pull workout plan. That typically involves one workout of upper-body push exercises, another workout of upper-body pull exercises, and a final session of leg exercises. Rest and repeat.
Generally, pushing exercises target the major muscles of the chest, shoulders and triceps, which not only helps build strength, but can also benefit your posture. “Functionally, pushing helps you gain a range of motion and a level of strength that that allows you better perform day-to-day activities like lifting objects overhead,” says Jordan Fernandez, a personal trainer at Trainer Academy.
“Pushing or pressing exercises can also improve bone health, reducing your risk of osteoporosis,” he adds. One study, published in 2012, noted that regular resistance training can increase bone mineral density by 1-3% and boost metabolic rate by 7% after 10 weeks.
No matter your level of experience, building your training sessions around push and pull movements is a smart move to ensure balanced muscle and strength development. Here, Fernandez has listed seven of the best push exercises you should add to your upper-body workouts.
Seven Push Exercises To Include In Your Routine
Begin in a straight-arm plank position with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower your chest until just off the floor, then push yourself back up.
Lie on a bench under a barbell rack. Take the bar off the rack and lower it under control to your mid chest, then push it straight up until your arms are fully extended.
Sit on an upright bench or stand with a dumbbell in each hand. Start with the weights at shoulder level, palms facing forward, and press them overhead until your arms are extended.
Using rings, parallel bars or the edge of a bench with your feet on the floor, lower your body by bending your elbows until they form a 90° angle. Push yourself back up.
Incline dumbbell bench press
Lie back on a bench that’s set at a 45° angle, holding dumbbells level with your chest, palms facing your feet. Press the dumbbells straight overhead, touching the ends together when your arms are extended. Lower under control.
Start in a downward dog position with your hips high in the air and hands on the floor. Lower your forehead toward the ground by bending your elbows, then push back to the starting position.
This move is similar to the bench press above but with your hands positioned close together, typically shoulder-width or slightly narrower to shift the emphasis to your triceps.
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Alice Porter is a journalist who covers health, fitness and wellbeing, among other topics, for titles including Stylist, Fit & Well, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Grazia, VICE and Refinery29. When she’s not writing about these topics, you can probably find her at her local CrossFit box.