The best Push workout for an athletic body
Do my six-move Push workout for the fastest and most effective way to add size, strength and definition to your chest, shoulders and triceps so you can build the impressive and athletic body you’ve always wanted, says New Body Plan fitness editor Joe Warner
I love a good “Push” workout. That’s why I’m sharing with you one of my favourite push sessions. So if you’re not yet a fan, you will be very soon!
A Push session trains your chest, shoulders and triceps. And it’s so-called because it’s these three upper-body muscle groups that are responsible for moving – or pushing – a weight away from your body.
Imagine you’re doing a bench press, overhead barbell shoulder press or lying triceps extension. All three exercises are “push” moves because you’re pushing the resistance away from your body, rather than pulling it towards you, as is the case for all back and biceps exercises.
Push workouts are fantastic for training multiple and complementary muscle groups in an effective and time-efficient way. That makes them a great approach for both muscle-building and fat-burning sessions, depending on whether your number one fitness focus is to maximise lean muscle mass or to strip away excess body fat.
Push sessions are typically used in in a three- or four-day training split, alongside Pull sessions (that train your back and biceps, because they “pull” a weight towards your body, such as during a seated row or biceps curl) and Legs workouts (one Legs session in a three-day split, or two Legs sessions in a four-day split).
Here’s a fantastic Pull session to build a broader and more defined back, as well as bigger and stronger arms. But first try my tried-and-tested (see the video below!) six-move Push workout to pack on chest, shoulder and triceps size and strength! Give it a go and let me know what you think at email@example.com!
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The best Push workout for a bigger and stronger upper body
Do the following moves in order, sticking to the sets, reps and rest periods detailed. The first four moves are straight sets, and the final two exercises are paired together in a superset. Specific instructions for each exercise can be found underneath that move.
1. Smith machine bench press
Warm-up sets 3-5 Reps 10-15 Rest 60-90 seconds
Main sets 4 Reps 10 Rest 120 seconds
Target Chest, front shoulders, triceps
This is a great way to start your muscle-building Push session because the Smith machine bench press works all three of the main Push muscles – chest, shoulders and triceps – and allows you to add extra weight plates quickly for safe, fast and effective warm-up sets. During the main sets the fixed-movement path of the bar means you can lift heavier to really tax the target muscles and fire up your central nervous system for better lifting for the rest of the session.
How to do the Smith machine bench press
• Position a flat bench in a Smith machine so when you lie back flat on it the bar is over the middle of your chest.
• Grip the bar with an overhand grip with your hands at least shoulder-width apart.
• The closer your hands to shoulder-width the distance the more your triceps are activated; the wider your hands the more isolated your chest muscles are in doing the move.
• Rotate the bar to unlock it from the rack, then slowly lower the bar down to your chest under complete control.
• The bar should gently touch your chest around nipple height: if it’s much higher or lower re-rack the bar, adjust the bench placement, then resume the set.
• Press the bar back up powerfully so your arms are fully straight. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps, rest two minutes, then repeat. Do four sets in total. After the fourth and final set wipe down the machine and bar then ready yourself for the next exercise.
2. Neutral-grip incline dumbbell bench press
Sets 4 Reps 10 Rest 120 seconds
Target Chest, front shoulders, triceps
Using dumbbells works your chest through a far greater range of motion than when using barbells or machines, and laying on an incline shifts more of the workload to the upper part of the pectorals (or chest) muscles. And having a neutral-grip (with your palms facing each other, rather than facing forward in a standard incline dumbbell bench press) on the dumbbells will shift some of the emphasis away from your chest and on to your triceps to work more muscle fibres in one move.
How to do the neutral-grip incline dumbbell bench press
• Lie on an incline bench with your feet placed firmly on the floor holding a dumbbell in each hand in a neutral or palms-facing grip.
• Keeping your chest up, core tight and palms facing, press the weights up directly overhead until both arms are straight.
• Slowly lower the weights back down under complete control. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps, rest two minutes, then repeat for a total of four sets. After the final set, move on to next exercise.
3. Seated dumbbell Arnold press
Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 90 seconds
Target Shoulders, triceps
The Arnold press is similar to the standard seated dumbbell shoulder press but with one key difference. You start each rep with your palms facing you, rather than away, and rotate your wrists inwards then back outwards with the lifting and lowering of each rep. This rotational addition to each rep works your shoulder muscles fibres through a different movement range to standard reps, and minimises any bouncing (also known as cheating) out of the bottom of each rep to initiate the next one. Arnold presses also cause greater activation in the important rotator cuff muscles responsible for shoulder joint rotation.
How to do the seated dumbbell Arnold press
• Sit on an upright bench with your back pressed against it and your feet firmly placed on the flow holding a dumbbell in each hand with a palms-facing-you grip at shoulder height.
• Press the weights up directly overhead, rotating your wrists inwards as your lift them up, so you end up with your arms fully straight over your head with your palms facing forwards.
• Slowly lower the weights back down, reversing the wrist rotation movement as you lower them, to end back in the start position with the dumbbells at shoulder height and your palms facing you. That’s one rep. Do 12 reps, rest 90 seconds, and repeat. Do three sets in total then move on to the next exercise.
4. High-cable flye
Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 90 seconds
Target Chest, front shoulders, core
The standing cable flye is a fantastic exercise for hitting parts of the pecs other chest exercises – including the main barbell bench press variations – can’t fully target, specifically the inner and outer parts. While many gym-goers prefer the dumbbell flye, most get the move horribly wrong and risk injury, so the cable options is an all-round much safer and better muscle-building option.
How to do the high-cable flye
• Stand tall in the middle of a dual-cable machine holding in each hand a D-handle secured to a high pulley on each side. Your arms should be almost straight but ensure there’s a slight bend in your elbows. You should feel a good stretch across your upper chest.
• Keeping your chest and chin up and a slight bend in your elbows, use your chest to move your hands down and round in a smooth arc so they meet in front of the middle of your body.
• Pause in this position and squeeze your chest muscles hard.
• Slowly reverse the movement back to the start, under complete control, to work your chest harder and protect your shoulder joints. That’s one rep. Do 12 reps, rest 90 seconds, then repeat the set. Do three sets in total then go on to move 5a, the first exercise of a two-part superset.
5a. Cable overhead triceps extension
Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 30 seconds
The last two exercises of your Push session are paired into a superset. That means you do 8 reps of move 5a, rest 30 seconds, then do 12 reps of move 5b. You then rest 90 seconds then repeat the superset two more times. The cable overhead triceps extension is a fantastic move for working the back of your upper arms through its full range of motion. So don’t worry too much about lifting heavy. It’s much smarter to prioritise proper form and flexing the triceps at the top of each rep to activate more muscle fibres.
How to do the cable overhead triceps extension
• Stand with your back to a cable machine weight stack holding in both hands behind your head a double rope attachment secured to the low pulley.
• In this start position your forearms should be either side of your head with your elbows pointing straight upwards.
• With your chest and chin up, your abs braced and your elbows “locked” in position, raise your hands up and forward in a smooth arc until your arms are fully straight.
• Hold this position and flex your triceps hard.
• Slowly reverse the movement back to the start, keeping your elbows pointing up throughout. That’s one rep. Do 8 reps, rest 30 seconds, then begin move 5b.
5b. Cable rope triceps pressdown
Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 120 seconds
The cable rope triceps pressdown is one of the best cable moves for bigger arms. At this stage of the workout your triceps will already be suffering from fatigue, so don’t worry too much about how much weight you lift. Instead focus on doing quality reps to work your triceps through a full range of motion to target the maximum amount of muscle fibres. Why? Because the more fibres you work, the bigger and stronger your muscles grow!
How to do the cable rope triceps pressdown
• Stand tall facing a cable stack with a double-rope handle attached to the high pulley. Grip the handle with both hands in a palms-facing hold.
• Keep your chest and chin up, then lean forward slightly from your hips. This is the start position.
• With your upper arms and elbows pressed against your torso, press your hands down in a smooth and controlled arc until your hands are at your thighs and your arms are fully straight.
• Pause in this position and squeeze your triceps hard.
• Slowly reverse the movement back to the start, keeping your elbows against your sides, until your hands return to the start position. That’s one rep. Do 12 reps, rest 90 seconds, then repeat the superset a total of three times. After the third time, your muscle-building Push workout is complete.
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