SMART GUYS DON’T just hit the gym without a plan. No, ripping through round after round of biceps curls, bench presses, or squats on their own, half-heartedly puttering around a few other accessory movement, and then calling it a day doesn’t count. Successful training regimens have structure. While there are many different strategies you can use to organize your workout routine, one of the most balanced training splits for general fitness and muscle-building goals is known as the push-pull-legs plan.
The idea behind the plan is fairly simple. You dedicate one day of training to pushing movements (think presses), one day to pulling movements (rows of all varieties), and one day to lower body-focused movements. That way, you’ll be able to train your whole body in a more balanced and efficient manner than simply dedicating an entire workout to one single muscle group at a time, as is common in bodybuilding-style splits. Instead, you’re planning around movement patterns, which can make it easier to guarantee that your training plan hits every mark you need for a healthy, functioning body.
Depending on your goals and experience level, it’s the type of routine that you can use once in a week for a three-day split or even double-up for a six-day split, hitting each workout twice.
What Push Day Workouts Are
You’ll need to understand a bit more about the makeup of each day before implementing this type of split.
“Push day workouts utilize chest, triceps, and shoulders and focus on movements that involve pushing loads away from your torso, such as bench presses, overhead presses, and triceps skull crushers,” says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. “Almost every pushing movement will end with your arms straightening at the elbow. Your abs and glutes will also get underrated work in push day workouts, providing stability to your spine on overhead pressing movements.”
In other words, this will be a big upper-body training day.
The Benefits of a Push Day Workout
Just remember, there is no “push” day without the counterbalance of the pull. “Push day workouts are generally performed as part of a push/pull/legs training split (or, as we’ve explained before, a pull/push/legs training split),” Samuel continues. “That helps you train your upper body with balance, instead of over-focusing on mirror muscles. Aesthetically, this will promote a more symmetrical, complete physique, and it’ll also help bulletproof your shoulders and lower back.”
This type of structure allows you to train efficiently while still hitting just about every mark you could want for general fitness goals.
Samuel designed two distinct push-day program templates: One for beginners, and one for more advanced lifters. The difference between the two is mostly volume, or the total amount of work you’ll fit into each session.
The Push Day Workout for Beginners
The beginner push day is designed to hit all the major muscle groups involved in pushing (the chest, triceps, and shoulders) with three exercises. Samuel notes that advanced pushing workouts are often more closely focused on the chest, the largest and most powerful of your pushing muscles. He designed this beginner workout to be more concerned with function, however, hitting three critical ideas.
The Push Day Warmup
Half-Kneeling Archer Banded Row
“Do one round for each arm to protect your shoulders and set yourself in a good position to dominate your push exercises,” Samuel advises. You’ll need a light resistance band for this one.
How to Do It:
Start a half-kneeling position with your left knee on the ground, holding the ends of the resistance band in each hand. Squeeze your abs to keep your ribcage down.
Raise your right arm up slightly above shoulder level in the same plane as your torso. Keep your thumb pointing toward the ceiling. Maintain your grip on the band with your left hand, too, holding it roughly even with your right elbow.
Fire your rhomboids (back) and rotator cuff muscles to pull the resistance band straight back across your chest, like shooting a bow and arrow. Keep the elbow of your pulling arm close to the body the whole way; make sure your stable arm stays completely straight.
Repeat for 12 to 15 reps.
First Exercise: Bench Press Variation
Samuel suggests that you start with the exercise that will allow you to move the most weight. For just about everyone, that means some form of bench pressing. “This will be your most natural pushing motion,” he says. “If you’ve ever pushed anything away from your body, you’ve worked through this pattern.
Sets and Reps: 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps
Dumbbell Bench Press
How to Do It:
Sit on the bench holding a pair of dumbbells, with your feet flat on the floor.
Lie back on the bench, shifting the dumbbells to your chest with your elbows at a 45-degree angle relative to your torso. Drive your shoulders into the bench then squeeze your shoulder blades, abs, and glutes to create full-body tension.
Press the weight straight up, squeezing your pecs at the top.
Lower the weight back down to about an inch above your chest.
How to Do It:
Lie back on the bench under the bar, with your feet flat on the floor. Drive your shoulders into the bench then squeeze your shoulder blades, abs, and glutes to create full-body tension.
Raise your arms up to grip the barbell. Everyone’s ideal grip will be different but aim to start with your hands at or just slightly further than shoulder width. Squeeze the bar and aim to create internal shoulder rotation, engaging your lats and “breaking” the bar.
Lift the bar off the rack. Lower it to your chest, aiming to keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle relative to your torso.
Press the weight straight up, squeezing your chest at the top.
How to Do It:
Sit on the incline bench, holding a set of dumbbells. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your back flat on the pad. Squeeze your shoulder blades to drive them back into the bench, and squeeze your abs and glutes.
Kick the weights up to your chest. Your elbows should be at a 45-degree angle relative to your torso.
Press the weights straight up overhead to the ceiling. There’s no need to knock them together at the top. Squeeze your chest at the top position.
Lower the weights back down to your chest, but there’s no need to go low enough to tap your chest on each rep. Descend down as low as your shoulder mobility allows before the next rep.
Hollow Body Floor Press
How to Do It:
Start lying on the ground, holding a pair of dumbbells at chest level, with your elbows at 45 degrees relative to your torso. Squeeze your shoulders into the floor, then squeeze your abs and glutes.
Raise your shoulder blades and feet up off the ground. Drive your lower back into the floor.
Press the dumbbells straight up, squeezing your chest at the top.
Lower with control to rest your elbows on the floor before engaging in the next rep.
Second Exercise: Overhead Press
Shift your focus from your chest to your shoulders and hone your ability to move overhead with this next exercise. Samuel prefers the half-kneeling single-arm shoulder press, but other overhead variations (like the dumbbell military press) will do.
“If you have shoulder issues, do a seated dumbbell overhead press instead, and set the incline of your bench as high as it can go while stopping short of perpendicular with the ground,” he advises.
Examples: Overhead Dumbbell Press, Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Press, Landmine Press
Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps (per side, when applicable)
Overhead Dumbbell Military Press
How to Do It:
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the dumbbells. Squeeze your shoulder blades, abs, and glutes to create full-body tension (and to prevent your ribcage from flaring once you initiate the press).
Raise the weights up to shoulder height. Keep your arms in the scapular plane (a few degrees in front of your torso) and your forearms perpendicular to the ground.
Press straight up, as high as you can with your ribcage tucked.
Source – MensHealth