This Push Day Workout Includes All The Best Push Exercises For Your Upper *And* Lower Body

Grab some dumbbells and cue up "Push It."

You know those buzzy terms you overhear in the gym or on IG but you’re not exactly sure what they mean? Well, you're not alone. “Push day” was one for me. Like many technical phrases floating around, a push day is not as complicated or confusing as it first sounds, and it's actually so beneficial for a total-body workout plan.

“A push day consists of exercises where you push away from the center of mass,'' says Cara Carmichael, CPT. In other words, push exercises are any movement where you literally push something away (like the floor or a weight). The opposite of push exercises are “pull exercises,” where the weight gets pulled toward the center of mass, explains Carmichael.

Meet the expert: Cara Carmichael, CPT, is a NASM certified personal trainer, OrangeTheory coach, and a certified PN nutrition coach.

So, why incorporate push days into your workout plan? First, push day exercises break up your training or the specific body parts you train, says Carmichael. “[Push days] give your muscles the rest they deserve.” That's beneficial for beginners and experts, alike. Push days help avoid over-training the same muscles and neglecting other muscle groups, according to a recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Push exercises aren't just for the upper body, either. They also include lower body moves like squats (you’re literally pushing the earth away). Not to mention, push exercises help with daily activities like getting in or out of a car, walking up the stairs, or pushing a stroller.

Whether you’re new to push exercises or looking to optimize your routine, try out this six-move push day workout plan created by Carmichael and prepare to push it real good.

Time: 45 minutes | Equipment: dumbbells, mat, bench (or elevated surface) | Good for: total body

Instructions: Complete the first three moves three times. Rest for 2 minutes. Then, continue with three rounds of the last three moves.

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Goblet Squat

How to:

  1. Start standing with feet hip-width apart holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of chest with elbows pointing toward the floor.
  2. Push hips back and bend knees to lower into a squat.
  3. Press through heels to return to start. That’s one rep. Do 10.
Bulgarian Split Squat

How to:

  1. Start standing about two feet in front of a step, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Extend your left leg back and place your left foot on the step.
  3. Bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can (or until your knee hovers right above the ground), while keeping your shoulders and chest up.
  4. Pause, then press through your right heel to return to start. That’s one rep. Do 10 on each side.
Step Up

How to:

  1. Start standing facing a box or step.
  2. Place left foot on the bench and right foot on the floor.
  3. Pushing through the left foot, lift your body up until standing on top of the bench.
  4. Drive right knee up until it forms a 90-degree angle.
  5. Pause, then return to start. That’s one rep. Do 10 on each leg.

Optional: Hold dumbbells in each hand to make it more challenging.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

How to:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder-height and stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Press dumbbells up overhead until arms are fully extended.
  3. Hold for one second, then lower to start position. That’s one rep. Do 10.
Dumbbell Chest Press

How to:

  1. Lie down with your back flat on a bench or mat and feet flat on the floor, holding two dumbbells resting on your chest.
  2. Push the weight straight up and extend arms with palms facing feet.
  3. Pause at top for a second, then slowly lower down until your elbows nearly touch the ground. That's one rep. Do 10.

How to:

  1. Begin in high plank position with shoulders over wrists, chest broad, core engaged, and toes tucked. Body should form a straight line from shoulders to heels.
  2. Bend elbows and lower down until your chest almost touches the floor. Keep your upper arms at a 45-degree angle to your torso.
  3. Pause, then push back through hands to the starting position. That's one rep. Do 10.
Push Day FAQ

How many exercises should you do on a push day?

Aim for five to seven moves per push day, says Carmichael.

How should you structure a push day?

To get the most out of your workout, it’s best to work the largest muscle groups first, says Carmichael. For example, she suggests starting with lower body moves (like squats and step ups) since you can usually load heavier weights and they require more energy and strength to complete.

How often should you incorporate push exercises into a routine?

Try to add two to three push day workouts each week, says Carmichael. But don’t overthink it! “A push day is whatever you make it,” she explains. If your goal is to build lower body strength, then make it a lower body push day. If you want a head-to-toe burn, then a full body push day is a great functional workout.

Bottom line: Think of push exercises as a functional way to train muscles all over and max out on recovery between workouts.

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