What to Do During a Push Day Workout – Garage Strength

What to Do During a Push Day Workout

Who doesn’t like a swole push day? An opportunity to increase tricep size, get those pecs nice and juicy, and develop athletic skills that help you pummel would-be tacklers with a stiff arm, catapult a shot put far, far away, or widen those capped delts for a broader, more v-tapered athletic physique.

The cool thing about push days is that the movements involved help you develop rapid elbow extension. In simple terms, that is your elbow going from a bent position to a lockout position. And when it comes to improving sports performance, especially for the upper body’s pushing needs, rapid elbow extension is where it is at because rapid elbow extension is essential to be competitive at high levels in many sports.


What Are The Push Muscles?

In a very broad brush stroke, the push muscles can be boiled down to the chest, shoulders and triceps for the upper body. Through co-contractions, the three groups of muscles work in tandem to stabilize and rotate the shoulders’ ball and socket joints and contribute to that rapid elbow extension that is important in many athletic endeavors.

The Shoulders

There are many, many muscles responsible for the shoulder being the most flexible joint in the entire body that can move through a remarkable range of motion. However, the plan is to focus on the shoulder and the muscles that contribute primarily to pushing.

Where the trapezius, subscapularis, and rhomboid major muscles play a pivotal role in shoulder movement, health, and mobility, let’s hone in on the deltoids.

The deltoids are responsible for flexion and medial rotation of the arm. It is also responsible for arm abduction, extension, and lateral rotation.

The deltoid muscle is also aesthetically responsible for forming the rounded contour of the human shoulder. Anatomically, the deltoid is made up of three distinct sets of muscle fibers and is broken up as followed:

  1. Anterior Deltoids: The front delts that help move your arm forward, connect to your clavicle (your collar bone), and are responsible for helping you reach your arm in front of your body or grab a water bottle off a table.
  2. Lateral Deltoids: The delt on the side of your arm that moves your arms perpendicular from the body. It also moves the arm up and down, so overhead and hanging by your side. They connect to the bony knob on your shoulder blade anatomically known as the acromion.
  3. Posterior Deltoids: Often referred to as the rear delts, they help move your arm backward, connecting to the flat surface of your shoulder blade and are big time movers when it comes to crow hopping a baseball in from the outfield.

The Chest

The chest muscles are large. Similar to the delts, the chest muscles play a part in shoulder health, contributing to arm adduction (a movement where a part of the body is moved closer to the midline) and medial rotation, also known as internal rotation.

When you think of the chest, you think of the pecs, large muscles that stretch across the upper torso. There is a dynamic duo of chest muscles that are duplicated on each side of the body. Those muscles are:

  1. Pectoralis Major: El jefe, the boss of the chest, this large fan shaped muscle stretches from the armpit to the collarbone and down across the lower chest region. This happens across both sides of the chest, with each side connecting at the sternum.
  2. Pectoralis Minor: The baby brother of the pectoralis major, this muscle hides out underneath the pectoralis major. It is described as a thin triangle-shaped muscle that runs up and down along the upper rib.

The Triceps

The triceps, or if you prefer the language of Latin, the triceps brachii, literally translates to “three-headed muscle of the arm,” is a large muscle on the rear of the upper arm and it consists of three parts.

  1. The Medial Head: This head provides stability and strength during pushing activities that require elbow joining extension. It adds some much needed thickness and mass to the tricep muscle as it inserts itself into the shared common tendon.
  2. The Lateral Head: The lateral head plays a starring role in upper arm function and in creating an aesthetically pleasing physique. Being located on the outer portion of the arm, the lateral head contributes to the girth of the tricep, giving it the ability to cast a solid shadow to showcase tricep definition. It originates on the back of the humerus (the bone in the upper arm) and has quarterback responsibilities for elbow extension. This one does a lot when it comes to strength.
  3. The Long Head: Originates on the scapula (shoulder blade), instead of the arm. It is cleverly named the long head because it is the longest of the three heads. It gets involved with movements that require shoulder extension, making it a big time player when going overhead.

The tricep muscle is a big time contributor to extending the elbow joint and providing support and stability to the shoulder.

Push Day Exercises

There are SO MANY push day exercises to choose from. There are so many upper body push day exercises to choose from the internet is still listing them all. Not only are there so many push day exercises for the upper body that the internet keeps listing them all, there are still new push day exercises for the upper body being created by humans the globe over.

Because there are so many push day exercises, the discussion is going to be limited to only 8 exercises that will work within Garage Strength Performance Design’s Parabolic Periodization model’s LULU split that is utilized with tremendous effect within the premier strength training app for athletes, Peak Strength.

On the first upper body day in the LULU split, the Upper Body Power Day, you will focus on strength and power. On the second upper body day of the LULU, the Hypertrophy Day, you will focus on muscle mass and strength.

Within each day, you will start out with a technical coordination movement to keep with the Garage Strength Performance Design methodology. Technical coordination movements are rapid exercises in which you move heavy weight fast. Technical coordination movements are synonymous to Olympic weightlifting movements and their variations. Exercises like the clean, snatch, and jerk fit the bill.

Exercise 1: Behind The Neck Split Jerk

The behind the neck split jerk is a fast, powerful movement that incorporates the full body in generating power and falls under the umbrella of a technical coordination movement. The intention of the exercise is to launch the barbell from a back rack position to overhead. Because of the extreme weight that can be used in this movement, it is a great push movement to be used on an upper body power day.

Even though the entirety of the body is used to move the weight overhead, the stabilization and isometric actions, as well as the pressing movement of the upper limbs makes for great shoulder and tricep strength development.

How To Perform The Behind The Neck Split Jerk

  1. Using jerk blocks or a squat rack, place a loaded barbell on your back.
  2. Dip 6-8” into a quarter squat and explode up in a counter movement, similar to a vertical jump.
  3. Extend your arms into a locked out position to catch the weight overhead.
  4. Simultaneously sink the hips as the legs extend into a split squat position.
  5. While maintaining lockout overhead, recover front foot first into a standing position.
  6. Drop the weight onto the jerk blocks, ground, or, if capable, to the back rack position.

Exercise 2: Push Press

The push press is another technical coordination movement that can be performed to build massive delts and greatly improve rapid elbow extension. 

The push press is a variation of the Olympic weightlifting jerk movement and is another push day exercise that allows you to lose the lower extremities to get some extra umph on the bar to utilize more weight. 

Like the behind the neck jerk, the push press will canonize your delts and chisel those triceps into a horseshoe worthy of a clydesdale. 

How To Perform A Push Press

  1. Using jerk blocks or a squat rack, place a loaded barbell upon your chest in a front rack position.
  2. Dip 6-8” into a quarter squat and explode up in a counter movement, similar to a vertical jump.
  3. Extend your arms into a locked out position and press the weight overhead.
  4. After the initial dip and drive, keep the legs rigid and the glutes squeezed to provide a solid base to press the barbell overhead.

Exercise 3: Bench Press

What type of push day workout would this be if the bench press wasn’t included? Not a very good one, that’s for sure.

Since we are utilizing the GSPD (Garage Strength Performance Design) Parabolic Periodization methodology for exercise selection, similar to the premier strength training app for athletes, Peak Strength, it is important that we follow up a technical coordination exercise with an absolute strength exercise to build some raw power the likes of which Iggy and The Stooges could be proud of.

Absolute strength movements are big, compound movements where serious weight and heavy loads are moved. Think powerlifting exercises like the squat and deadlift for the lower body. But since this is an upper body push day, we’re using the barbell bench press.

The barbell bench press is such a great movement because it targets all the prime muscle groups involved in a push day. The chest, shoulders, and triceps are all fully engaged in some capacity during parts of the barbell bench press.

How To Perform The Bench Press

  1. Lay on a flat bench with your lats and scaps packed and engaged.
  2. Ideally with a spotter, lift off the barbell from the bench rack and lower the barbell to your chest.
  3. Having completed the eccentric portion of the lift, have the barbell make contact with your chest and rapidly push the barbell up and over your eyes, extending through the elbows.
  4. Rack the barbell.  

Exercise 4: Close Grip Incline Bench Press

The close grip incline bench press is a great absolute strength variation exercise to blow up your triceps. The addition of the incline is helpful to those delts as well.

How To Perform The Close Grip Incline Bench Press

  1. Lay on an incline bench at 30 degree to 45 degree angle with your lats and scaps packed and engaged.
  2. Take a close grip with the bar, inside of your typical bench press grip.
  3. Ideally, with a spotter, lift the barbell from the incline bench press rack and lower the barabell to your chest.
  4. Having completed the eccentric portion of the lift, have the barbell make contact with your chest and rapidly push the barbell up and over your eyes, extending through the elbows.
  5. Rack the barbell once the entirety of the reps are completed

Exercise 5: Miracle Gro

In GSPD (Garage Strength Performance Design), after the absolute strength movement, comes accessory exercises to help build joint stability, pre-hab potential areas for injury or overuse, and add needed musculature to lagging areas.

Enter the Miracle Gro, accessory movement extraordinaire for developing a massive bench press, thick and burly triceps, and the answer to all your lockout prayers for a push day workout.

An indigenous exercise to Garage Strength, the movement is similar to a skull crusher and blasts the entirety of the tricep and even gets in some mobility work through the lats and shoulders to boot. The movement forms a connection from the triceps, through the deltoids, and into the thoracic spine. It is performed with a solitary dumbbell.

How To Perform The Miracle Gro

  1. Lay perpendicular to a flat bench, with your upper back and the bottom of your neck resting on the bench.
  2. Hold a dumbbell directly over your face with open palms and the arms extended.
  3. Slowly move the dumbbell past your head, and as your arms pass your ears, flex your elbows to get a deeper stretch in the triceps.
  4. Lengthen the triceps as deep as possible, and then extend the dumbbell through the concentric phase and back into the starting position

Exercise 6: Telle Extension

It is best to perform this exercise with an ez-curl bar, though it can be performed with dumbbells or a barbell. It can also be made extra challenging by performing the movement on a decline bench and utilizing chains for accommodating resistance.

The Telle extension, like the miracle gro, targets all three heads of the tricep, recruiting motor units, and is a great accessory movement to include in your push day workout for the upper body.

And for you exercise science history buffs out there, the Telle extension was created by biomechanist Jerry Telle who was looking to stimulate growth in muscles by targeting their weak points based around various strength curves. Well push day workout enthusiasts the world over thank you for your contribution!

How To Perform The Telle Extension

  1. Lay flat on a bench with your arms extended at the top of a pressing position holding an ez-bar.
  2. Slowly lower the ez-bar toward your head as if you were doing a skill crusher but go past your head into a full extension, similar to a miracle gro.
  3. Upon reaching full extension, bend the elbows to fully lengthen the triceps. Here the eccentric portion of the lift is complete.
  4. Maintaining bent elbows, use your lats to pull the ez-bar to the base of your chest.
  5. Finish the movement by pressing the ez-bar upwards, back into the starting position.

Exercise 7: Banded Lean Away Tricep Extension

Face it, the triceps are prime movers during a push day workout. Training the triceps and getting a nice pump in and around the elbow joint is not only a great way to build muscle size through metabolic stress, but is a solid way to maintain joint health and maintain lean muscle mass for greater stability.

The banded lean away tricep extension is a great accessory movement and is a spot on exercise selection to end off your push day workout for the upper body. And don’t use just any bands, use the Garage Strength PowerLastic Bands to ensure the swolest pump.

How To Perform The Banded Lean Away Tricep Extension

  1. Anchor the PowerLastic resistance band to a pull-up rack or a sturdy, non-movable base overhead.
  2. Grab the band and with palms facing, lean away from the anchor point with the band overhead.
  3. Extend through the elbows, flexing the triceps.
  4. Extend the band outward until the elbows are near lockout and then slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Rinse and repeat for the desired number of reps

Exercise 8: Dumbbell Eccentric Fly Into Close Grip Press

This is a unique dumbbell exercise that will allow you to overload the eccentric portion of the dumbbell fly exercise to really target those chest muscles.

Dumbbell flies are a tough exercise and they are toughest during the concentric portion. By putting a twist on the movement and performing the concentric portion as a close grip press, you are able to use more weight during the eccentric portion for greater mechanical tension. Sounds like a win-win for muscle growth and strength.

How To Perform A Dumbbell Eccentric Fly Into Close Grip Press

  1. Sit on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand. HOld the dumbbells with a neutral grip, palms facing each other.
  2. With the dumbbells resting on your thighs, lie back, extending the arms to press the dumbbells overhead. The dumbbells will be above the chest.
  3. As you perform the eccentric motion of the lift, the elbows will have a slight bend to them and you will lower the dumbbells in a widening arc.
  4. Once the dumbbells are lowered to a parallel point with the chest, bear hug the dumbbells into a close grip. The dumbbells will now be in contact with one another.
  5. With the dumbbells touching, press the arms to extend the elbows and return to the overhead lockout position.
  6. Rinse and repeat for the desired reps.

Sample Push Day Workout (Power Focused)

Sample Push Day Workout (Hypertrophy Focused)

The Bottom Line

Going through a push day workout means strengthening your prime movers for rapid elbow extension. That means you are going to be working your triceps, your chest, and your delts. A combination of exercise selection that will make you more explosive, stronger, and build mass is needed to get the most out of your muscles for strength and athleticism.

Take either of the provided upper body push day workouts and run through them next time you are in the gym and have an upper body push day workout scheduled. But if you are looking for a long term fix, the premier strength development app for athletes, Peak Strength, will create a program from over 700 exercises (way more than the 8 provided here!) to give you that athletic muscle to sculpt that athletic physique you’re looking for. Try a week of workouts for free at peakstrength.app today!

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