Welcome! This article will be discussing the very best push exercises that can be done with a barbell. Push exercises are a must to anyone, as it is the antagonist to pulling movements. Muscles that are involved in push movements include the chest, the shoulders and the triceps.
Yes, some push movements are performed by the lower body! I will be discussing all of those movements in a future article, so don’t worry about all that.
First of all, we are going to discuss the functions and movements of these muscles, in order to understand how to target and develop them.
The Chicken Breast
Contrary to common belief, the chest consists of multiple muscles. The primary ones are the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, or ‘pecs’ for short. The chest is often the focus of people that go to the gym.
Having a big chests makes you look stronger, right?
The movement of the pectoral muscles is to bring the elbows to each other.
Try it out! Extend your arms and try to push your elbows together while putting the focus on contracting the pecs. This is the movement you will want to focus on while doing chest exercises.
So, the next time you’re pushing out bench press like no tomorrow, try to really focus on contracting the chest muscles.
To do so, you might as well pick a weight that’s lighter than you’re used to.
Why? Well, picking a heavier weight will include the shoulders and triceps more than you’d actually want to.
Well, what about the pectoralis minor? The answer: doing the exact same on an incline.
Just remember that it’s a minor portion of the chest, so naturally it’s not as strong as the major part of the chest.
The best tip I can give for chest press exercises that involve a barbell is the following.
Focus on keeping the elbows almost against the sides of your body while you’re pushing. This will make SUCH a huge difference compared to letting your elbows loose to the outside!
Next, let us talk about the shoulders. Remember when I said that a lot of people focus way too much on developing and growing the chest? That’s because I believe that the shoulders are equally, if not more important to a healthy fitness of the body.
Why? The shoulders do not only give you the capability to move your arms in any direction you want, but they also provide stability and a good posture.
The deltoideus, or delts for short, consist of three small muscle fibers: anterior, lateral and posterior. Each has its own function and it’s important that balance between the three is maintained.
The anterior part is activated when you extend your arms straight in front of you. Try it and touch your front delt. As you can feel, it’s a small muscle.
This means that you should NOT be forcing it to lift enormous amounts of weights, because it can quickly lead to injury. The same goes for the lateral and posterior delts.
The lateral deltiod is activated when you extend your arms to the side. It is this part of the shoulder that can make it look wide and round on the side.
The posterior deltoid is activated when you raise your arms to the side with your palms facing forward, and then pushing them backwards. A rowing exercise is great for targeting them.
Want Big Arms? Don’t Forget the Triceps!
The triceps make up the majority of the upper arm. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, it is the triceps that make arms look BIG, as they take up to 60% of the upper arm mass.
The triceps consists of three heads and is activated by stretching the arm.
If you want to have big arms, this muscle should definitely not be neglected. Even if that’s not your focus, you should be working your triceps because they allow for bigger lifts when it comes to push exercises.
In conclusion, triceps should never be forgotten as they are key to your results!
Now, there are a lot of push exercises, and I’m sure that I will not be mentioning every single one of them. However, I believe that this selection pretty much covers every muscle that’s involved in pushing movements.
First of all, let’s talk about the bench press. This exercise does not need any introduction as almost anyone knows what it is.
“How much do you lift bruh?”
Trust me, it’s not about that. It’s about the time you can keep your muscles under tension and how you do it.
Keep your elbows to the side of your body and try to focus on squeezing the chest only. Don’t extend your arms all the way to lock. By doing so, you’re putting more focus on the triceps and in turn the delts in order to stabilize yourself.
You want to target the chest, right? So target the chest. Focus on putting tension on those muscles as much as possible.
The bench press is fantastic to experiment with. An incline will focus more on the pectoralis minor and the anterior deltiod, whereas a decline will focus more on the lower part of the pectoralis major.
A flat bench press will target the bulk of the pecs.
Grab the barbell at about shoulder width, tuck your shoulder blades in and push your chest forwards by making your back hollow.
Now lower the barbell all the way to your chest while maintaining said position. Now push the weight up while keeping your elbows in place.
The wider your grip, the smaller the range of motion and the less you will be able to contract the pecs.
Narrowing your grip will cause the triceps to do more work. Knowing this, the bench press can also be used as a triceps developing exercise.
Since we’re talking about the triceps, why not throw in another exercise targeting said muscles? The skull crusher sounds ominous, and that’s because it can go very wrong if you lift with your ego.
This exercise can be carried out seated or while standing up. For safety reasons though, I prefer doing them lying on a flat bench. Should my muscles tire, I can easily drop the weight on the floor without possibly hurting myself.
For the sake of your safety, I will be discussing the exercise in the way I perform it.
Lie down on a flat bench and grab the barbell at shoulder width. Keep your elbows pointing forwards at all times during the exercise. Now push the weight up while solely focusing on contracting the triceps.
That’s it! Now just make sure not to drop the weight at the wrong place, or else, well. You know…
All jokes aside, skull crushers are a great exercise to strengthen the triceps and build some mass. Doing this exercise will definitely help you out with other push exercises!
Now the pull over is a fantastic compound movement that targets the triceps and pectoralis minor. As a bonus, you’ll also be working the lats in the process!
I know what you’re thinking.
How is the PULL over a PUSH exercise? Well, the movement you’re performing with this exercise will simulate a pushing down movement.
I prefer doing this exercise on a flat bench, as it allows me to drop the weight quite deep. This stretches the targeted muscles, which in turn allow for a larger range of motion.
Lie down on a flat bench and grab a barbell at shoulder width. Lower the weight behind your head with your elbows slightly bent. When you feel a nice stretch in the pecs, contract them.
While bringing the weight up, make sure your elbows stay in position! Don’t stretch your arms in order to contract the triceps.
You should also never bring the weight up further than your head, i.e. to the chest. Why? Because then there’s no tension in the chest!
This exercise is actually the opposite of the V-bar row I discussed earlier. Instead, you’re sitting in your knees and the goal of this exercise is to target the pectoralis minor, as well as the anterior deltoid.
Make sure you keep your elbows next to your body as you perform the push movement. The very narrow grip allows for a high tension on the chest.
When returning the weight to your chest, make sure you allow the elbows to go as far back as possible without it hurting.
Just make sure you feel a good stretch on the chest. From this point, push forward while keeping the elbows in place.
Another benefit of this exercise is that you need to engage your core muscles, i.e. the abs and lower back, in order to maintain a good form.
This exercise used to be my nemesis. Like I said, the shoulders are relatively small muscles and you should treat them with care.
During this exercise, it’s important to push from the shoulders. Stretching your arms fully is a bonus for your triceps, but not necessarily to your delts.
This exercise is best carried out while standing upright if you want to involve the rest of your body for stability. Doing a seated overhead press will make your shoulders work harder, as well as your core.
The overhead press works all three heads of the delts, and thus it’s a fantastic exercise to build shoulder strength, as well as mass.
Please note that it’s okay to start out very light with this exercise. When I started implementing the overhead press in my workouts, I used to only use an empty barbell.
Do not let this discourage you. It’s better to begin light and work your way up, then to start with way too much weight!
Grab a barbell at shoulder width and make sure your elbows are facing down.
When you push the barbell from this position, you will hit your own chin, so make sure you move your head back while doing so.
When the barbell is above your head, make sure you push your head forward. This will cause your traps to contract, as well as the delts.
The overhead press is THE big shoulder exercise you will want to implement in your workout routine, and I highly recommend you all to start doing them.
The possibilities for push exercises are countless. All the aforementioned exercises, except for skull crushers, are compound movements and thus actually useful in your everyday life. Give these exercises a try, or better yet, implement them all in your workout routine!
Focus on maintaining good form! Doing these exercise without doing so will not give you the results you want, and you might get injured. A good form comes first, adding weight comes last.
Let me know in the comments below whether this article was useful to you. Did I miss anything or do you have any questions? Don’t hesitate to let me know!