BlogPhysical ActivityPush Exercises for Beginners: The List of Exercises to Tone Your Upper Body

Push Exercises for Beginners: The List of Exercises to Tone Your Upper Body

Mariia Roza
Written by Mariia Roza on July 13, 2021

Table of contents

Push exercises for the upper and lower body focus on large muscle groups of the chest, shoulders, calves, and quadriceps. Working on them and doing resistance training makes your body stronger and toned and helps with fat loss. 

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According to science(1), resistance training that engages large muscle groups is at least as efficient for weight loss as aerobic exercises. It can help you improve your body composition and lose fat in the long term by increasing your metabolism.

Unfortunately, some of us find push exercises a bit difficult, especially those women who can’t do at least one non-assisted push-up and those who have never tried complex exercises like deadlifts and squats.

Don’t worry, Unimeal gets you covered here! Check out some tips on doing your first push-up and see the list of push exercises you can add to your workout routine.

List of push exercises your body will love

You can compose your whole routine around push exercises as they can engage almost all muscle groups. For example, there are some for both the upper and lower body.

Lower body push exercises

Goblet squats work best on the quadriceps and glutes. If you’re working out at home and don’t have goblets or dumbbells, you can always opt for a large bottle of water.

Goblet squats | Shutterstock
Goblet squats | Shutterstock

Back squats are one of the best exercises to strengthen all your body. However, if you’re new to the bar, ask a certified trainer to check your position. Back squats can cause injuries in your lower back or knees if you use the wrong stance.

Bulgarian split squat also works on quads and glutes. On this exercise, you’re holding a dumbbell and doing squats while one of your legs is up. 

Bulgarian split squat
Bulgarian split squat

Glute bridge works on your glutes and also engages your abs, lower back, and hamstrings. 

Leg press works on different muscle groups depending on your foot placement. Choose the narrow stance to work on your outer thigh muscles or a wide stance to tone your inner thighs.

Tip: Don’t forget to warm up your chest and shoulders before you start a workout. It can be as quick as five to ten minutes, but adding it to your routine will help you avoid injuries.

Upper body push exercises 

Incline machine press helps you work on the front part of the shoulder and upper chest.

Lateral raise, both seated and stood, works on your lateral deltoids. 

Lateral raise | Shutterstock
Lateral raise | Shutterstock

Chest dips work primarily on your chest; however, your delts and triceps are also engaged.

Incline dumbbell flyes work on pectorals.

Triceps cable push downs are pretty efficient to built triceps and deal with flabby arms.

Shoulder push exercises

The overhead press is an exercise where you press a bar up and put it down to your chest level.

The overhead press | Shutterstock
The overhead press | Shutterstock

Behind the neck overhead press is also performed with the bar, but you put it down to your neck in this case. This exercise engages your medial deltoid.

The dumbbell shoulder press is performed seated and works more on stabilization of your shoulders.

Horizontal push exercises

Bench press. Lay on a bench and push a bar that lays in front of your chest. Don’t forget to make a slight arch in your lower back.

Bench press | Shutterstock
Bench press | Shutterstock

Dumbbell incline bench press works best on your pcs as dumbbells are floating, and your chest should be all-time constrained to balance them.

Push-ups. They’re the same inverted bench press you can perform using the weight of your body. Push-up is one of the best compound movements of all time. Can’t do a proper push-up? Check out our 5-step guide to your first push-up right below.

How to make your first push-up: 5 exercises to get you ready

Physiologically(2), females are not as strong as males, and for that reason, it’s much harder for a woman to do a proper push-up. Nothing is impossible, though! To add strength to your arms, shoulders, and chest, do these five exercises, and soon you will be able to perform push-ups like a pro.

Push-up plank hold

To do a push-up, you have to strengthen your core. Hold the plank position for at least 30 seconds and make four reps. You can also do some retractions by pulling your shoulders back and forward. 

Push-up plank hold | Shutterstock
Push-up plank hold | Shutterstock

Forearm push-ups

This exercise will strengthen your arms. It works on the elbow extension, strengthens the tricep and the shoulder joints, and helps with shoulder stabilization. To perform it, hold the plank position on the forearms and push yourself up with one hand, alternating your hands. 

Push-ups negatives

Negative push-ups are when you focus on lowering yourself down very slowly and help yourself to push yourself back by standing on one knee. You’re concentrating on a lowering motion, not the pushing one. This exercise doesn’t take too much energy to perform, but it adds to your strength a lot. Your chest does most of the work in this exercise. 

Partial push-ups 

Put books or pillows under your chest, so you don’t have to go all the way down or all the way up when performing push-ups.

Assisted push-up

This is the type of exercise you’ve already must have tried. Assist yourself in doing push-ups by standing on your knees and not your toes.

Assisted push-up | Shutterstock
Assisted push-up | Shutterstock

Push-ups on their own are a great exercise that works on your core, shoulders, chest, and arms. You can focus more on your triceps by placing your palms closer to the body and performing narrow-grip push-ups(3) or take some of the strain from your chest and triceps by choosing wide-grip push-ups.

Push vs. pull exercises

Some women prefer push exercises and neglect pull workouts, and this is not the right approach if you’re aiming at a balanced physique. The thing is, they’re focused on different parts of the body.

Push exercises will help you work on the chest, triceps, shoulders, thighs, and front delts. 

Pull exercises make your back, biceps, hamstrings, and rear delts work. 

The best push exercises that engage multiple muscle groups include push-ups and bench press. 

If you want to make your back stronger, pay attention to pull-ups (chin-ups), barbell rows, and gable rows. 

Push-pull splits

Most certified trainers say that it’s better to split(4) your body into three parts and alternate push, pull, and leg days. This split routine is extremely easy to follow, and it helps you build muscles fast and efficiently. 

Another reason behind choosing push-pull workouts is that focusing on the one muscle group on day one and working on another part of your body on day two helps you avoid injuries that can happen if you overstrain certain muscle groups. 

This split technique means that you perform exercises on pushing muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps), pulling muscles (back and biceps), and legs on different days of your week. This approach is less time-consuming than full-body workouts and is extremely popular in gyms.

Your push/pull/legs week regimen might look like this:

  • Monday: Upper body push exercises
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Lower body workout
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Upper body pull exercises
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

If you want to have more sports in your life but would like to avoid overtraining your body, you can add short circuit workouts on Saturdays or long cardio sessions on Sundays.

Tip: To overcome a fitness plateau, change your workout routine every couple of weeks. Change exercises you perform, their intensity, and the time you spent in the gym. 

Summing up

A toned body and a ripped physique are impossible without some basic exercises. As push exercises work on large muscle groups, they help you shape your body and lose weight faster.

If these exercises are too advanced for you at the moment, you can start your way to the toned body by choosing shorter workouts at a moderate pace, composed by Unimeal experts. With the Unimeal app, you can get a meal plan that will help you hit your body weight goals and daily 10 to 20 minute workouts for any level of fitness.


  • Stasser B., Schobersberger W. (2010, August 10). Evidence for Resistance Training as a Treatment Therapy in Obesity. Journal of Obesity. DOI: 10.1155/2011/482564
  • Haizlip K. M., Harrison B. C., Leinwand L. A. (2015, January). Sex-Based Differences in Skeletal Muscle Kinetics and Fiber-Type Composition. Physiology. DOI: 10.1152/physiol.00024.2014
  • Kim Y-S., Kim D-Y., Ha M-S. (2016, February). Effect of the Push-up Exercise at Different Palmar Width on Muscle Activities. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. DOI: 10.1589/jpts.28.446
  • Castanheira R. P. M., Ferreira-Junior J. B., Celes L. S., et al. (2017, December). Effects of Synergist vs. NonSynergist Split Resistance Training Routines on Acute Neuromuscular Performance in Resistance-Trained Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001762