Vertical push exercises. Also known as presses.

Should you know what they are? Absolutely.

Do you know what they are?

If not, then read on. In this post I will show you what vertical push exercises are and why they’re necessary.
So you can go from lost, confused and directionless to a confident badass in the gym.

Vertical Push Exercises


What are vertical push exercises?

Vertical push exercises are exercises where you are moving the weight in a vertical line above your head. Most of the time at least. There are exceptions.

Vertical push exercises are one of the categories of movement patterns. There are 6 you should know:

Hip dominant

Knee dominant

Vertical pull

Vertical push

Horizontal push

Horizontal pull

These categories help with exercises selection and will ensure that you create a well balanced training routine that won’t result in muscle imbalances and painful injuries.

Why are vertical push exercises important?

Vertical push exercises are mostly presses. They target your front and middle deltoids and the muscles of your rotator cuff.

Since you shoulder muscles connect to your humerus (bone in your upper arm) your shoulder muscles help to move your arms. So building strong shoulders helps with functionality and looking like a beautiful beast.

Who doesn’t want that?

The Vertical Push exercises

Overhead Press

Overhead Press

Over head presses are performed with barbells or resistance bands. They are usually performed standing which means they also work your lower back and core. That makes this exercises a compound movement.

And you know how we love compound movements right? If you don’t know, check out my free guide on Compound Movements.

Dumbbell Press

Dumbbell Press

Dumbbell presses follow the same pattern as an overhead press except they can be performed seated or standing. If performed seated, it allows you to focus on contracting your shoulder muscles.

Dumbbell presses are also a great way to work your stabilizer muscles because they are not connected like a barbell therefore you will also have to work on controlling the dumbbells.

Arnold Press

Wouldn’t it be cool if an exercise was named after you?

Yup, the Arnold press was created by the famous Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movement is the same as a dumbbell press. Except, instead of bringing the dumbbells straight down to the top of your shoulders, you bring them down to your chin and then rotate your arms with your palms facing inward.

So the end of the movement looks like you are in a chin up position.
This exercise is going to demolish your shoulders but in a good way.

Lateral Raises

Lateral raises

Now you may be wondering why lateral raises are included in this list. After all, you’re not pushing when you are performing a lateral raise.


If you are not pushing the weights up, you are doing the exercise incorrectly.

When performing a lateral raise you aren’t supposed to be pulling the weight up, you’re supposed to be pushing the weight up. That way you target your shoulder muscles more and your traps less.

Unlike the other exercises listed lateral raises mostly work your middle deltoid with minimal involvement of your front and rear deltoids.

Push Presses

The push press is almost the same as the overhead press except it’s got a bit of spunk. When you are performing the push press, you are allowed to use a bit of momentum.

This means you are able to lift heavier weights because you are “cheating” a tad.

It’s good cheating though, so don’t be alarmed. Make sure that you have a good balance of push presses and other presses in your routine, so you don’t lose the technical skill involved in performing with the correct technique.

Bodyweight Vertical Push Exercises

Body weight vertical push exercises or calisthenics exercises don’t offer much of variety in terms of the number of different exercises you can do. But there are a bunch of variations of the exercises that are available.
So if you are stuck at home with no equipment you can give these two bodyweight vertical push exercises a try.

Pike Push Up

This push up is performed with your body in a V-shape and your head facing down toward the ground. Instead of lowering your chest to ground like in a normal push up, you lower your head to the ground by bending your arms and then straightening them to complete the push up.
Because of how this exercise is set up, you are mainly training your shoulder muscles instead of your chest.

If a regular pike push up is too difficult, you can perform them with your knees on the ground.

Handstand Push Up

Another bodyweight push exercise is the handstand push up. This type of push up is extremely challenging and should saved for when you have built enough strength in your upper body. Don’t want you falling on your face, do we?

Using Resistance Bands

Most of these pushing exercises can be performed with a resistance band. All you need is a large resistance band with a challenging resistance, and you are good to go.

This makes for a convenient way to train your shoulders when you can’t go to gym or don’t have any weights.

For any of the press exercises simply take the resistance band, step inside it with each foot pinning down a section of the band and grab the other end. Rotate your palms so that they are facing the ceiling with the band resting across your palms and push up. Voila, you have an at home push exercise with only a resistance band.

The best way to perform a lateral raise with a resistance band is to use the bands with handles. Follow the same instructions as above except grab onto the handles instead of the band itself.

The next step?

Give each exercise a go. See which ones you like the best and add them to your upper body or full body workouts.

Remember, focus on form first and then add weights.

Happy lifting!

Anna Mathis, CPT,CNC
Anna Mathis, CPT,CNC

Anna is a certified personal trainer, certified nutrition coach, and science junkie who has a passion for teaching women about weight training, nutrition, and wellness.