Complex Routines for the Upper Body With Pushups

Pushups hit your chest, shoulders and arms.
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Complex routines involve performing a series of exercises back to back with no rest in between. While they're similar to circuit training, they're not entirely the same. Circuits may involve cardio exercises such as sprinting or jumping rope, while complexes are purely free-weight and body-weight based. Add pushups into your upper-body complex routines for greater strength gains and faster fat loss.

Upper-Body Complex Workout

Complexes combine both cardio and strength training to burn calories and build lean muscle mass. A typical complex involves four to six exercises. Perform the first exercise for six to 12 reps, then move on to the second, and so on. Rest only once you've completed all the exercises in the sequence. Take a break for two to three minutes, then repeat a further three or four times. An upper-body complex should contain at least one exercise for each of the major muscle groups: your chest, shoulders and back.


While many women avoid pushups, they're one of the key chest-training moves, according to trainer Shannon Clark of Pushups mainly work your chest muscles, but also hit your shoulders, triceps and core. You can place pushups anywhere in your upper-body complex. If you struggle with them, you might want to place them at the beginning of the sequence, whereas if you find them easy, put them nearer the end.

Pushup Variations

Once you're accustomed to regular pushups and find them relatively straightforward, switch to more challenging variations. Decline pushups with your feet on a bench, one-handed pushups, or pushups on an exercise ball are all good choices, notes Clark. Likewise, if you're new to training and can't perform full pushups yet, try them with your knees on the floor, or your hands on a weight bench to reduce the range of motion.

The Routine

Perform complexes at the end of your strength-training workouts or on off days for best results, advises strength coach Nia Shanks. A sample pushup-based complex might include dumbbell shoulder presses, bent-over dumbbell rows, regular pushups, assisted chinups and biceps curls. For each session, aim to use heavier weights, perform more reps or perform more difficult variations of the exercises.

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