Home Blog What Muscle tissues Do Push-Ups Work? Get Extra Out of This Timeless Train

What Muscle tissues Do Push-Ups Work? Get Extra Out of This Timeless Train

What Muscle tissues Do Push-Ups Work? Get Extra Out of This Timeless Train


As one of many foundational actions of any exercise program, the push-up is greater than only a means to extend your higher physique energy and endurance. Relying in your hand place, tempo, and physique angle, this seemingly simple train can present a enough stimulus to not solely construct an even bigger chest but in addition enhance your core stability and total health.

In reality, research present {that a} greater baseline push-up capability is related to decrease incidence of heart problems occasions. (1) Plus, perfecting your approach and increasing your push-up repertoire can put you in a extra advantageous place to crush compound lifts just like the bench press and overhead press.

Woman performing a push-up in the gym.
Credit score: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

Whereas it could look like second nature to drop to the bottom and begin pumping out reps such as you did in center faculty gymnasium class, step one to maximizing your strength- and muscle-building efforts is to be sure you perceive the biomechanics of the nice ole’ push-up. When you’ve actually mastered the fundamentals, you may level-up your coaching by swapping out the usual type of this time-tested train with distinctive push-up variations that concentrate on particular muscle tissue extra instantly.

What Muscle tissues Do Push-Ups Work?

Learn how to Excellent Your Push-Up Approach

Fortunately, the push-up is much simpler than one thing just like the clear & jerk. Nonetheless, it’s vital to carry out any train with the proper approach for security and effectivity — and it’s not totally different on this case.

As a result of push-ups can place fairly a little bit of stress in your wrists, being conscious in regards to the alignment of your arms can go a good distance in staying pain- and injury-free. As well as, figuring out the right way to place your elbows could make a serious distinction in finishing a clear rep or setting the stage for potential shoulder issues.

If you wish to make sure you’re getting probably the most bang on your buck, right here’s what that you must do to carry out the right push-up.

  1. Begin in a “excessive plank” place along with your arms barely wider than your shoulders and your elbows simply barely bent. Preserve straight legs with out dipping your hips towards the bottom or climbing them upward.
  2. Have interaction your core by pulling your stomach button towards your backbone.
  3. Slowly decrease your self to the ground, ensuring to maintain your elbows tucked near your sides as your arms bend towards a 90-degree angle.
  4. When you attain the underside of the motion, contract your chest and triceps muscle tissue and push again by your arms till you attain the beginning place.

Muscle tissues Labored Throughout a Push-Up 

Though many individuals take a look at the push-up as solely an higher physique train, it’s truly a closed kinetic chain motion that includes a number of muscle teams from head-to-toe. After all, since push-ups primarily contain the pectorals (main and minor) and triceps, it’s straightforward to see why they’re a well-liked alternative for chest and arm day programming.

But when you think about the complete scope of what the motion entails, you possibly can make the argument {that a} push-up is actually a full-body train. In spite of everything, not solely do that you must make the most of your pecs, triceps, and shoulders, however you additionally need to recruit your belly, decrease again, and leg muscle tissue to carry out a correct rep.

Right here’s a breakdown of how and when the first and secondary muscle tissue are recruited throughout a push-up.

Pectoralis Main 

The biggest of the chest muscle tissue, your pectoralis main is a thick, fan-shaped muscle that acts because the agonist (main mover) throughout a push-up. It consists of two heads: the clavicular (which originates from the entrance floor of your clavicles) and the sternocostal (which originates out of your sternum and higher ribs).

The pec main lengthens and stretches as you decrease your self down in the course of the eccentric part of a push-up and it contracts as you push again as much as the beginning place.

Pectoralis Minor 

Positioned underneath the pec main, the pectoralis minor is a small, triangular muscle that originates from the third to fifth ribs and inserts into your scapulae (shoulder blades). Though it pales compared to the scale of its bigger cousin, it nonetheless performs a vital position.

As you carry out a push-up, the pec minor retains your scapulae in place. Nonetheless, tightness on this muscle, or having comparatively weak rotator cuff or scapular stabilizers, can result in discomfort and imbalances. This makes higher physique mobility work significantly vital.

Man performing a close-grip push-up.
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock


Apart from the pec main, no muscle advantages extra from the push-up than your triceps brachii. Positioned on the again of your higher arm, this three-headed monster consists of the medial, lateral, and lengthy heads — every of which has a novel origination level.

Through the preliminary part of a push-up, the triceps helps stabilize your torso. Then, as soon as the muscle is underneath stress, it takes over because the agonist once you prolong your arms to lockout the highest of the motion.

Anterior Deltoids 

Much like the triceps, the deltoids are comprised of three heads (anterior, lateral, and posterior). These massive, triangular muscle tissue are situated on high of your shoulder joints, with the anterior head enjoying probably the most energetic position throughout a push-up. Apart from aiding with shoulder stability in the course of the eccentric part, your entrance delts additionally assist carry your arms inward in direction of your chest in the course of the concentric portion of a push-up.


Your core will obtain a wake-up name once you carry out a push-up, too. Comprised of 5 important muscle tissue — the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, inside and exterior obliques, and the comparatively small pyramidalis — your abdominals work synergistically along with your erector spinae to maintain your torso straight all through the motion.

Failing to maintain your core engaged from begin to end can have an effect on your total-body place and alignment. Finally, poor core management could put you in a compromising place that would trigger issues, and even ache, down the road.

Learn how to Goal Explicit Muscle tissues Throughout a Push-Up 

The essential push-up does a stable job of recruiting a number of muscle teams, particularly your chest and triceps, and even higher again for stability. Nonetheless, you don’t all the time need to subscribe to the usual type, particularly when you’ve got particular muscle-building objectives in thoughts.

A group of people perform incline push-ups on plyo boxes.
Credit score: Yuri A / Shutterstock

Prioritize Your Triceps

To give attention to constructing your arms, all that you must do is change your hand placement, as research present {that a} narrow-width push-up supplies extra triceps activation. (2) The nearer you place them collectively, the extra you’ll shift the main target away out of your pecs and towards your triceps.

Whereas a close-grip push-up will definitely get the job achieved, you can also make this triceps-centric train much more difficult by forming a diamond form along with your arms. Place your index fingers and thumbs in order that they contact, interact your core, and punctiliously decrease your self to the ground. Your triceps could detest you on the high of a diamond push-up, however they’ll thanks later for giving them direct consideration with nonetheless many reps you get by.

Goal Your Higher Chest

To emphasise your higher chest, steal a web page from the normal weight coaching playbook and press at an incline as an alternative of a flat angle. To make this adjustment throughout a push-up, you have to elevate your toes.

Though it could appear counterintuitive on the floor, doing a decline push-up — so named as a result of your physique is technically “declined” along with your head decrease than your toes — supplies a stronger stimulus for the higher a part of your pectoralis main than the usual model.

You should utilize a weight bench, plyo field, yoga blocks, and even stairs to show an peculiar push-up into one thing that’ll make it easier to develop extra thickness on the high of your chest and allow you to fill out your t-shirts just a bit bit higher.

Activate Your Decrease Chest

For those who’re seeking to construct extra muscle in your decrease chest, take the precise reverse method from concentrating on the higher portion. Somewhat than elevating your decrease physique to stimulate your higher chest, place your arms on a step, platform, bench, or different equipment to carry out an incline push-up.

Altering your leverage and urgent angle on this method will let your decrease chest tackle a extra energetic position regardless of the extra restricted vary of movement.

Push-Up Variations for Constructing Power, Muscle, and Energy

Whereas the focused variations outlined above are a stable begin, they’re simply the tip of the iceberg. Whether or not you’re an athlete seeking to enhance your energy or a house gymnasium fanatic who needs to include dumbbells right into a push-up, there’s a variety of push-up variations that’ll serve your wants.

Listed below are three favorites that you need to think about including into your coaching routine.

Plyometric Push-Up

A complicated variation tailored for athletes, the plyometric push-up (extra generally known as the plyo push-up) provides an explosive factor by recruiting fast-twitch muscle fibers. Not solely does it strengthen your chest, core, triceps, and shoulders, however it additionally can assist enhance your conditioning when carried out as a part of a high-intensity interval coaching (HIIT) exercise.

Learn how to do it:

  1. Begin in a excessive plank place along with your arms instantly underneath your shoulders.
  2. Brace your core and decrease your self down till your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Have interaction your chest and triceps to push upward with enough drive in order that your arms truly go away the ground. (Non-compulsory: Clap your arms collectively on the high.)
  4. Land evenly on the bottom in the identical beginning place, then carry out the following rep instantly.

Renegade Row Push-Up

You possibly can kill two birds (aka your chest and again) with a combo transfer that includes dumbbells into the final word push-pull train. The renegade row push-up is on no account straightforward, however it’s an efficient instance of the right way to superset workout routines for higher effectivity and outcomes. Basically, you’ll be working your pecs, triceps, lats, rhomboids, and core, all whereas working to keep up stability and stability throughout this dynamic motion.

One be aware on this variation: The nearer your toes are to every every, the more durable it is going to be in your core. A wider stance will supply higher stability and scale back the core-training problem.

Learn how to do it:

  1. Place a pair of dumbbells on the bottom about shoulder-width aside.
  2. Place one hand on every dumbbell along with your palms dealing with in, so the weights are parallel to one another.
  3. Arrange in a excessive plank place along with your toes shoulder-width aside to begin.
  4. Decrease your self down till your elbows attain a 90-degree angle.
  5. As you push again up, maintain your physique in a straight line and, on the high of the push-up, carry out a dumbbell row by pulling the dumbbell up towards your ribs on one aspect.
  6. Decrease the dumbbell again down and carry out one other push-up, adopted by a row with the other arm. Repeat in alternating trend.

Spiderman Push-Up

Demanding, dynamic, and positively not meant for rookies, the Spiderman push-up is an effective way to get your core and decrease physique concerned. This variation will get up your obliques, rectus abdominis, hip flexors, and quadriceps whereas nonetheless offering greater than sufficient of a problem on your chest, triceps, and shoulders. Finally, your mobility and adaptability might be examined simply as a lot as your energy and endurance.

Learn how to do it:

  1. Begin in a excessive plank place along with your arms barely wider than shoulder-distance aside.
  2. Brace your core and punctiliously decrease your self towards the ground, retaining your elbows at a 45-degree angle out of your physique.
  3. Through the reducing part, decide up your proper foot and draw your proper knee “up and out” so it approaches your elbow on the identical time your chest is a number of inches from the ground.
  4. As you prolong your elbows to press up, prolong your leg backward and return your proper foot to the beginning place.
  5. Repeat on the other aspect.

Get Inventive to Get Extra Out of Push-Ups

Cease limiting your self by solely sticking to the usual model. From narrowing your hand width to elevating your decrease half to including resistance, you may rapidly remodel the fundamental push-up into an train that’s much more dynamic, tough, and deliberate in its objective. Problem your self to attempt a brand new variation on a weekly foundation, be aware of any roadblocks, and maintain increasing your arsenal so you may enhance your energy, confidence, and coordination each time your chest hits the ground.


  1. Yang, J., Christophi, C. A., Farioli, A., Baur, D. M., Moffatt, S., Zollinger, T. W., & Kales, S. N. (2019). Affiliation between push-up train capability and future cardiovascular occasions amongst energetic grownup males. JAMA Community Open2(2), e188341. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.8341
  2. Marcolin, G., Petrone, N., Moro, T., Battaglia, G., Bianco, A., & Paoli, A. (2015). Selective activation of shoulder, trunk, and arm muscle tissue: A comparative evaluation of various Push-Up variants. Journal of Athletic Coaching50(11), 1126–1132. https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-50.9.09

Featured Picture: ESB Fundamental / Shutterstock


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