What Muscle tissue 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 strength and endurance. Relying in your hand place, tempo, and physique angle, this seemingly easy train can present a adequate stimulus to not solely construct a much bigger chest but additionally improve your core stability and total health.

Actually, research present {that a} greater baseline push-up capability is related to decrease incidence of heart problems occasions. (1) Plus, perfecting your method 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.

Credit score: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock

Whereas it might seem to be second nature to drop to the bottom and begin pumping out reps such as you did in center faculty health club class, step one to maximizing your strength- and muscle-building efforts is to be sure you perceive the biomechanics of the great ole’ push-up. When you’ve actually mastered the fundamentals, you possibly can 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 groups extra instantly.

What Muscle tissue Do Push-Ups Work?

Learn how to Excellent Your Push-Up Method

Fortunately, the push-up is much easier than one thing just like the clean & jerk. Nonetheless, it’s important to carry out any train with the right method for security and effectivity — and it’s not completely different on this case.

As a result of push-ups can place fairly a little bit of stress in your wrists, being conscious concerning the alignment of your fingers can go a great distance in staying pain- and injury-free. As well as, figuring out the best 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 to your buck, right here’s what you must do to carry out the proper push-up.

  1. Begin in a “excessive plank” place along with your fingers barely wider than your shoulders and your elbows simply barely bent. Preserve straight legs with out dipping your hips towards the bottom or mountaineering them upward.
  2. Interact 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 groups and push again via your fingers till you attain the beginning place.

Muscle tissue Labored Throughout a Push-Up 

Though many individuals have 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. In fact, since push-ups primarily contain the pectorals (main and minor) and triceps, it’s simple to see why they’re a preferred selection for chest and arm day programming.

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

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

Pectoralis Main 

The most important of the chest muscle groups, 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 throughout the eccentric section of a push-up and it contracts as you push again as much as the beginning place.

Pectoralis Minor 

Positioned beneath 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 dimensions of its bigger cousin, it nonetheless performs a important position.

As you carry out a push-up, the pec minor retains your scapulae in place. Nevertheless, 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 notably vital.

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


Moreover 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.

Throughout the preliminary section of a push-up, the triceps helps stabilize your torso. Then, as soon as the muscle is beneath pressure, it takes over because the agonist if you lengthen your arms to lockout the highest of the motion.

Anterior Deltoids 

Just like the triceps, the deltoids are comprised of three heads (anterior, lateral, and posterior). These massive, triangular muscle groups are situated on high of your shoulder joints, with the anterior head taking part in probably the most lively position throughout a push-up. Moreover aiding with shoulder stability throughout the eccentric section, your entrance delts additionally assist convey your arms inward in direction of your chest throughout the concentric portion of a push-up.


Your core will obtain a wake-up name if you carry out a push-up, too. Comprised of 5 major muscle groups — the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, inner 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. In the end, 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 tissue Throughout a Push-Up 

The essential push-up does a strong job of recruiting a number of muscle teams, specifically your chest and triceps, and even higher again for stability. Nevertheless, you don’t all the time need to subscribe to the usual kind, particularly in case you have particular muscle-building targets in thoughts.

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

Prioritize Your Triceps

To concentrate on constructing your arms, all you must do is change your hand placement, as research present {that a} narrow-width push-up gives 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 fingers. Place your index fingers and thumbs so that they contact, interact your core, and thoroughly 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 nevertheless many reps you get via.

Goal Your Higher Chest

To emphasise your higher chest, steal a web page from the standard weight coaching playbook and press at an incline instead of a flat angle. To make this adjustment throughout a push-up, you should elevate your ft.

Though it might 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 ft — gives 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 odd push-up into one thing that’ll enable you 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

If you happen to’re seeking to construct extra muscle in your decrease chest, take the precise reverse method from concentrating on the higher portion. Moderately than elevating your decrease physique to stimulate your higher chest, place your fingers 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 lively 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 strong begin, they’re simply the tip of the iceberg. Whether or not you’re an athlete seeking to improve your energy or a house health club fanatic who desires 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 must take into account 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 aspect by recruiting fast-twitch muscle fibers. Not solely does it strengthen your chest, core, triceps, and shoulders, but it surely additionally will help enhance your conditioning when carried out as a part of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout.

Learn how to do it:

  1. Begin in a excessive plank place along with your fingers instantly beneath your shoulders.
  2. Brace your core and decrease your self down till your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Interact your chest and triceps to push upward with adequate power in order that your fingers truly depart the ground. (Elective: Clap your fingers collectively on the high.)
  4. Land flippantly 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 comes with dumbbells into the final word push-pull train. The renegade row push-up is on no account simple, but it surely’s an efficient instance of the best way to superset workouts for higher effectivity and outcomes. Primarily, 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 word on this variation: The nearer your ft are to every every, the tougher 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 going through in, so the weights are parallel to one another.
  3. Arrange in a excessive plank place along with your ft shoulder-width aside to begin.
  4. Decrease your self down till your elbows attain a 90-degree angle.
  5. As you push again up, preserve 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 alternative arm. Repeat in alternating style.

Spiderman Push-Up

Demanding, dynamic, and undoubtedly not meant for newbies, 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 to your chest, triceps, and shoulders. In the end, your mobility and suppleness can 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 fingers barely wider than shoulder-distance aside.
  2. Brace your core and thoroughly decrease your self towards the ground, protecting your elbows at a 45-degree angle out of your physique.
  3. Throughout the reducing section, 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 lengthen your elbows to press up, lengthen your leg backward and return your proper foot to the beginning place.
  5. Repeat on the alternative aspect.

Get Artistic 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 possibly can shortly remodel the essential push-up into an train that’s way more dynamic, troublesome, and deliberate in its function. Problem your self to strive a brand new variation on a weekly foundation, be aware of any roadblocks, and preserve increasing your arsenal so you possibly can improve 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 lively 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 groups: 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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