What Muscles Do Push Ups Work?

muscles worked with push ups

What Muscles Do Push Ups Work? The push-up has been one of the best bodyweight exercises for targeting upper body muscles since the invention of contemporary strength training.

This crucial exercise is still a mainstay in the workout routines of athletes, casual gym visitors, bodybuilders, and even people healing from specific injuries.

The push-up is a joint exercise, but some people might not know all the muscles it engages.

This page describes the muscles that push-ups target, how to do them, their advantages, typical errors, and common variations.

The muscles that push-ups exercise?

Push ups are frequently described as a chest workout, but they also train other muscles that should not be disregarded.

The push up is regarded as a complex bodyweight exercise because it works a variety of upper body muscles.

The following muscles will be used when you complete a conventional push-up.

Major Pectoralis

The most significant chest muscle is the pectoralis major. It is located just beneath the breast tissue and is thick and fan-shaped. It acts as the main propulsion force when doing a push-up.

There are two heads on the muscle. One is the medial portion of the clavicle, which gives rise to the clavicular head. The other comes from the sternum and upper ribs and is called the sternocostal head.

These heads insert on the upper portion of the humerus, or upper arm bone, although coming from different places.

This muscle controls your torso’s descent to the floor during a push-up and pushes your body back up to the starting position.

Minor Pectoralis

The less well-known pectoralis minor is a chest muscle. It is somewhat smaller and is located beneath the pectoralis major.

This little muscle, which is triangular, arises from the third through fifth ribs up front. It attaches to the coracoid process, a little structure resembling a hook on the front of the scapula.

During push-ups, the pectoralis minor stabilizes the scapulae or your shoulder blades. This enables the shoulders and upper back to be positioned correctly.


The back of your upper arm is home to the triceps, also referred to as the triceps brachii, a big, thick muscle.

Tri is the prefix for the three heads that make up this significant pushing muscle. The medial, lateral, and long heads are the names given to these.

Each head has a distinct point of genesis. The humerus, the upper arm bone, is where the medial and lateral heads are derived from. The upper portion of your scapula, just below your shoulder joint, is where the long head begins.

The olecranon process, the pointed bone at the back of your elbow joint, is where all three heads attach.

The first part of a push-up, when your chest is almost touching the floor, requires the triceps to stabilize the torso.

The triceps is the primary muscle that moves during the second half as you extend your arms.

front deltoids

On top of the shoulder joints are the big, triangular-shaped muscles known as the deltoids.

These potent muscles, like the triceps, have three unique heads: the anterior, lateral, and posterior heads.

All heads are engaged during the push-up, but because the anterior head is closest to the front of the shoulder joint, it is targeted the most.

This head attaches to the outer portion of your upper arm’s humerus and protrudes from the frontal part of the clavicle bone.

The anterior deltoids assist in adducting the shoulder joint or bringing the arms inward towards the chest during the upward portion of the push-up. During the descending phase, they also aid in maintaining the shoulders’ stability.

body’s centre

While other muscular groups help to support the activity, push-ups primarily work the chest muscles.

The muscles of the core, particularly the abdominals, are one such group.

The five primary muscles that make up the abdominals are the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and pyramidal.

The back’s deep core muscles also aid in maintaining a straight torso. The multifidus and erector spinae, in particular, help with this.

These core muscles cooperate to maintain your spine straight so that you may perform push-ups with proper form.


Several other muscle groups participate in the push-up, which primarily works the pectoralis major and minor in the chest. These are the triceps, anterior deltoids, and core muscles, specifically.

What advantages do push-ups have?

A tried-and-true bodyweight exercise with several potential advantages is the push up. The top benefits of performing push-ups frequently are listed below.

It makes the upper body stronger.

The push-up has a lot of potentials to increase upper body strength because it is a complex exercise that works several muscles simultaneously.

Push-ups have the potential to significantly increase the strength of the pectoralis, triceps, and anterior deltoid muscles when included in a well-balanced training program.

Furthermore, research indicates that weighted push-ups might activate muscles similarly to the bench press, another popular upper body workout.

Although push-ups primarily work the upper body, with proper form, they can also build the core, particularly the lower back and abdominal muscles.

Reduces the possibility of cardiac events

According to research, being physically fit and able to perform push-ups reduce your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

For instance, a well-known 2019 research on male firefighters discovered that being able to complete more push-ups was linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke.

Greater than 40 push-ups were associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular events compared to less than 10.

This suggests that performing more push-ups could be a sign of better heart health and that push-up proficiency could be used as a measure of physical fitness.

It’s crucial to remember that this study did not account for critical lifestyle elements like food. Furthermore, it’s still not apparent whether the results apply to populations other than adult men.

May enhance the physical composition.

Anyone who has performed more than a few pushups understands how heart-pounding they can be.

Push-ups are a strength exercise that may be added to an aerobic workout routine to boost energy metabolism and burn more calories. Benefits like accelerated fat loss could result from this.

Thus, incorporating push-ups into a well-balanced fitness routine and eating the right foods can result in long-term changes in body composition.


Push-ups have several possible advantages, including increasing body composition, lowering the risk of cardiac events, and developing upper body strength.

How to perform push ups properly.

The push-up is a simple exercise that doesn’t require any special equipment, but there are a few subtle indicators to pay attention to.

You may accomplish the perfect push-up if you adhere to the below instructions.

  1. Start in a high plank stance with your arms extended and your hand shoulder-width apart on the floor. Line up your legs with your toes on the ground.
  2. Work your glutes, legs, and core muscles to align your spine.
  3. Bend your elbows to fall in a steady, controlled motion just until your chest touches the floor while maintaining a straight back and keeping your sight a few feet in front of you. Throughout the action, keep your elbows tucked in tight to your sides.
  4. Push your palms down toward the floor while breathing to get back to the starting posture. Keep your core tight and concentrate on squeezing your chest and triceps.
  5. Repeat as necessary for the number of reps and sets.


Starting in a high plank stance, place your palms shoulder-width apart on the floor. Bend your elbows while maintaining a firm core and lower yourself until your chest touches the floor. Exhale and lift yourself back up, keeping your back straight.

six standard push-up variations

Although the typical push-up is the most often used, there are several modifications you may use to make the exercise simpler, more complex, or somewhat more focused on particular muscles.

You might try a few of the more popular versions listed below.

1. Push ups on the knees

This version works wonders for novices who are still building the upper body strength needed to perform a standard push-up.

Push-ups on your knees are less challenging to accomplish since there is less resistance.

Start in a high plank stance adjusted for knee push-ups. Hold yourself up on your knees rather than placing your toes on the ground.

From there, carry out the exercise as you would a regular push-up. Keep your elbows slightly tucked in on the upward part and ensure your back stays straight.

2. Wall pushups

Another variation that lessens the strain is the wall push-up. It is, therefore, a fantastic choice for people starting.

Push-ups are more accessible to do if done vertically up a wall rather than on the ground since there is less resistance. The movement is more effortless the closer you are to the wall.

Put your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and keep your feet flat on the ground. The descent toward the wall until your head brushes the wall, then push off the wall to get back to the starting position.

3.Upright pushups

Your hands are slightly elevated on a weight bench, step-up platform, park bench, or something comparable when you perform an incline push-up.

As a result, the activity becomes slightly less complicated.

Just as you would with a push-up, finish the exercise.

4.Refusal push ups

The decline form of the push-up involves elevated feet rather than hands, in contrast to the incline variation.

As a result, the chest muscles become tenser, making the movement a little more challenging.

Additionally, this version concentrates more on the pectoralis major muscles in the upper chest compared to a regular push-up.

5.The hefty push ups

By including resistance, the difficulty can be raised yet another notch.

You can achieve this by putting a partner’s weighted weight plate on your back or donning a weighted vest.

Next, carry out a regular push-up while keeping the correct form.

6.Push-ups with one arm

Regarding this exercise, the one-arm push-up is the most challenging.

To complete this variant, you must raise and lower your body with just one arm.

You’ll position yourself similarly to a standard push-up. Then lift one arm behind your back and move with one arm immediately before you come down.

Because it places a lot of strain on the working arm, only the most experienced should try this choice. If done incorrectly, it may cause damage.


With six different push-up variations, each with another degree of difficulty, you have room to improve as your upper body strength increases.

common mistakes

Although the push-up is a straightforward exercises, there are a few typical mistakes to avoid.

Don’t let your back sag.

Letting your back slump during push-ups is among the most typical blunders.

You waste energy that could be used to strengthen the targeted muscles. Additionally, it might put a strain on your lower back or particular joints.

To correct this, contract your leg and core muscles and maintain rigidity throughout your body.

Don’t flare your arms.

Another typical error is fanning your arms so that your body and arms form a T.

By doing this, you waste valuable energy that could be transmitted to your working muscles. Your shoulder joints could potentially be strained.

Focus on tucking your elbows towards your torso and slightly twisting your hands outward to correct this.

Before moving on to stronger push up variations, choose a simpler one to practice and gain strength if you still have trouble maintaining good form throughout the activity.

going too quickly

When executing push-ups, descending and ascending too quickly is a third typical error.

This could make your working muscles less tight, leading to movement inefficiency and form breakdown.

Focus on performing each push-up for 3–4 seconds to remedy this. If you’d like, you can even move more slowly than this.

You might be able to move a little bit faster while still maintaining good form as your technique develops.


When completing push-ups, frequent mistakes to watch out for include letting your back slump, flaring out your arms, or moving too quickly.

The conclusion

The push ups is a critical upper body exercise in the training regimens of athletes, gym enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and people healing from specific injuries.

While the pectoralis major and minor, triceps, anterior deltoids, and core muscles are all worked during this exercise, which is frequently referred to as a chest exercise.

Push ups provide notable advantages like strengthening the upper body, lowering the risk of cardiac events, and enhancing body composition.

The conventional push ups can be modified in various ways, allowing you to adjust to the challenge based on your strength and expertise.

It would help if you were cautious of common errors, including going too fast, flaring out your arms, and letting your back slump.

Push-ups are a tried-and-true activity that can help you strengthen your upper body. You might want to include them in your training routine.

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