Which Muscles Are Targeted When Doing Push-Ups?

Since the beginning of contemporary strength training, the push-up has been one of the most effective exercises using only one’s own bodyweight to target the muscles of the upper body. This page describes the several muscle groups and what muscles do push ups work, as well as how to perform them, the advantages of doing them, some common errors, and popular variations of push ups.

This fundamental activity continues to be a fixture in the exercise plans of athletes, leisure gym-goers, bodybuilders, and even those healing from certain injuries. This vital movement is the deadlift.

Even though the push-up is a common exercise, some individuals may not be aware of the specific muscle groups that it targets when performed.

What Muscles Do Push Ups Work - push ups

Which Muscles Are Targeted When Performing Push-Ups?

Although push-ups are most commonly thought of as a chest workout, the other muscles in the body that they target should not be ignored.

In point of fact, the push-up is considered to be a compound bodyweight exercise, which means that it works a number of muscles in the upper body at the same time.

The following is a list of the muscles that will be worked when you complete a conventional push-up.

Pectoralis Major Muscles

The pectoralis major is the most prominent and substantial of the chest muscles. It has the appearance of a fan and can be located directly under the breast tissue. In the performance of a push-up, it acts as the primary motive force.

There are two distinct heads that make up the muscle. One of these is known as the clavicular head, and it develops from the middle portion of the clavicle. The other structure is called the sternocostal head, and it develops from the sternum as well as the upper ribs.

Both of these heads insert on the upper section of the humerus, also known as the upper arm bone, even though they come from different places of origin.

This muscle is responsible for controlling the fall of your torso toward the floor while you perform the push-up and is also responsible for pushing the body back up to the beginning position.

The Minor Pectoral Muscle.

One of the chest muscles that receives less attention is the pectoralis minor. It is located underneath the pectoralis major muscle and is much smaller in size than the latter.

This tiny muscle, which is shaped like a triangle, originates from the third to the fifth ribs on the front of the body. It is attached to the coracoid process, which is a tiny structure that looks like a hook and is located on the front of the scapula.

The pectoralis minor is responsible for maintaining the position of the scapulae, which are the shoulder blades, during executing push-ups. Because of this, the shoulders and upper back can be brought into their proper positions.

Triceps Muscles

The triceps, sometimes referred to by its formal name, the triceps brachii, is a large and thick muscle that is situated on the back of your upper arm.

This essential pushing muscle consists of three heads, which is where the word “tri” gets its meaning. The medial head, the lateral head, and the long head are the names given to these three parts.

Each of the heads has its own distinct site of origination. Both the medial and lateral heads of the humerus can be traced back to the rear of the upper arm bone (humerus). The upper portion of the scapula, which is located below the shoulder joint, is where the long head develops.

The olecranon process, which is the pointy bone on the back of your elbow joint, serves as an attachment point for each of the three heads.

The triceps contribute to the stabilization of the body during the first part of the push-up, when the chest is almost touching the floor. The triceps are the key mover during the second half of the exercise, which involves extending the arms.

Anterior Deltoids Muscles

Large muscles that have the shape of a triangle and are found on top of the shoulder joints are called the deltoids.

These strong muscles, which are similar to the triceps in structure, are made up of three separate heads: the anterior head, the lateral head, and the posterior head.

Because of its placement on the front of the shoulder joint, the anterior head is targeted the most when performing push-ups. However, all of the heads are engaged throughout the movement.

This head derives from the anterior aspect of the clavicle bone and inserts onto the distal aspect of the humerus, which is located on your upper arm.

The anterior deltoids contribute to the adduction of the shoulder joint during the upward phase of the push-up. This means that they assist in bringing the arms inside toward the chest. During the descending phase of the movement, they also aid to stabilize the shoulders.

Core Muscles.

The chest muscles are the primary target of the push-up exercise; however, the movement is supported by additional muscle groups.

One of these groups is the abdominal muscles, which are part of the core muscles of the body.

The rectus abdominis, the transversus abdominis, the internal and external obliques, and the pyramidalis are the five primary abdominal muscles. The rectus abdominis is the largest of the five.

In addition, the deep core muscles of the back contribute to keeping the torso in an upright position. In particular, the muscles of the erector spinae and the multifidus contribute to this effect.

When you do a push-up, having these core muscles working in tandem helps to keep your spine in a straight position, which is essential for proper technique.

What Are The Advantages Of Performing Pushups?

What Muscles Do Push Ups Work - upper body strength

The push-up is a tried-and-true workout that uses only your own bodyweight and is proven to deliver a variety of possible benefits. The following is a list of the most important advantages associated with regularly completing push-ups.

Builds Upper Body Strength.

Because the push-up is a compound exercise, which means that it works many muscular groups at the same time, it has a lot of promise for improving upper body strength.

They can create significant strength in the pectoralis, tricep, and anterior deltoid muscles when push-ups are included as part of a well-balanced training program and when they are performed regularly.

In addition, studies have shown that performing weighted push-ups can activate the muscles in a manner that is comparable to that of the bench press, which is another well-known upper body workout.

Even though push-ups are more effective in strengthening the muscles of the upper body, if they are performed correctly, they can also help build the muscles of the core, particularly those of the abdominal region and lower back.

May Reduce The Risk Of Cardiac Events

According to several studies, being able to execute push-ups and having a healthy level of physical fitness can reduce the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke.

For instance, a well-known study that was conducted in 2019 on male firefighters discovered that having a higher number of push-ups that one is capable of performing was connected with a decreased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.

Those who were able to complete more than 40 push-ups had a significantly decreased risk of cardiovascular events than those who were only able to complete 10 or less.

This suggests that the capacity to perform push-ups could be used as a marker of physical fitness, and that the ability to perform more push-ups could signal that a person has better heart health.

However, it is essential to point out that the food and other key lifestyle factors were not taken into account in this research. In addition, it is not apparent whether the findings are applicable to any other population groups outside adult men.

May Result In An Improvement In Body Composition.

Push-ups have the ability to get your heart rate up, which is something that is obvious to anyone who has done more than a few of them.

A faster energy metabolism can be achieved by supplementing an aerobic exercise routine with strength training exercises like push-ups. This will result in a greater number of calories being expended. Benefits such as greater fat reduction could result from this action.

Therefore, improvements in body composition can be achieved over the long run by including push-ups as part of a well-balanced exercise routine and eating a diet that is appropriate.

How To Execute Push-Ups With The Correct Form.

What Muscles Do Push Ups Work - push up workout

Even though the push-up does not require any special equipment and is very simple to execute, there are a few minor indications that one must keep in mind in order to execute it correctly.

You will be well on your way to doing the perfect push-up if you follow the instructions that are listed below.

  1. You should begin in a high plank position with your arms extended and palms placed on the floor at a shoulder-width distance apart. Put your toes on the floor so that they are parallel to your legs.
  2. To get your spine into proper alignment, you should engage the muscles in your core, glutes, and legs.
  3. While retaining a straight back and looking a few feet in front of you, bend your elbows and slowly lower your body in a controlled motion until your chest almost touches the ground. Make sure to maintain a straight back during the entire movement. Throughout the exercise, make sure that your elbows are tucked in close to your sides.
  4. As you exhale, return to the starting position by pressing your palms toward the ground while maintaining the same stance. Your primary focuses should be on squeezing the chest and tricep muscles while maintaining a tight core.
  5. Continue doing so until you have completed the required number of reps and sets.

You might wish to try out a few exercises with varying numbers of repetitions. The following table will help you determine the appropriate number of push-up sets and repetitions based on your current level of fitness:

  • As a Beginner should do 2–3 sets and 5–10 reps.
  • As an Intermediate should do 3–5 sets and 10–20 reps.
  • As an Advanced should do 3–5 sets and 20 reps.

There Are Six Standard Variations Of The Push-Up.

There are many various varieties of the push-up that you may use to make the exercise easier, more difficult, or slightly more targeted toward certain muscles. The regular push-up is the one that most people do.

The following is a selection of the most effective alternatives for you to attempt.

1. Knee Push-Ups.

What Muscles Do Push Ups Work - modified push up

This variation of the push-up is great for beginners who are still working on gaining the upper body strength necessary to perform a standard push-up.

The resistance is lessened when you perform push-ups on your knees, which in turn makes the activity simpler to carry out.

Begin in a position similar to that of a modified high plank to complete a knee push-up. Maintain your balance by supporting yourself on your knees rather than resting your toes on the floor.

From that position, carry out the activity in the same manner as a regular push-up. Make sure that your back is kept in a straight position at all times, and keep your elbows tucked in slightly when you are performing the upward phase.

2. Wall Push-Ups

What Muscles Do Push Ups Work - wall push up

The wall push-up is another another modification that lessens the difficulty of the exercise. Because of this, it is an excellent choice for people who are just getting started.

It is possible to reduce the difficulty of a movement by performing push-ups vertically against a wall rather than on the floor. This makes the exercise easier to perform. The maneuver will be simpler if you position yourself closer to the wall.

Your hands should be positioned so that they are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and your feet should remain flat on the floor. You should lower yourself until your head just brushes against the wall, and then you should push off the wall to go back to the starting position.

3. Incline Push-Up

What Muscles Do Push Ups Work - incline push up

The Incline push-up is a version of the standard push-up in which your hands are placed on an elevated surface such as a step-up platform, weight bench, park bench, or something similar.

This makes the exercise somewhat less difficult by lowering the resistance slightly.

Carry out the exercise in the same manner as a conventional push-up would be performed.

4. Decline Push-Up

What Muscles Do Push Ups Work - elevated push up

The decline push-up version features elevated feet rather than elevated hands, in contrast to the incline push-up variation.

Because of this, the chest muscles are subjected to an increased amount of strain, which makes the movement marginally more difficult.

In addition, in comparison to a regular push-up, this variation places a greater emphasis on working the upper portion of the pectoralis muscle.

5. A Push-Up With Weight.

The addition of resistance is another another method for making the task more difficult.

Either put on a weighted vest or have a friend put a weight plate on your back for you in order to accomplish this goal.

From that starting position, carry out a conventional push-up while paying great attention to preserving correct form.

6. One-Arm Push-Up.

What Muscles Do Push Ups Work - one arm push up

When it comes to this particular exercise, the one-arm push-up is considered to be the most challenging variation.

In this variation of the push-up, you will only be using one arm to raise and lower your body as you complete the exercise.

You will begin in the same position as a standard push-up. Then, at the very last moment before you start descending, bring one arm behind your back and finish the exercise with just that arm.

Because this option places a significant amount of strain on the working arm, it should only be attempted by very experienced users. In the event that it is not carried out properly, it may lead to injury.

Common Mistakes.

Despite the fact that the push-up is a straightforward exercise, there are a few typical mistakes that beginners frequently make.

Don’t Let Your Back Sag.

When performing push-ups, one of the most common errors that people make is allowing their back to slump.

Because of this, you are wasting energy that could have been directed towards the muscles that need to be worked. It is also possible that it will put stress on some of your joints and/or your lower back.

To correct this, you should contract the muscles in your core and legs, making sure that your body is tight from head to toe and from beginning to end.

Don’t Flare Your Arms.

Another typical error is putting too much space between the body and the arms, which results in a T-shaped silhouette.

This causes you to lose valuable power that should be transmitted to the muscles that are actually doing the task instead. Additionally, it may strain the joints in your shoulders.

To correct this, you can concentrate on bringing your elbows in toward your chest and twisting your palms slightly outward. This should help.

If you are having trouble keeping your form correct throughout the activity, you should select a push-up variation that is easier to practice and gain strength with before moving on to options that are more difficult.

Going Far Too Quickly.

When executing push-ups, a third typical error is to either drop or ascend at an inappropriately rapid pace.

This can cause you to lose stiffness in your working muscles, which can frequently lead to a breakdown in form as well as inefficient movement on your part.

To remedy this, you should make it a priority to do each push-up in at least three to four seconds. If you would rather move even more slowly, you are free to do so.

As your skill level increases, you could find that you are able to go a little bit quicker while still keeping your form correct.

The Conclusion

The push-up is an essential upper-body exercise that is included in the workout routines of many different types of people, including athletes, recreational gym-goers, bodybuilders, and even people who are healing from particular injuries.

The pectoralis major and minor, triceps, anterior deltoids, and core muscles are all worked during this exercise, despite the fact that it is commonly thought of as a chest exercise.

The development of upper-body strength, a reduction in the risk of cardiac events, and an improvement in body composition are all notable benefits associated with the practice of performing push-ups.

There are many different iterations of the regular push-up that provide you with the opportunity to enhance or decrease the amount of difficulty based on your level of expertise and physical power.

A few common errors that should be avoided at all costs are allowing your back to slump, flaring out your arms, and going too fast.

You should definitely try incorporating push-ups into your training routine if you’re seeking for a time-tested move that will help you gain strength in your upper body.

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