Push Ups Muscles Worked?
Push Ups Muscles Worked? What muscles are used in push ups? Can push ups build muscle? Let’s find out!
I am a big fan of push ups. They can be done from home, do not require any equipment, and give many different upper body parts an excellent workout.
I particuarly love the old school feel to push ups.
I always think back to the Rocky films with him training using push ups in old school basements and barns in the winter etc. Great stuff!
In this post we will look at what muscles are worked by push ups and how to use push ups to build muscle. I have also provided some cool YouTube videos to act as demonstrations.
Push Ups Muscles? Or Just Endurance?
If done in the typical way of performing 25 quick push up reps several times, then that will mainly focus on improved fitness and endurance. Although a toned, low fat body is a likely by product of this.
But if you want to build muscle from push ups I think you need to do things in a different way…
I am a big believer of using push ups for muscles by slowing the exercise right down. So instead of taking 1 or 2 seconds to do a rep, I like to take between 10 to 20 seconds to build a rep. Making sure each second is as hard as possible and that I am fully focusing on squeezing the pecs to build muscle.
In addition to slow reps for push ups I think the workout should be constructed in such a way that you don’t just do one set of push ups, rest for a minute and repeat.
I think a good push up bodyweight workout will involve working out for an intense set and then moving immediately onto a slight variation of the push up exercise without any rest, and then moving onto another exercise without any rest.
Only once you have done 4 or 5 sets of a different exercise do I think a rest is in order and then the complete cycle can be repeated again. This is quite an intense way of doing things but I think it produces great results.
Push Ups Muscles Worked?
Push ups work muscles from various different upper body parts.
The main muscles used in push ups:
Chest – the obvious push up muscle used in push ups. But the chest is a big muscle and different variations of the push ups can work out different parts of the chest. For example an incline push up will work the upper chest and a decline push up the lower chest.
Triceps - the triceps are the second major muscle group worked out by push ups behind the chest. To really focus on working the triceps you can perform a narrow grip push up which takes the resistance off the chest and more onto the arms.
Shoulders – the shoulders play a key role in push ups and a great way to place more focus on your shoulders in your push up workout is to perform handstand push ups where you legs are elevated onto a wall.
Abs and Back – although it may not seem like it, the abs and back get a good workout from push ups. Especially abs. Push ups need a stable core in order to provide the needed balance. And the abs play a key role in providing stability and balance to the rest of your body during this exercise.
Push Ups Exercises
Push ups are great bodyweight exercises for the purpose of building muscle and losing fat.
But most people do not realise how many different types of push ups there are.
Here are a few variations of push ups for muscle mass:
Wide grip push-up. Muscles Worked = Central/Outer Chest. With a normal push-up your arms are approximately shoulder width apart and the focus is placed on working the chest muscles and arms. However, if you adopt a wider stance with your arms more than shoulder width apart you take the focus off the arm and shoulder muscles and place it back on the chest muscles. Wide grip push-ups tend to work the outer chest muscles more and are good for shaping and toning.
Narrow Grip Push Ups. Muscles Worked = Triceps. When you do a push-up with a narrow grip you will place a focus on exercising the inner chest and triceps more. For a narrow grip push-up move your arms closer together so that they are almost touching. You will find that your triceps will be required to work much harder than usual and you should feel a nice burn. Narrow grip push-ups also work well for shaping the inner part of the chest might otherwise have been neglected using basic pushups.
Isometric push-ups. An isometric push-up is basically where you statically hold the push-up position for around 30 seconds. So get into the push-up position and lower yourself halfway. Then hold this position for 30 seconds. It is almost like a stretch, but is called an isometric hold. You can also perform the pushup isometric hold during the top or bottom of the exercise.
Decline Push-Ups. Muscles worked = Lower Chest. To do a declined push-up place your feet on an elevated object such as a box or a chair. Your arms should be on the ground as usual. You will then lower your upper body towards the ground at a steeper angle than a normal push-up. This puts more of a focus on the lower part of the chest. It is always a good idea to mix up the widths of the push-up grips so that all areas of the chest muscles get in a decent workout.
Incline Push Ups. Muscles Worked = Upper Chest. Push-ups on an incline involve you raising your arms onto a platform such as a chair or a box. Your feet will be on the floor. Do the press up as usual but at this new angle. You will find that you will feel the exercise working your upper chest area with an incline push up. Upper chest muscles often get neglected so incline push ups are a great addition to your arsenal of bodyweight exercises.
Plyometric push-ups. To do a plyometric push-up simply do a normal push-up but when you come back up you use extra explosive strength to vault yourself up off the floor. So you are still in the push-up position – just in the air! The most advanced version of the pylometric push-up involves performing a clap mid-air. But simpler versions can just include only raising the hands off the ground and not the feet. Work your way up to the mid-air clap versions.
Push Up Variations Video
And to wrap things up, here is a cool video that helps to show a number of different push ups variations: