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What Muscles Do Push Ups Work And What Are Common Mistakes?


What muscles do push ups work? The press-up, often known as the push-up, is a common upper-body strength-training exercise. It is a tool-free, bodyweight-resistance workout that follows a closed kinetic chain.

It may be modified to suit the needs of individuals with varying degrees of fitness. Triceps, chest, and shoulders all get a good workout.

They may also improve their lower back and core by using correct form and drawing in (activating) their abdominal muscles. Strength training with push-ups is brisk and efficient.

What Muscles Do Push-Ups Work?

Push-ups work more than just the chest, despite their reputation. The push-up, a complex bodyweight exercise, works numerous upper body muscles. Push-ups target these muscles.

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Pectoralis Major

Pectoralis major is the biggest chest muscle. Thick, fan-shaped, and beneath the breast tissue. It drives a push-up.

Muscles have two heads. The medial clavicular head is one. The top ribs and sternum form the sternocostal head.

Both heads insert on the upper humerus, or upper arm bone, from different sites. This muscle governs the push-up's fall and ascent.

Minor Pectoral

Pectoralis minor is a lesser-known chest muscle. It's little and beneath the pectoralis major.

The front third through fifth ribs form this little triangle-shaped muscle. The coracoid process, a tiny hook-like structure on the front of the scapula, receives it.

The pectoralis minor stabilizes your shoulder blades during push-ups. This corrects upper-back and shoulder posture.


Triceps (triceps brachii) are a big, thick muscle on the back of your upper arm. Tri refers to the three heads of this key pushing muscle. Medial, lateral, and long heads.

Each brain starts somewhere different. Medial and lateral heads come from the rear of the humerus, your upper arm bone. The upper scapula below your shoulder joint forms the long head.

The olecranon process, the pointed bone behind your elbow, receives all three heads. When your chest is towards the floor, the triceps support the torso. Triceps stretch the arms in the second half.

Front Deltoids

The shoulder joint's triangular-shaped deltoids are massive. These strong muscles have three heads—anterior, lateral, and posterior—like the triceps.

Due to its position on the shoulder joint, the anterior head is targeted most during the push-up. This head attaches to the upper arm's humerus from the frontal clavicle bone.

The anterior deltoids adduct the shoulder joint, bringing the arms in nearer the chest, during the push-up. They stabilize shoulders during descent.

Core Muscles

Push-ups mostly work the chest, although other muscles help. One group is the abdominals. The rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and pyramidalis are the abdominal muscles.

The deep back muscles also support the torso. Erector spinae and multifidus help. These core muscles work together to straighten your spine during push-ups.

How To Know If You’re Doing A Push-Up Properly

Check your form to ensure you're getting the most out of your push-ups. First, make sure your arms form an A rather than a T by bending them back 45 degrees.

You're doing a number on your rotator cuff (the muscles and tendons that surround your shoulder joint) if your elbows are bent in a T shape, since this position requires a great deal of internal rotation.

It's also a triceps push-up if your elbows are in toward your sides in a "I" shape. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but you won't be using as many of your chest and back muscles as you would at a 45-degree angle.

Exercise your abs next. If your hips fall or you lift your butt to the sky, it's because your core isn't strong enough to hold a plank. Protect your lower back by tucking your tailbone [slightly forward] and tilting your pelvis backward.

Keeping your neck in a neutral position can help you maintain an even straighter spine. Atkins advises against cradling the chin to the chest or letting the head bounce about, both of which may lead to pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders. Turn your focus on the mat in front of you or the palms of your hands.

To maintain balance and get the most out of your pushing technique, keep your shoulders directly above your wrists at all times. To maintain this stance while bending over, Atkins recommended shifting your weight forward somewhat. Thumbs should contact armpits at the bottom of the action, and hands should be broader than shoulder-width apart.

What Are Common Push-up Mistakes

First, identify your push-up faults. To identify form issues, do push-ups in front of a mirror or have a buddy film you.

Lacking Mobility

Strength training beginners may accidentally "cheat" by decreasing the range of motion. One of the biggest faults with this exercise is not going deep enough or fully extending.

When lowering your chest, bend your elbows at least 90 degrees. Your chest should practically touch the floor. Fully extend your elbows while climbing.

If you have trouble lowering your chest, try a kneeling variation. This exercise may also be done with your hands on a table or bench.

Overextending Your Hands

Be careful while doing push-ups. Proper push-ups stack shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Placing your hands in front of your shoulders may strain your shoulders and wrists and diminish the mechanical effectiveness of your core muscles, which balance your body.

Unaligned Hips

Whether you're a novice or an expert, you may be misaligning your hips. Proper push-up technique involves forming a straight line from your head to your heels. Avoid sagging hips.

If your hips drop, it strains your lumbar spine and lower back muscles, preventing you from engaging your abdominal muscles to brace your core and support your spine.

If you appreciate yoga's Downward-Facing Dog stance, don't raise your hips. Like drooping hips, this implies you're not engaging your core muscles and losing out on push-up advantages.

Overextending Your Elbows

Flaring your elbows as you descend down is a typical push-up technique error. You accidentally increase shoulder and wrist torque. Lack of core control or tricep strength causes this problem.

Angle your elbows toward your hips while doing push-ups. Lower your shoulders to meet your hands. Point your hands forward, not inward.

These little form adjustments reduce shoulder joint tension and strengthen pectoral muscles. Instead of out to the side, bend your elbows toward your waist to target your chest muscles.

The Best Way To Modify Or Intensify The Push-Up

You've undoubtedly seen someone who can't do a full push-up or plank lower their knees to modify. Atkins advised against such variation. Instead, do incline push-ups on a sofa, chair, table, or bench.

When you kneel, you lose half your weight and train poor body mechanics. Strong cores are essential for push-ups. Push-ups aim to force your body weight away.

By using an inclination, you keep that straight line and grow acclimated to moving your whole body. As you grow stronger, reduce the inclination until you can complete a push-up in a strong plank.

The body responds to training. If you always do push-ups from the knees, eventually you'll come up off the knees and the mechanics will feel foreign, so it's best to begin with the body in a straight line—like you would, and should, do in a proper push-up... the incline decreases the amount of bodyweight or load put on the arms and shoulders, but as you progressively lower, you progressively add load to the upper body in a manageable way.

Atkins advised people who can do regular push-ups on the ground to reverse the gradient and place their feet on yoga blocks, a sofa, a chair, or a bench.

Changing the speed makes push-ups harder. Try stopping for three to five seconds or six seconds at the bottom. To vary push-ups, add duration under strain.

How To Build Up To More Push-ups

Building up to performing more push-ups requires gradual progression and consistent practice. Here are some steps to help you increase your push-up count:

  • Start with Modified Push-ups - If you're unable to do full push-ups, begin with modified versions. Place your knees on the ground while keeping your body straight and perform push-ups from this position. This reduces the amount of weight you're lifting and allows you to build strength gradually.
  • Set Realistic Goals - Determine a realistic goal for the number of push-ups you want to achieve. Break down this goal into smaller, manageable milestones. For example, if your goal is 20 push-ups, start by aiming for 5 or 10 initially.
  • Practice Regularly - Consistency is key. Incorporate push-up training into your exercise routine at least two to three times a week. This regular practice will help your muscles adapt and grow stronger over time.
  • Use Proper Form - Maintain proper form throughout each push-up. Keep your body straight, engage your core, and lower yourself until your chest is just above the ground. Push back up to the starting position using the strength of your chest, shoulders, and arms.
  • Gradually Increase Repetitions - Once you can perform a set number of push-ups with good form, gradually increase the repetitions. Add one or two more push-ups to each set, or increase the number of sets you do. Challenge yourself while maintaining proper technique.
  • Incorporate Variation - Add variation to your push-up routine to target different muscle groups and prevent plateaus. Try wide-grip push-ups, diamond push-ups, decline push-ups, or incline push-ups using an elevated surface.
  • Strengthen Supporting Muscles - Strengthening the muscles that support push-ups can improve your performance. Include exercises such as planks, tricep dips, chest presses, and shoulder presses in your workout routine.
  • Take Rest Days - Allow your muscles to recover and adapt by taking regular rest days between push-up sessions. This promotes muscle growth and prevents overuse injuries.
  • Stay Motivated - Track your progress, celebrate milestones, and stay motivated. Keep challenging yourself by setting new goals and pushing your limits.

Remember, building up to more push-ups takes time and patience. Listen to your body, progress at your own pace, and enjoy the journey of improving your strength and endurance.

10 Tips to Increase Your Pushups FAST

People Also Ask

What Muscles Do Push-ups Primarily Target?

Push-ups primarily target the chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor).

Do Push-ups Work The Triceps?

Yes, push-ups also work the triceps muscles located at the back of the upper arm.

Are Push-ups Effective For Working The Shoulders?

Push-ups engage the shoulder muscles, including the deltoids, which help stabilize and support the movement.

Do Push-ups Engage The Core Muscles?

Yes, push-ups activate the core muscles, including the abdominals and obliques, to maintain stability and proper body alignment.

Do Push-ups Work The Muscles Of The Upper Back?

While push-ups primarily target the chest and triceps, they also engage the muscles of the upper back, including the rhomboids and trapezius, to stabilize the shoulder blades.

Final Thoughts

What muscles do push ups work? Push-ups are a kind of exercise that utilizes the body's weight to strengthen the upper body and increase cardiovascular fitness. Because of the lack of equipment prerequisites, these basic workouts may be performed at home.

Numerous modifications to the standard push-up exist for those with varying degrees of strength and fitness. One may do increasingly difficult variations of the pushup as one's strength and stamina improve.

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