Push Ups Muscles Worked Guide

The push-up has remained one of the best bodyweight exercises for targeting upper body muscles since the invention of modern strength training.

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

The push-up is a common exercise, but some people might not be aware of all the muscles it engages.

This article covers which muscles push-ups work, how to perform them, their benefits, typical faults, and popular variations.

What push ups muscles worked and didn’t work?

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

In fact, the push-up is regarded as a complex bodyweight exercise because it works a variety of upper body muscles.

The following muscles will be worked when you perform a standard push-up.

  • Triceps
  • Pectoral muscles
  • Shoulders

We provide more information below about how these muscles are worked during push ups and other thoughts such as how to do push ups properly and common mistakes to think about.

Major Pectoralis

The largest 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.

Both of 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 in shape, 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.

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


Your upper arm’s triceps, also referred to as the triceps brachii, is a sizable, dense muscle.

Tri is the prefix for the three heads that make up this significant pushing muscle. These are referred to as the medial, lateral, and long heads.

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 triceps assists in stabilizing the torso during the first portion of the push-up, when your chest is almost touching the floor. The triceps is the main 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 of the heads are engaged during the push-up, but because the anterior head is situated 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 portion 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.

Your body’s core

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

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.

What advantages do pushups have?

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

Makes the upper body stronger

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

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 (1Trusted Source).

Although push-ups primarily work the upper body, with proper form, they can also strengthen 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 study of male firefighters discovered that being able to perform more push-ups was linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke (2Trusted Source).

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

This suggests that being able to perform 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 crucial lifestyle elements like food. Furthermore, it’s still not apparent whether the results apply to populations other than adult men.

May enhance 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 can be added to an aerobic exercise program to increase energy metabolism and burn more calories. Benefits such as enhanced fat reduction could result from this (3Trusted Source).

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

How to perform pushups 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 ideal push-up if you adhere to the below instructions.

Start out in a high plank stance with your arms extended and your hand’s shoulder width apart on the floor. Line up your legs with your toes on the ground.

To align your spine, work your glutes, legs, and core muscles.

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.

To get back to the starting posture, push your palms down toward the floor while breathing. Keep your core tight and concentrate on squeezing your chest and triceps.

Repeat as necessary for the number of reps and sets.

6 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 difficult, or somewhat more focused at particular muscles.

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

Push ups on the knees

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

Push ups on your knees are less difficult 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, perform the exercise just like a conventional push-up. On the upward part, keep your elbows slightly tucked in and make sure your back stays straight.

Wall push ups

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

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

Put your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and keep your feet flat on the ground. Push off the wall to return to the starting position after descending toward the wall until your head just brushes it.

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 difficult.

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

Decline-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 tougher.

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

Weighted 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 by donning a weighted vest.

Next, carry out regular push-ups while being careful to keep the correct form.

One-arm push-ups

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

In order 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 make the movement 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 injury.

Common errors

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

Slumping your back

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 by doing so. Additionally, it might put strain on your lower back or particular joints.

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

Not keeping your arms straight

Another typical error is fanning out 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 in towards your torso and slightly twisting your hands outward to correct this.

Before moving on to harder push-up variations, choose an easier push-up variation to practice and gain strength if you’re still having trouble maintaining proper form throughout the movement.

Too Quick

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

This could make your working muscles less tight, which frequently leads 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.

As your technique improves, you may be able to go slightly faster while still maintaining proper form.