The Complete Guide to Push-ups

August 2, 2022 / Workout
The Complete Guide to Push-ups


Push-up are a compound exercise that is usually done at body weight and provides strength building. When the push-up is done correctly, it works the pectoral muscles, triceps and shoulder muscles. It also provides the work of all muscle groups focused on balance, core strength, cardio endurance, mobility and flexibility. Because push-ups are a functional exercise, they are part of basic strength training used in physical education and the military. Aren’t these enough to be an indicator of how effective push-ups are in every field? Then let’s continue..

Push Up

Benefits of Push-ups

Push-ups are a quick and effective exercise for building strength. High-rep push-ups help build muscular endurance while improving your cardiovascular system. Thanks to durable muscles, your athletic performance will naturally increase and you will be more resistant to injuries.

The push-up exercise strengthens the muscles responsible for supporting posture when done with the right form. When doing push-ups on a regular basis, your body naturally inclines towards proper posture. This is one of the most effective passive benefits of push-ups.

Moreover, the push-up exercise is versatile. You can change the stimulus created in the muscles by changing the position of your hands or feet.

Muscles Worked in a Standard Push-up

Target - Pectoralis Major, Sternal
Synergists - Pectoralis Major, Clavicular
Synergists - Anterior Deltoid
Synergists - Triceps Brachii
Synergists - Trapezius
Dynamic Stabilizers - Biceps Brachii
Stabilizers - Rectus Abdominis
Stabilizers - Pectoralis Minor
Stabilizers - Serratus Anterior
Stabilizers - Obliques
Stabilizers - Quadriceps
Antagonist Stabilizers - Erector Spinae
Antagonist Stabilizers - Latissimus Dorsi
push-up muscles worked

The Most Effective Push-up Variations

Push ups are often referred to as chest exercises. These push-up variations are intended to put greater emphasis on the triceps or shoulders, rather than the chest muscles. Try adding these variations of the push-up into your training to keep workout fun and varied.

1- Diamond Push-up

Diamond Push-up

Diamond Push-ups are a more difficult variant of standard push-ups and are made by lifting your body weight by joining your hands in a triangle. It provides a high level of performance by working other muscle groups to stabilize your body and gain strength.

It is very effective on the triceps muscles. In addition, it works the inner chest muscles and shoulder muscles. As it is an exercise that requires physical competence, it is not suitable for beginners.

2- Bench Pike Push-Up

Bench Pike Push-up

Pike push-up are a difficult variation of the standard push-up that emphasizes your shoulder muscles. The only equipment you’ll need is an bench or chair to elevate your feet.

Pike push-up is effective on shoulder muscles. It will also emphasize your triceps muscles, upper back muscles and upper chest muscles. During a pike pushup, your core is also engaged to stabilize the torso.

Incorporating this variant of push-up into your exercise routine can help build additional strength, muscle mass and improve weak areas in your shoulders. Additionally, those who want to do handstand push-ups can use pike push-ups as a start.

3- Push-up Toe Touch

Push-up Toe Touch

Starting just like a standard push-up, “toe touch push-ups” work your pecs, triceps, shoulder, lower back, and core muscles. It is a fast and effective way to build strength and stamina. You can use this exercise in a cardio routine, include it in your crossfit or full body workout.

4- Cross Body Push-up

Cross Body Push-up

Get an effective core workout with this fun push-up variation!

A push up variation that not just works out the chest and shoulders but forces your triceps, hips, abdominal and oblique muscles to work as well. The cross body push-ups forces your muscles —especially your obliques— to work together with your hips to rotate your body.

As you lower your body to the ground, twist your torso and extend one leg out to the side. The cross body push-up will also greatly improves your stability as when you perform the exercise, you remove the base of support -your leg- from the equation. Now, your abs have to work even harder to maintain your stability from start to finish.

Adding cross body push-ups to a cardio session or crossfit workout can be a good option to burn more calories while strengthening you.

5- Drop Push-up

Drop Push-Up

If you want to improve athletic strength, this exercise is for you.

Drop Push-ups is a plyometrics exercise that helps build cardiovascular strength at body weight. Plyometrics exercises are explosive aerobic moves that increase speed, quickness, and power and they work your whole body.

Drop push-ups, a highly effective exercise, enable all core muscles to work. It is a great push-up variant that contributes to the strengthening of the whole body as it effectively works the waist, arm, back, shoulder and chest muscles.

6- Decline Push-up

Decline Push-Up

If you’re looking for a new push-up variation to challenge your upper back and upper chest muscles, try practicing decline push-ups.

The main benefit of doing decline pushups is building strong upper chest muscles. A standard push-up uses your chest, triceps, shoulder and back muscles. However, because of its angle, the Decline Push-up works your upper chest and upper back more. When done regularly, decline push-up will help increase your overall upper-body strength.

7- Push-up Plus

Push-Up Plus

The “Push-up plus” is a variation of push-ups that few people know about, but that almost everyone should do.

Scapular stabilizer strengthening exercises is crucial for shoulder rehabilitation. Push-up plus is known to be one of the most effective and popular exercises for the strengthening of scapular stabilizer muscles.

The Push-Up plus exercise strengthens your serratus muscles and is used in physical therapy to improve shoulder health & flexibility.

A standard push-up works your chest, shoulders and triceps. But adding a “plus” to your push-ups is a practical way to work the serratus anterior, known as the boxer’s muscle, the traps and the muscles around the scapula.

The plus stands for using our serratus anterior muscles to cause an outward rotation of our scapulas, away from our spine and out towards our sides.

Also, this exercise can be helpful for improving poor posture, general shoulder weakness, and shoulder impingement.

8- Cross Arm Push-up

Cross Arm Push-up

Cross arm push-up are a more difficult variant of standard push-ups and are made by lifting your body weight by joining your hands in a crossover. Cross arm push-up mainly targets the triceps, it is an effective bodyweight exercise that works your chest and front shoulder muscles. It is not suitable for beginners as it is an exercise that requires physical competence.

9- Hindu Push-up

Cobra Abdominal Stretch

The Hindu push-up is a compound exercise that works the entire body and helps improve your performance. Although its main goal is to stretch the abdominal muscles, it stimulates the chest, shoulder, hip, back and leg muscles as a multifunctional exercise. This exercise, performed in body weight, provides benefits in terms of both strength, flexibility and posture.

10- Wall Push-up

Wall Push-up

Wall push-ups are an easier option for people who are just starting out or cannot do classic push-ups.
Wall Push-Up requires more than one joint to work simultaneously while forcing your body to stabilize. It helps to increase performance by working other muscle groups to stabilize your body and gain strength.
Although wall push-ups are mainly aimed at the triceps, it is a bodyweight exercise that works your chest and front shoulder muscles.

11- Elbow Reverse Push-up

Elbow Reverse Push-Up

Probably one of the most challenging types of push-ups, the “Elbow reverse push-up” is an exercise designed to work the back muscles. This exercise works your shoulder muscles, traps, and muscles around the scapula. Aim to stay in a fixed position for 5-10 seconds initially, as the move is difficult to do. Even an isometric contraction can have benefits in strengthening your back muscles and improving bad posture.

12- Incline Push-up

Incline Push-Up

If you can’t do a standard push-up, the incline push-up can be a good choice for beginners. You can build your upper body muscles just like a standard push-up. However, because of the angle, the Incline Push-up works your lower chest and back more.

With standard push-ups, you have to overcome a resistance that translates to about 50% to 70% of your body weight. In comparison, incline push-ups use between 36% and 55% of your body weight.

When you raise the incline of your push-ups, there is a decrease in the resistance that your muscles must overcome to execute the movement.

Starting on a 60cm incline means you’ll be lifting 41% of your body weight.

For example, let’s say you are currently only strong enough to perform a incline push-up with your hands elevated 30cm (as detailed, this variation has you press 55% of your body weight).

An incline push up uses physics to your benefit. The lower body ends up supporting more of your weight, which results in less resistance on the chest and arms. This makes it a great exercise for those new to strength training.

13- Reverse Push-up

Reverse Push-up

During the push-up exercise, hand position can influence the electromyographic activity of different muscles. It is a difficult push-up variation where you can add a difference to your standard push-ups by changing the position of the hands. If you want to focus more on your arm muscles, you can add this variation of the push-up to your training routine.

Assume a push-up position but externally rotate your hands so your fingers are facing behind you. Once you build some stamina and strength in this position you can progress to a reverse grip push-up.

14- Clap Push-up

Clap Push-Up

A clap push-ups is a type of plyometrics exercise which trains primarily your upper body power and explosiveness. It is also a quick and effective exercise to build strength.

To do a clap push ups, your upper body requires sufficient amount of power and explosiveness.

First get really good on standard push-ups. Make sure you can do plenty of reps, at least 30 or more with good form and control. This could take several weeks, and after that you can start playing around with more advanced variations, among which is the clapping pushups.

15- Forearm Push-up

Forearm Push-up

Performing push-ups that target your arms muscles can add strength and definition to your lower arms. Like a standard push-up, the forearm push-up can help strengthen your chest and shoulders to a certain degree, but is mostly beneficial for triceps, forearms, and core strength.


The push-up exercises is a very popular closed kinetic chain exercise used in both rehabilitation and strength programs. This exercise is popular because the push-up can be performed without any additional tools and the intensity can be altered with several variations, thus making it suitable for almost every level of fitness.