What Muscles Do Pushups Work? Tips How To Do Them Correctly (HealthNews)

Posted: Feb 15, 2023 in In the News

This article originally appeared in HealthNews on February 15, 2023.


What Muscles Do Pushups Work? Tips How To Do Them Correctly

By Erica Digap

Pushups are some of the best workouts you can include in your training routine — and for a good reason. Not only do pushups require zero equipment, but they’re also a challenging total-body workout that is especially effective for your biceps, chest, shoulders, arms, and abs.

Pushups also have a ton of functional fitness benefits, like strengthening your back muscles and increasing your stamina. Read on to learn what muscles do push ups work, how to incorporate this bodyweight exercise into your workout routine, and get closer to your fitness goals.

What muscles do different pushup variations work

In general, pushups of all variations target a combination of muscles in your upper body, including:

  • Biceps;
  • Triceps;
  • Pectorals;
  • Deltoids;
  • Upper and lower back muscles;
  • Abdominals.

The classic pushup starts with your body in an upright plank position 

with your palms on the ground directly beneath your shoulders, back straight, and the balls of your feet on the ground. You then lower your body to the ground, keeping your elbows tight to your body, then push back up to the starting plank position.

In addition, there are also many pushup variations that you can add to your workout routine if you want to specifically target different muscle groups and add more of a challenge to your workout.

Muscles worked by diamond pushups

Diamond pushups are variations in which you form a diamond with your thumbs and index fingers. Bringing your hands into this close stance directly beneath your upper chest makes diamond pushups great for 

targeting your:

  • Triceps;
  • Chest;
  • Shoulders.

Diamond pushup tweaks for beginners: Start on your knees before advancing to a full plank.

Advanced diamond pushup tweaks: Diamond pushups are already fairly advanced, but you can make it even more challenging by holding your position on the decline for a few seconds before pushing back up. For a real isolation challenge, try one-armed pushups!

Muscles worked by incline pushups

Incline pushups are performed by bracing your arms on an elevated surface like a workout bench or exercise box. The muscles most specifically targeted by incline pushups include:

  • Chest;
  • Core.

Incline pushup tweaks for beginners: Start on your knees, or use a moderate incline, like a smaller exercise box, before progressing to higher elevations.

Incline pushup tweaks for advanced exercisers: Bring your arms closer together beneath your chest to engage your triceps. You can also brace your hands on a stability ball to challenge your core muscles.

Muscles worked by decline pushups

Decline pushups involve bracing your hands against a lower surface than the rest of your body (i.e. your hands are on the ground, but your feet are on a bench). The muscles worked by decline pushups include:

  • Core;
  • Shoulders;
  • Chest;
  • Arms.

Decline pushup tweaks for beginners: Decline pushups are an advanced exercise, so it’s important to master your regular pushup form to make sure you can keep your back straight throughout the exercise. When you’re ready to add a decline variation into your routine, start with a slight decline like a low box, or brace your shins against the elevated surface rather than your feet.

Decline pushup tweaks for advanced exercisers: Try bracing only one leg on your elevated surface to get your core even more involved.


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