What muscles do push ups work?
The push up is only one exercise you might think, how good can it be? The answer is that push-ups alone can start you on the path to weight loss and fitness. The reasons are that:
- you can do push-ups anywhere
- therefore, you can do push-ups in your home, office, and do not need to join a gym
- the push-up is a mainstay in any fitness-assessment test because it is an excellent indicator of upper body strength and fitness
- Whether it is the United States Marine Corps or any high school gym in America, push-ups are a go-to exercise to build upper body strength
- As soon as you start doing push-ups, you are more likely to want to eat the right foods that will keep making you leaner and stronger
When you are overweight or obese, you might be too embarrassed to go to the gym, especially in the free weight area. So you can start doing push-ups in the privacy of your home. Even if you live in a studio apartment, you will find enough floor space to do push-ups.
This post will illustrate which muscles you can build by adding push-ups to your strength training regimen.
Push-ups muscles worked include:
- Chest muscles
- Shoulder muscles
- Arm muscles
- Serratus anterior
- Abdominal muscles, your core
- Back muscles – upper and lower
- Gluteal and leg muscles
Let's dive into the main push-ups muscles worked in greater detail:
#1. Chest Muscles
- Pectoralis major
- Pectoralis minor which is underneath the pectoralis major muscle
#2. Shoulder Muscles
- Deltoids, especially targeting your anterior deltoids.
- In the image below, you can see an illustration of your deltoids:
- red is for your anterior (front) deltoids
- green shows your medial deltoids
- and blue depicts your posterior deltoids.
#3. Arm muscles
- Triceps brachii, aka triceps, the back of your arms
- Biceps, the front of your arms
#4. Serratus Anterior muscle
- superior section
- medial section
- inferior section
The serratus anterior often called the boxer's muscle, is a muscle that originates on the ribs and enables you to extend your arms forward, as in a punch. It allows the protraction of the scapula, which allows you to pull your scapula forward and around the rib cage.
#5. Abdominal Muscles
- Rectus abdominis
- Transverse abdominis
- internal obliques
- external obliques
- Serratus anterior
You strengthen your abdominal muscles by bracing them tight to keep your body straight while gravity is pulling you down towards the ground.
#6. Upper and lower back muscles
- Erector spinae muscles
- Longissimus, and
- Trapezius muscles
- Latissimus dorsi muscles
One of the main muscle groups engaged in the push up is the erector spinae muscles.
These are powerful muscles, which help you to bend forward as well as return to a standing position. The spinal erectors run down your back, from the base of your skull to the lower vertebrae.
The Erector Spinae muscles keep your back rigid while holding a plank position, keeping your body straight throughout the push-up.
Push-ups also activate the trapezius, rhomboid and latissimus dorsi muscles of your upper back.
#7. Gluteal and Leg Muscles
- Gluteus maximus
- Gluteus medius
To keep your legs straight while doing push-ups, you need to engage the quadriceps, and stabilize a plank position with your glutes.
The Power of One Push-Up
Once you start training, as in walking 30 minutes a day, doing squats, deadlifts, or even doing one push-up, you will not want to ruin your workout with processed food, which is one of the main culprits why 75 percent of adults over 20 are overweight or obese in the United States.
Squats and deadlifts work your posterior chain hard, the entire back half of your body, and leg muscles. Pushups require strong upper arms and chest muscles and work the front half of your body, your mirror muscles, the ones you can see in a mirror.
Between walking for cardiorespiratory endurance, squats for complete leg development plus your glutes and abs, and deadlifts for your hamstrings and back, you can achieve a total body transformation.
There are many pushup variations, such as:
- fingertip push-ups
- handstand push-ups aka inverted push-ups
- triangle push-ups aka diamond push-ups
- pike push-ups
- incline push-ups
- decline push-ups
- diamond push-ups
- TRX push-ups
- plyometric push-ups
But all you need to do is the standard pushup with the best form possible to get started on your body transformation.
Pushups Muscles Worked – Final Thoughts
I think you would agree that an exercise you can do anywhere there is a floor has a lot going for it, and that is only one of the powerful benefits of push-ups for an athlete or wannabe athlete at any age.
Push-ups are used as a standard fitness assessment test and for building muscle all over the world. For example, see the IFA Pushup Test:
International Fitness Association's (IFA) Classic Push Up Test¹:
- Starting position – lie on the floor in a prone position
- Bending your elbows with your hands pointed forward and directly under your shoulders
- Your hands should be shoulder-width apart
- Start with the chin touching the floor, then
- Perform push-ups by pressing against the floor to lift your body weight and straightening the arms
- Maintain a straight body plank position throughout your push-ups
- For men, your legs should be extended out and positioned together with only your feet touching the ground.
- For women, the upper leg should be straight out, and your knees are touching the floor.
- There is no time limit for this test.
- Do as many push-ups using a perfect push up position as you can.
- Stop the test when you start straining.
- Get your push up rating from the table below:
In the beginning, I could not do even one push up. The simple push-up, along with squats, deadlifts, walking, and real food, will help you transform your body in only six months, even if you are obese today.
If you want to lose weight and transform your body, here are the next articles to read and take action:
- How to Lose 20 Pounds in 3 Months Using 5 Simple Steps
- 27 Sensational Ways How Deadlifts Change Your Body
- 20 Greatest Benefits of Squats; The King of Free Weight Strength Training
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