Push-ups - a basic exercise for your training

Push-ups to train upper body

Push-ups: Targeted muscle groups

Push-ups are among the most popular exercises at the gym and are also perfect for a home workout. Push-ups are suitable for beginners as well as for advanced.

Primarily targeted muscle groups:

  • Large pectoral muscle
  • Anterior part of the deltoid muscle
  • Triceps

Secondary muscle groups used:

  • Anconeus muscle
  • Core muscles

This exercise can be easily integrated into any extensive upper body workout, but is especially suitable for chest training, back training and abdominal training.

Correct execution of push-ups

Push-Up Exercise

The correct execution of push-ups is similar to that of the bench press except that you are pushing your body upwards rather than a barbell.

To find the right sit-up position, get down on your knees and place your hands flat on the floor at chest level. Your fingertips should be pointing forwards and slightly outwards. If you experience wrist pain during push-ups, you can use push-up grips to increase the range of movement and at the same time avoid wrist pain due to lack of mobility or the arthrokinetic reflex. The distance between your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width, so that your palms are in line with your chest muscles. Position your arms as close as possible to your body. Then stretch one leg after the other backwards. The distance between your legs should be about the width of your hips and shoulders. Your legs, your upper body and your head should form a straight line. Make sure that you neither push your bottom upwards nor let your hips sag.

Once you have found the correct starting position and your body is tense, lower your body down. While doing so, keep your body tense and bend only at the elbow joint. The work should be done entirely by your chest and arms. The downward movement should end when your nose almost touches the ground. Then push yourself up again until your arms are extended. Your whole body should move as one unit. The downward movement should be slow and controlled, and the upward movement dynamic. Inhale during the downward movement and exhale during the upward movement.

Weight recommendation for push-ups

Weights for Exercising

Push-ups are usually performed using one’s own body weight. Advanced users can make it harder by putting additional weights in a rucksack / weight vest / weight plate on their lower back or put their feet on a bench or chair so that they have further to move to the floor.

Equipment for push-ups

No equipment is necessary.

Variations of push-ups

Repetitions and Exercises

Diamond push-ups

Diamond push-ups put particular load on your triceps. Instead of positiong your hands at shoulder width, you form a diamond or triangle with your fingertips at chest level. Keep your elbows and upper arms close to your body and do not let them move outwards.

One-armed push-ups

The design of the one-armed push-up is similar to the classic push-up, the difference being that you cross one arm behind your back and place your feet further apart. To avoid any imbalances, you should always do the same number of repetitions on each arm.

"Girl push-ups"

This variant is especially suitable for beginners, because you stay on your knees. This position puts significantly less force on your chest and arm muscles and your abdominal muscles are also less strained. Nevertheless, it helps you get accustomed to the push-up movement.

Push-ups with claps

The execution of this variation is similar to that of the classic push-up but after the downward movement, you push yourself firmly off the floor to clap your hands briefly in the air in front of your chest before lowering your body again. With these push-ups you are allowed to work with a little more speed.

Typical mistakes with push-ups

Equipment and Exercising
  • Letting yourself drop: the downward movement should be slow and controlled. You should take at least 2 seconds for each repetition.
  • Doing half reps: a half or incorrectly performed push-up increases the risk of injury and is only slightly effective. You should not stop halfway, but lower your body to about 1 cm above the floor. If you can not yet manage a complete repetition, it is more benefical to start with girl push-ups and work your way up to full push-ups.
  • Your upper and lower body do not form a straight line: frequent postural errors include a pelvis that is too high, too low or an incorrect head posture. Remember to build up tension in your whole body so that your legs, upper body and head form a straight line. The reason for wrong posture is often weak abdominal muscles, which you should then train specifically.
  • Wrong hand position: during a classic push-up your fingers should neither point inwards nor too far outwards, because this causes the shoulder joint to rotate in the socket, other muscles are activated and the risk of incorrect movement and injuries increases.
  • Wrong arm position: beginners in particular often position their upper arms at a 90° angle to their upper body when doing push-ups (elbows then go outwards during the downward movement), as this usually feels a little stronger. This way the chest muscles are used more actively and the shoulders can only be stretched to a certain point. From this point on, the passive musculoskeletal system helps you to get back up with a swing. As a result, your triceps are much less involved and instead your shoulders are unnecessarily stressed. This mistake often leads to impingement syndrome.

In which training plans are push-ups included?

However, you can incorporate push-ups into any full-body workout and they also serve well as a warm-up exercise. If you want to learn more about training and how to optimally integrate push-ups into your plan, take a look at our pages about chest training, abdominal training and back training.

Frequently asked questions

Primarily targeted muscle groups:

  • Large pectoral muscle
  • Anterior part of the deltoid muscle
  • Triceps

Secondary muscle groups used:

  • Anconeus muscle
  • Core muscles

Push-ups should be included in your training plan at least 3 times a week. You will achieve the best results with a high training frequency.

Make sure that you go down low enough with each repetition and that your head, legs and back always form a straight line.

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