What muscles work with the perfect pushup?

Updated May 10, 2017

If you want a strong upper body, then try incorporating push-ups into your routine. Most people are familiar with the military-style push ups done on the floor. However, this is not the only way to do a push-up and work your upper body. There are variations on the push-up exercise, and each one emphasises different muscles. Another variation is done with handles that are placed on the floor. These handles turn to help give you a better workout and to take pressure off of the wrists.


A perfect push-up is one in which you have your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees up off the floor. Your feet are about hip-width apart. You lower down so that your nose, knees and toes all touch the ground at the same time. You can also use special handles.

Major Muscles Used

All variations on the push-up work the chest muscles and the triceps, which are located in the back top of the arm. Your chest or pectoral muscles work to make your shoulders come forward when lifting and lowering during a push-up. The triceps muscles work to straighten the arm from a bent position.

Minor Muscles Used

Other muscles that support the push-up movement are the deltoids, which are located in the shoulder. The deltoids mainly work to stabilise your arms during a push-up. Your latissimus dorsi muscle, which is a large muscle in your back, is also working in order to keep your back straight.

Elevated Push-Ups

If you are looking for a challenge, try placing your feet up on a bench and doing an inclined push-up. This places the focus on the middle of the chest, frontal deltoids and forearms. They can be done with or without the special handles that are placed on the ground.

Wide Arm Push-Ups

For another variation, place your palms wide apart and turn your hands so the fingers point away from each other. This variation works the outer part of the chest muscles more. This version is not as easy if using the special handles that are placed on the ground.

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About the Author

I hold a Master's degree in exercise physiology/health promotion. I am a certified fitness specialist through the American College of Spots Medicine and an IYT certified yoga teacher. I have over 25 years experience teaching classes to both general public and those with chronic illness. The above allows me to write directly to the reader based on personal experiences.