Muscles Targeted:

If you’re looking for an excellent bodyweight exercise that really works your chest, then pushups are perfect for you. The pushup exercise targets the pectoralis major as the primary muscle group and it also works the deltoids and triceps as secondary muscles. Pushups also really work your core muscles of your abdominals and lower back since you need to stabilise yourself with these muscles during the movement.

Depending on the hand position, you can target and place more stress on different muscle groups. If you take a very narrow grip and keep your elbows in during the movement, you will placing more emphasis on the triceps muscles. If you take a normal shoulder width hand position and let your elbows come out away from your body, then you will target more of the chest region when doing the pushup exercise. Your shoulders, especially your front deltoids, will always be worked when doing pushups due to the range of motion of the exercise.

Exercise Advice:

  • Get on your knees and place your hands on the floor in line with your shoulders, your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Contracting your core, straighten your legs to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  • Keeping your elbows close to the sides of your torso, bend your elbows to lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.
  • Pause, then push yourself to the starting position.

Things To Avoid:

A few very important things to avoid when doing this exercise is keeping your back flat and lowering yourself to the proper position on the eccentric (bottom) portion of this exercise. It’s very easy to let your back either arch or roll when doing pushups. Pushups actually really work your core muscles since you need to stabilise your abs and lower back during the range of motion.

Try to really work on keeping a level and flat back when you lower and raise yourself and if you can do them in front of a mirror, it will really help to visually see if you’re getting in the correct position. Also, when lowering yourself to the bottom position, its important to go all the way down until your chest touches the floor. By not going down low enough, you will not be able to get the maximum stretch in your pecs which limits your overall growth in the muscle.

You want to maximise the range of motion in order to get the most out of the pushup exercise. So, doing full pushups where you go all the way down and back up is the correct technique you want to follow when doing pushups.

Another thing you want to avoid is an incorrect elbow position during the pushups. If your main goal is to build your chest, then you want to avoid keeping your elbows close into your sides when doing pushups.

This places the most stress on your triceps muscles and not your chest. In order to maximise the stress on your chest, keep your elbows out and away from your sides.You will easily feel the difference in what muscle group is targeted when trying both variations.

Reps and Sets:

To build strength and muscle definition in your chest, try to focus on higher reps with the pushup exercise. Since pushups are a bodyweight exercise, you will not be able to build a large amount of muscle mass in your pecs but pushups will give you a toned and hard look to your pecs.

In order to build a lot of lean muscle mass and really pack on bulk in your upper body, you need to force your muscles to work by overloading them with a lot of weight, as you would do with the barbell bench press which is an excellent mass builder for the upper body. For pushups, your goal should be to do 15-50 reps per set depending on your strength levels.

Do 5-8 sets of pushups if that is the only exercise in your chest workout. For a great finishing exercise, add pushups to the end of your mass building chest workout and leave it as a “finishing” exercise after doing bench press and other mass building exercises.