A Description of a Push-Up

Athlete doing Push-ups

The push-up is a very common strength training exercise that is used by an array of individuals interested in improving their strength, including members of the military, bodybuilders and general fitness participants. Completing push-ups is effective at developing upper body strength. There are options that all strength levels can incorporate to make the exercise easier or more difficult.

Muscles Involved

When you’re completing a push-up, the primary muscles that are controlling you as you lower down and push back up to starting position are your chest muscles, or pectoralis major and minor. Also involved are the shoulder muscles, or deltoids, of both arms, and your triceps. Your abdominals must also contract in order to hold your torso in a firm position and prevent it from sagging towards the floor.


Gravity’s pull on your own body weight provides the resistance needed to develop your chest, shoulder and triceps. Place your hands on the floor so they’re slightly outside shoulder-width. Spread your fingers slightly out and have them pointed forward. Raise up onto your toes so that all of your body weight is on your hands and your feet. Contract your abdominals to keep your torso in a straight line and prevent arching your back or pointing your bottom in the air. Bend your elbows and lower your chest down toward the floor. Once your elbows bend slightly beyond 90 degrees, push off the floor and extend them so that you return to starting position.


There are options for those who find push-ups too difficult or for those who need to increase their intensity. If you’re unable to complete a push-up, you can complete them from your knees instead of your toes. Get up into a push-up position and then lower your knees down to the floor so that your torso is still in a straight line with your thighs. You can also have your feet remain on the floor and place your hands on a bench, so that you’re at an incline position. If you want to increase the difficulty of the regular push-up, you can place your feet up onto a bench, which will increase the amount of body weight placed on your arms. To add an instability element to the exercise, place your feet on an exercise ball while completing push-ups.


It’s not abnormal for some to have wrist pain from completing push-ups regularly. There is an unusual amount of stress placed on your wrists by your body weight when you do a push-up. There are push-up handles available for those who have pain problems. These handles allow your wrist joints to remain in a neutral position while you complete a push-up.