Blog Fitness Push-Up Muscle Groups To Tone Up Your Upper Body

Push-Up Muscle Groups To Tone Up Your Upper Body

Doing push-ups is no easy feat, especially for beginners. Still, this workout is worth your time and energy as different push-up muscle groups are utilized during the process. Incorporating push-ups into your sporting regime means making your upper body stronger, toned, and visually attractive. Besides, everyday activities like carrying heavy groceries or lifting things eventually become easier because your upper body muscles are stronger. That’s why neglecting this exercise will be a mistake for bodybuilders who want to boast bulky muscles or individuals whose aim is to show off toned arms. Make sure to engage these push-up muscle groups to tone up your upper body. This article details push-up muscle groups worked, mistakes to avoid, and how to perform push-ups with the correct technique.


What Targeted Muscle Groups Are Used In A Push-Up?

Push-ups and muscle groups engage play a big role in the development of your fitness levels. The stronger you become, the more challenging activities you are able to execute. This makes your sporting goals attainable and loads you with motivation for action. 

During push-ups, upper body muscles do most of the work

These muscles are: 

  • chest muscle group, including the pectoralis minor and the pectoralis major
  • upper and middle back muscles, including rhomboids, trapeze muscles, and the latissimus dorsi
  • shoulder muscle group, including the deltoid major and deltoid minor
  • biceps, at the front of the upper arm
  • triceps, at the back of the upper arm
  • serratus anterior, situated on the side of the chest beneath the upper arm (4)
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These are not the only targeted muscle groups in push-up variations since push-ups engage many other muscles to keep the body in a rigid plank position. 

These muscles may include:

  • abdominal or core muscles
  • lower back muscles
  • gluteus medius and maximus, which are the buttocks muscles
  • leg muscles, including the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and shin muscles (4)

Read More: How Many Push-Ups Should I Do To Get My Body In Tip Top Shape?

How To Work The Same Muscle Groups As A Push-Up?

You can work on the same muscle groups as a push-up by integrating different push-up variations. There are 4 common push-up variations that can help you engage different muscle groups simultaneously. 

These are:

  • Decline push-ups. The decline variation means placing your feet on the elevated surface while your hands are on the ground. This puts more tension on the chest muscles, making the movement slightly harder. Additionally, this variation targets the upper pectoralis, more than a standard push-up.
  • Incline push-ups. The incline push-up variation involves your hands being slightly elevated on a weight bench, a sturdy chair, a step-up platform, a bench, or something similar. This variation is easier on your upper body as it reduces the resistance slightly. It targets your lower chest muscles and your arms. 
  • Clap push-ups. The clap push-up is one of the most challenging types of push-up. Only experienced sportsmen or powerful gymgoers should try this variation. Muscles worked during this type of push-up are shoulders, chest, and arms. To perform a clap push-up, you breathe as you are pushing down to the ground, and then breathe out by lifting your hands off the floor and clapping (4).
  • Wide push-ups. The wide push-up is a tad different from the standard push-up. It involves widening the distance between the hands, which places more pressure on the chest muscles. Besides the chest, you also work out your shoulders and back muscles (4).
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push up muscle groups

What Muscles Do Weighted Push-Ups Work? 

Weighted push-ups are a fundamental exercise for growing muscles and enhancing muscle strength. Unlike other types of push-ups, you execute weighted push-ups with an increased level of intensity. Adding weight to the traditional bodyweight exercise by placing a weight plate on your lower back or wearing a weighted vest helps you build muscle in your upper body. 

Weighted push-up muscle groups include shoulders, chest, and core. 

To perform a Weighted Push-Up, you’ll need to: 

  1. Get in a plank position with your legs hip-width apart or slightly wider.
  2. Engage your core – pre-tension your shoulders and hips while engaging your core.
  3. Squeeze your quads and glutes. Keep your chin tucked. 
  4. Once in a strong position, have someone gently place a weight plate on your lower to mid-back. Make sure that the weight plate is in a stable position before beginning the push-up.
  5. Pull your chest toward your hands by bending your elbows while maintaining your alignment and a strong core. 
  6. Lower your body, maintaining your elbows at 45 degrees away from your body and your wrists under your elbows.
  7. Pause for a second at the bottom.
  8. Push back up slowly to the starting position and finish the movement by squeezing your chest and triceps. 
  9. Repeat for your desired number of repetitions.
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How Many Push-Ups A Day For Muscle Growth?

The answer to this question depends on the fitness levels of each person. Amateurs can start with 4-5 push-ups for 3-4 sets and upgrade weekly to greater numbers. 

Advanced athletes yearning to build muscle can aim for 20 push-ups for 4 sets. 

Your perfect number is characterized by the difficulty to perform the last 2-3 repetitions. When it becomes too hard, you can stop and take a break. 

Doing push-ups daily is linked to several benefits, such as: 

  • Increased joint support
  • Improved muscle strength and tone
  • Promoted cardiovascular health (3)

However, there is a flip side of daily push-ups bringing pitfalls, such as: 

  • Back pain
  • Wrist pain
  • Elbow injury (3)

The truth is, our body requires rest. This promotes recovery and enhanced physical performance. Additionally, studies suggest that our body needs at least 48 hours for recovery during resistance training. Thus, people are advised to do push-ups every 2-3 days instead of daily.

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push up muscle groups

How To Do A Push-Up Properly? 

The proper technique is essential because it helps you get all the benefits from the exercise and avoid injuries. Besides, the faster you learn to do ordinary push-ups properly, the quicker you’ll switch to its challenging versions. Spoiler alert: there are plenty of them and they’re suitable for different fitness levels. 

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Here’s how you do an ordinary push-up:

  1. Start in a plank position, creating a straight line with your body. Place your palms flat on the ground with your arms straight, in line with your shoulders. 
  2. Keep your feet together maintaining your weight on the balls of your feet. 
  3. Make sure your back is straight and your weight is spread out throughout your body.  
  4. Look down as you do your push-up, keeping your spine in line from your neck all the way down. 
  5. Lower your body toward the ground gently until your elbows are at 90-degree angles. Then push back up to a plank position. 
  6. Lower slowly and push up quickly. When you begin, try taking 2 seconds to lower and then 1 second to push up (2).

What Mistakes To Avoid During Push-Ups? 

Being effective and rather simple (not easy, but simple), push-ups can help you build muscle strength, improve your posture, and even make you more flexible. Your daily actions will become easier to carry out if you incorporate push-ups into your routine today. 

Still, often individuals rather make mistakes that can bring harm than give benefits and joy. 

In a moment, you’ll learn the top mistakes to avoid during push-ups. The golden combination says, “Proper technique plus more challenging movements equals a fit and toned body”.


  • Let your back sag. By sagging, you lose energy in your target muscles, which may cause stress to your lower back and joints. 
  • Round your back. Rolling your back can lead to severe pain and, therefore, make you weaker for further challenges. 
  • Move too fast. Descending or ascending too fast can cause you to lose tightness in the working muscles. This spoils the effectiveness and results in form breakdown. 
  • Continue if you feel pain. This is probably the most common mistake. You have nagging feelings in your arms or back and still carry on the movements. The reality is, you won’t get positive results with through-pain push-ups. Firstly, during any arching, you’re more likely to impair your technique. Secondly, end up with consequences that can deprive you of sports activities for a long time. Therefore, in case of any problem, stop the workout and talk to your physician.
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Read More: 6 Scientifically-Backed Push-Up Benefits For A Toned And Stronger Body

The Bottom Line

Push-ups are an effective, muscle-building activity that works out versatile muscle groups, such as the chest, upper and middle back, lower back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, glutes, legs, and core. Engage these push-up muscle groups to tone up your upper body. 

Beginners can start their push-up routine with simple versions, such as incline or wall push-ups. Then, gradually move to difficult variations – clap, decline, or wide push-ups. 

Doing push-ups daily can bring benefits, and at the same time cause a number of risks. Taking a break helps muscle recovery, therefore, enhancing your athletic performance. 

Correct technique presupposes body alignment, normal speed, and contacting a doctor in case of any irritating pain.



This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Effects of Different Between Test Rest Intervals in Reproducibility of the 10-Repetition Maximum Load Test: A Pilot Study with Recreationally Resistance Trained Men (2019,
  2. Health Benefits of Push-Ups (2021,
  3. What happens if you do pushups every day? (2019,
  4. Which muscles do pushups work? (2018,
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