What Do Push-Ups Do to Your Body?

Push-ups are a full body calisthenic exercise that you can perform anywhere. What do push-ups work? In addition to targeting your arms, shoulders and chest, they also activate your core and work muscles in your legs.

Push ups are a great full body calisthenic exercise.
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Push-ups primarily target your chest and triceps but also activate your biceps, quads and core muscles. Without proper form, push-ups may also cause damage to your body. Rotator cuff injuries may result from overuse and incorrect push-up technique.

What Do Push-Ups Work?

Push-ups primarily target the pectoralis major muscle in your chest, according to ExRx.net. However, you also use several other muscles as well. Synergist muscles, those that work to assist the pectorals, include the deltoid and the triceps.

You also activate several stabilizer muscles that support your posture and form throughout the exercise. These include your biceps muscles in your arms and your quadriceps in your legs. Your core is also supported by your obliques and rectus abdominis muscles in your abs and the erector spinae muscles in your back.

Read more: What Muscles Are Used in Push-Up Exercises?

Push-ups are a strength-training exercise that may also offer other health benefits for your body. A study published in JAMA Network Open in 2019, showed that adult men who could complete 40 or more consecutive push-ups significantly decreased their risk of cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years compared to men who could complete less than 10 push-ups.

Proper Form and Variations

So, how many push-ups should you do in a day? This depends on your physical condition and health. When starting a push-up workout, be sure to start with low repetitions and easier variations if necessary and build up your reps slowly.

When performing a push-up, begin in a plank position with hands placed slightly wider than shoulder width. Bend your arms to lower your body, then straighten to the starting position. Keep your entire body straight throughout the movement.

If this is too difficult, try push-up variations. Lessen the resistance by lowering your knees to the floor or placing your hands on a bench or other elevated surface. You can also increase the intensity by elevating your feet or adding weight to increase resistance.

You can also change your hand position to target different muscles. For example, by positioning your hands under your shoulders or slightly narrower, you primarily work your triceps muscle rather than the pectoralis major, advises ExRx.net.

Read more: 10 Different Types of Push-Ups

The repetitive motion of push-ups may cause injury to the rotator cuff, advises Harvard Health Publishing. This may include tendonitis or a tear in the rotator cuff or shoulder bursitis. These conditions may cause pain in your shoulder and upper arm and limit your range of motion in the shoulder joint.

Consult your doctor if you experience pain as untreated injuries may worsen over time and may require surgery in severe cases.


Doing push-ups with improper form or without giving your body time to rest and recover may lead to overuse injuries in your joints and muscles. Stop and consult your doctor if you experience pain when doing push-ups.

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