Push-Ups – CrossFit Exercise Guide with Photos and Instructions


Muscles Targeted: Push-ups are one of the simplest yet one of the most beneficial bodyweight exercises that can be performed virtually anywhere in order to gain both strength and size in the upper body. While performing push-ups, you will be using your own body weight without the need for any equipment or machines. The upper body and the core work together while performing this exercise and the key muscles utilized include:

Primary Muscles – Pectoralis Major
These are the primary muscles that the push-up targets. The pectoralis major muscles, more specifically the muscles called sternal heads, make up the bulk of the chest. The pectoralis major muscles are commonly referred to as “pecs” and they are the primary muscles targeted when doing this pressing movement. Having strength in the pecs helps you perform a variety of movements which includes the internal rotation and extension of your shoulder.

Push-Ups – Normal Version

Synergistic or “Secondary” Muscles
Push-ups also target three synergistic muscles:

  • The clavicular heads of the pectoralis major muscles.
  • The anterior deltoid muscles.
  • The triceps brachii muscles located on the back of the upper arm.

While performing push-ups, these synergistic muscles are the ones that help in performing the overall movement. During the push-up, when you are pushing the body away from the floor, the triceps are being engaged and work as secondary muscles to help propel you upwards.

Push-Ups – Modified Version

Stabilizing Muscles
As mentioned previously, the push-up is an exercise where several muscle groups come into play and various muscles are required for stabilizing the body. The stabilizing muscles are as follows:

  • The rectus abdominis (the abdominals).
  • Obliques (located along the sides of the torso).

The above mentioned stabilizing muscles contract during the push-up exercise. The abs and obliques are contracted during push-ups in order to keep the back straight.

Other Muscles
Some of the other muscles that help in performing push-ups are the biceps brachii which are the muscles found on the front of the upper arm and the erector spinae muscles which are found along the spine. During the push-up, the biceps act as a dynamic stabilizer while the erector spinae muscles act as an antagonist stabilizer. Both of these muscles help when executing a push-up.

Exercise Instructions: When it comes to performing push-ups, form is very important because they need to be done properly to get the most out of the exercise while staying safe. The steps to perform a correct push-up are as follows:

  • When down on the ground, your hands should be at a distance slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • The feet should stabilized and secure on the ground with the toes touching the floor.
  • The entire body should form a straight line with no arching or hunching in the back.

Things To Be Avoided: Performing any exercise incorrectly increases the chance of injuries. While performing push-ups these things should be avoided:

  • Do not arch the body. Keep your back flat and your entire body in a straight line.
  • Don’t cheat and perform half reps. One should always use a full range of motion.
  • Don’t hold your breath. Inhale on the way down and exhale when pressing the body back up.

Reps and Sets: While performing push-ups, beginners can start with 1-2 sets of 10-15 repetitions. From there, you can slowly work your way up to more sets and reps but make sure that your form is spot-on. Also make sure to rest for 60-120 seconds in between sets in order to allow your muscles to completely recover.

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