Need a great at-home workout that’ll build your arms and chest? Look no further than to the push up. It’s a classic, simple move that reaps so many benefits for your upper body so you don’t have to worry about losing any of your gains.
Push-ups can be an effective exercise to build arms and chest even without the gym or with hardly any equipment. There are so many different variations of this one exercise that it can target your entire upper body, helping you build muscle and strength in your arms and chest right at home.
If you want more than just a push-up workout to build your upper body, then try 3 free workouts on Fitbod. You don’t need any equipment, just you and your motivation to get those gains, so check it out to get started.
Push Up Technique For Bigger Arms & Chest
First, let’s go over the correct form for the standard push up. It’s important to know the technique for a basic push up and use this as the foundation every time you do this movement, even if you’re doing a variation of it.
Your hands should be shoulder-width apart or a little further apart depending on how your body feels, as well as your feet.
Your fingers should be facing forwards.
The length of your body will be in a straight line from head to toe. To do this, make sure you’re not letting your hips sink to the floor so your body is dipping in the middle.
Also, make sure that you’re not sticking your bum up in the air. Everything should be in a straight line. Your starting push up position should look like a solid plank on your hands instead of your elbows.
Now, engage your core, glutes and hamstrings. This will help keep your back flat and your spine neutral.
Bend at your elbows. The angle of the bend changes depending on the variation you use, but for the standard push up, make sure that they are around a 45-degree angle.
Lower yourself, as far as you can go while keeping your form, aiming go low enough to at least make sure your elbows are in line with your shoulders.
Then, push yourself back up, making sure that you’re still activating those ab muscles until your arms are fully extended again and you’re back in the starting position.
Related Article: How Many Exercises Make An Effective Arm Workout?
Different Types of Push Ups You Can Do At-Home
However, there are different variations of the push-ups that each have a different dominant arm and chest muscle that it targets, so if you want a well-rounded upper body workout, make sure that you’re including multiple push up exercises to your at-home routine..
WIDE GRIP PUSH UP
Dominant muscle worked: shoulders
The wide grip push up means exactly what the name stipulates—a push up with a wider grip. To do this move, get into the standard push up position, except move your hands out so there is more distance between them. As you lower yourself, your elbows should be around 45-degrees again.
CLOSE GRIP PUSH UP
Dominant muscle worked: triceps
The close grip push up is similar to the standard push up as well. This time though, you’re going to be bringing your hands closer together so that the width between them is quite narrow. When you bring yourself to the ground, keep your elbows tucked in quite close to your body. They should be right next to your torso so we’re making sure that it’s your triceps that’s doing most of the work, not your chest.
Related Article: Can You Build A Chest Without Bench Press?
DIAMOND PUSH UP
Dominant muscle worked: triceps and chest
In this push up variation, you begin in your standard push up form with your back straight and legs engaged. However, your hands are going to join together with both your index fingers touching each other as well as your thumbs, creating a diamond-shape. Then do the push up from there.
PIKE PUSH UP
Dominant muscle worked: shoulders
The pike push up goes against the standard push up form, starting in a downward dog position. Your hips will be in the air with your hands and feet just slightly wider than shoulder-width. Your arms are slightly in front of you. You will look like an upside-V, forming a triangle with the ground.
In a slow and controlled movement, lower your head to the ground until it touches it, bending the elbows at a 90-degree angle. Then lift back up again to your starting position.
Related Article: Should You Train Chest And Triceps Together?
INCLINE PUSH UP
Dominant muscle worked: Lower chest and triceps
If you want to stay on your toes, then instead, change the weight distribution of the push up so that you’re still getting that full range of motion but in a way that’s more accessible for you. This is where incline push ups come in. Your upper body should be elevated so that you’re still in a straight line but your upper body is higher than your lower body. You can grab a chair, table, bench or anything else that gives you that extra height. Then complete the push up but with your hands on this higher surface.
DECLINE PUSH UP
Dominant muscle worked: Upper chest and shoulders
Just as you would adjust the weight distribution of the push up to make it easier in the incline, we can change it to make it more difficult. For the decline push up, you’re going to be using a table, bench or chair to elevate your lower body so that it’s at a higher level than your upper body which will still be on the ground surface. This will load more weight to your upper body to use in push ups. What this does as well is changes the target muscles from the lower chest and triceps to the upper chest and shoulders.
Related Article: Rep Ranges For Arm Workouts (Ultimate Guide)
How To Make Pushups Easier
If you need to make push ups easier, whether it’s the standard push up or any variation of it, here are some ways to do that (including the incline push up we’ve already talked about):
USE YOUR KNEES
Instead of starting the push up on your toes, try using your knees instead. This will lighten the load weight on your upper body as you do your push ups. Just be sure that your body is still in a straight line while you do them.
FOCUS ON THE NEGATIVE MOVEMENT
Negatives refer to slowing down the lowering (eccentric) phase of a movement. In this case, this means the part of the push up where you lower yourself to the ground.
To do this, control your eccentric movements but you don’t have to push yourself up using just your strength.
Instead, you can drop your knees to the floor and then make it easier for you to get back up to the starting position. By focusing on the negative movement, you’ll still work those arm and chest muscles in a beginner-friendly way.
Related Article: The At Home Shoulder Workout You Can Do With No Weight
How To Make Push Ups Harder
If you’re quite advanced at push ups, then you’ll be looking for ways to make it more challenging. Alongside the decline push up which was mentioned above, here are some other ways on how to do that:
USE PUSH UP BARS
You may have seen little handles or bars that people use to do their push ups on. While it’s not necessary to use them for push ups, incorporating them in your push up workout can make them harder and more challenging.
This is because the elevated handles allow you to access a longer ROM (range of motion) so that you can actually lower yourself more than you would if you were just using the ground level. There are also some push up bars that can rotate. This will force you to engage your core more to keep stable.
BALANCE ON FOAM ROLLERS
Using foam rollers in your push up routine also adds a challenge in terms of balance and stability, in addition to the typical push up demands.
You can use foam rollers two ways:
The first is by actually balancing on a foam roller with your feet. Not only will your lower body be slightly elevated but you will also need to stay stable as you lower yourself and push yourself back up.
The other way you can include foam rollers to your at-home push up workout is by getting two of them and using them to place your hands on (one for each hand). This way puts the need for stability on your upper body this time rather than your lower body. They are also a great alternative if you don’t have rotating push up bars.
MAKE IT EXPLOSIVE
If the standard push up variations are too easy, then consider making this movement dynamic. This is where plyometric push ups come in. They require explosive speed and power as you need to push yourself up completely off the ground, adding in a jump and then landing safely. If you want to make it harder, then you can also clap your hands together when you’re midair.
Related Article: 11 Compound Exercises For Arms (Plus, Sample Workout)
Sample Push Up Workout
Here is a sample push up workout to help get you started that will target your chest, shoulders and triceps. Do 3 rounds of each exercise for a total of 45 seconds each, completing as many reps as possible. For each round, try to do more reps for that push up than you did the previous round, while still maintaining good form.
Decline Push Up
Wide Grip Push Up
Close Grip Push Up
Pike Push Up
To create the ultimate at-home push up workout to build arms and chest, choose variations from this list to hit every muscle in the upper body. Doing so will encourage muscle and strength growth right in your own home and with no or minimal equipment.
About The Author
As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.