Open Access Articles- Top Results for Push-up


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Animation of a full push-up (the wide positioning of the hands increases the push-up's use of chest muscles as opposed to arm muscles)
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Side view of a push-up

A push-up (or press-up) is a common calisthenics exercise performed in a prone position by raising and lowering the body using the arms. Push-ups exercise the pectoral muscles, triceps, and anterior deltoids, with ancillary benefits to the rest of the deltoids, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis and the midsection as a whole. Push-ups are a basic exercise used in civilian athletic training or physical education and commonly in military physical training. They are also a common form of punishment used in the military, school sport, or in some martial arts dojos.

In the past this movement was called a floor dip.[1]


The American English term push-up was first used between 1905 and 1910,[2] while the British press-up was first recorded in 1928.[3]

Muscles worked

While the push-up primarily targets the muscles of the chest, arms, and shoulders, support required from other muscles results in a wider range of muscles integrated into the exercise.[4]

File:Marines do pushups.jpg
Military recruits will often perform pushups as part of their physical training. Here, U.S. Marine recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego perform push-ups in May 2005, as a part of their basic recruit training.


The rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis contract continually while performing push-ups to hold the body off the floor and keep the legs and torso aligned. The rectus abdominis spans the front of the abdomen and is the most prominent of the abdominal muscles. The transversus abdominis lies deep within the abdomen, wrapping around the entire abdominal area. Both muscles compress the abdomen, and the rectus abdominis also flexes the spine forward, although it does not execute this function when performing push-ups.


The anterior portion of the deltoid muscle is one of the major shoulder-joint horizontal adductors, moving the upper arms toward the chest during the upward phase of a push-up. It also helps control the speed of movement during the downward phase. The deltoid attaches to parts of the clavicle and scapula, just above the shoulder joint on one end, and to the outside of the humerus bone on the other. Along with horizontal adduction, the anterior deltoid assists with flexion and internal rotation of the humerus within the shoulder socket.

Pectoralis major

The pectoralis major is another main horizontal adductor of the shoulder joint, so it performs the same functions as the anterior deltoid during a push-up. It also contributes to adduction, extension, flexion and internal rotation ranges of motion. The muscle is divided into clavicular and sternal parts. Both parts attach just outside the head of the humerus and run toward the center of the body. The parts then separate, with the clavicular part attaching to the inner two-thirds of the clavicle, and the sternal part to the front of the sternum and the first six ribs.

Triceps brachii

While the anterior deltoids and pectoralis major muscles work to horizontally adduct the upper arms during the upward phase of a push-up, the triceps brachii muscles, or triceps for short, are also hard at work extending the elbow joints so the arms can be fully extended. The triceps also control the speed of elbow-joint flexion during the downward phase of the exercise. The closer together the hands are placed during a push-up, the harder the triceps work. The muscle is divided into three heads — the lateral head, long head and medial head. The lateral and medial heads attach to the back of the humerus bone, and the long head attaches just behind the shoulder socket on one end; all three heads combine and attach to the back of the elbow on the other.[5]


In the "full push-up", the back and legs are straight and off the floor. There are several variations besides the common push-up. These include bringing the thumbs and index fingers of both hands together (a "diamond pushup") as well as having the elbows pointed towards the knees. These variations are intended to put greater emphasis on the triceps or shoulders, rather than the chest muscles. When both hands are unbalanced or on uneven surfaces, this exercise works the body core. Raising the feet or hands onto elevated surfaces during the exercise emphasizes the upper (minor) or lower (major) pectorals, respectively. Raising the hands with the aid of push-up bars or a dumbbell allows for greater ROM (range of motion), providing further stress for the muscles. In most push-up variations, a person will be lifting about 65% of his or her body weight.

Planche push-ups

An extremely difficult variation is to perform a push-up using only hands, without resting the feet on the floor, i.e. starting from and returning to the planche position. These are known as "planche push-ups". To do this variation, the body's center of gravity must be kept over the hands while performing the push-up by leaning forward while the legs are elevated in the air, which requires great strength and a high level of balance. The entire body weight is lifted in this variation.

Knuckle push-ups

Another variation is to perform pushups on the knuckles of the fist, rather than with palms of the hands on the floor. This method is also commonly used in martial arts, such as Karate and Tae Kwon Do, and may be used in boxing training while wearing boxing gloves.

The intent, in addition to building strength and conditioning, is to toughen the knuckles, wrist, and forearm in the punching position. This variation also reduces the amount of strain in the wrist, compared to the typical "palms on floor" approach, and so it is sometimes used by those with wrist injuries. Such practitioners will usually perform their knuckle pushups on a padded floor or a rolled-up towel, unlike martial artists, who may do bare-knuckle pushups on hard floors.

Maltese push-ups

"Maltese push-ups" are a gymnastic variation of the push-up, in which the hands are positioned closer to the hips (as opposed to the pectorals), but with an extremely great distance between them.[6]

Hindu push-ups

See also: Surya Namaskara

"Hindu push-ups" (aka Hanuman Push-ups, Judo Push-ups or Dive Bomber Push-ups, although the latter vary slightly in the second half of the movement) are a form of exercise prevalent in Indian and Pakistani physical culture and Indian martial arts, particularly Pehlwani.

To execute a Hindu Push-up, one starts with feet and hands little more than shoulder width apart, forming the body into an upside down "V" and keeping the head, neck, and spine aligned. The arms are touching the ears in this position. From this starting position, commonly called Downward Dog in Yoga, one bends the elbows, lowering the head towards the ground and bringing the chest almost to the ground, while their hips remain a couple of feet in the air then "swoops" forward to a "Cobra Pose", which means that the head and shoulders are high with unbent elbows but the knees and hips are almost touching the ground. To this point, Hindu Push-ups and Dive Bomber Push-ups are the same. To return to the Downward Dog position in a Hindu Push-up, from the Cobra Pose, raise the abdomen into a normal plank position, then push your hips up and head backwards into Downward Dog. Thus we see that in a Hindu push-up, the head and hips go in circles rather than up and down. In a Dive Bomber Push-up, from the Cobra Pose, bend the elbows again and reverse the execution back into Downward Dog. In a Downward Dog, you should be seeing your knees.[7]

The simple set of exercises of dand-baithak (push-up and squats) practiced in the villages of India has a beneficial effect on the spine. It takes off the strain from the spine and makes it fit to fight the other strains on the spine caused by the adoption of an erect posture.[8]

The American College of Sports Medicine (2000) recommends using a push-up test to examine endurance on the upper-body musculature. For a male subject, assuming a dand position, with back straight, head up, and hands placed shoulder width apart, lowering his body with his chin touching the mat; the abdomen should not touch the mat.[9]

Hindu squats are called Uthak-bethak and the exercise regimen in Indian wrestling often consists of doing the Indian "jack-knifing push-ups", Indian club swinging and squats. The Hindu jack-knifing push-ups are part of the core exercises for building up of strength, stamina, and flexibility of joints.[10] The dand was also a part of the exercise regimen of Bruce Lee.[11] They are commonly called swallowdives in English speaking countries.

Guillotine push-up

The guillotine push-up is a form of push-up exercise done from an elevated position (either hands on elevated platforms or traditionally medicine balls) where in the practitioner lowers his chest, head, and neck (thus the name) past the plane of the hands. The goal is to stretch the shoulders and put extra emphasis on the muscles there.

Backhanded push-up

The backhanded push-up is a form of push-ups performed using the back of the hands, rather than the palms. Currently the record holder of the backhanded push-ups is Bill Kathan who broke the world record in 2010, by performing 2,396 on Valentine's Day.[12]

One arm versions

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A U.S. Army employee demonstrates a one-arm push-up in an extended position.

Many of the push-up variations can be done using one arm instead of two. This will further increase the resistance put upon the trainee.

Other versions

There are some less difficult versions, which reduce the effort by supporting some of the body weight in some way. One can move on to the standard push-up after progress is made.

"Wall" push-ups are performed by standing close to a wall and pushing away from the wall with the arms; one can increase the difficulty by moving one's feet farther from the wall.

"Table" or "chair" push-ups are performed by pushing away from a table, chair, or other object. The lower the object, the more difficult the push-up. One should be sure that the object is securely stationary before attempting to push up from it.

"Modified" or "knee" push-ups are performed by supporting the lower body on the knees instead of the toes, which reduces the difficulty. This is useful for warm ups/downs, pyramids/drop sets, endurance training and rehab. It can also be used to train in a more explosive plyometric manner (like clapping pushups) when one can't perform them with the feet. It can also be used with the 1-arm variations as a transition.

"Three phase" push-ups involve simply breaking a standard push up into three components and doing each one slowly and deliberately. Participants usually start face down on the floor with hands outstretched either perpendicular or parallel to the body. The first phase involves the arms being brought palms down on a 90 degree angle at the elbows. The second phase involves the body being pushed into the up position. The third phase is returning to the starting position. This technique is commonly used after a large block of regular push ups, as it poses less stress and requires less effort.

"Diamond" or "Triceps" push-ups are done by placing both palms on the ground and touching together both thumbs and pointer fingers. This technique requires stronger triceps muscles than regular push-ups due to the fact that, at the bottom of the stroke, the forearm is nearly parallel to the ground and the elbow is almost completely flexed, resulting in much higher mechanical load on the triceps.

"Hollow-Body" push-ups are performed in the position gymnasts refer call the "hollow body". In the plank version of the hollow body, the shoulders are protracted into a pronounced curve in the upper back while the abdominal muscles are tightened and the legs are locked and squeezed together. This variation requires full-body tension to execute and results in greater integration of the hips, shoulders, and core.


Two platforms are placed beside the trainee, one on either side. The exercise begins with the hands on either platform supporting the body, then the subject drops to the ground and explosively rebounds with a push-up, extending the torso and arms completely off the ground and returning the hands to the platforms.

Another is simply an explosive push-up where a person attempts to push quickly and with enough force to raise his or her hands several centimeters off the ground, with the body completely suspended on the feet for a moment, a variation of the drop push. This is necessary for performing 'clap push ups' - i.e. clapping the hands while in the air.

Aztec push-ups

The Aztec push-up is one of the most difficult plyometric push-ups. A person performs an Aztec push-up by beginning in the normal push-up starting position and exploding upward with both the hands and feet, driving the entire body into the air. While in the air, the body is bent at the waist and the hands quickly touch the toes. The body is then quickly straightened and the hands and feet break the fall, returning the body to the normal push-up position for another repetition.[13]

With push-ups, many possibilities for customization and increased intensity are possible. Some examples are: One hand can be set on a higher platform than the other or be farther away from the other to give more weight to the opposite arm/side of the body and also exercise many diverse muscles. One can perform push-ups by using only the tips of the fingers and thumb. For increased difficulty, push-ups can be performed on one arm or using weights.

Push-ups between chairs form an integral part of the "Dynamic Tension" Course devised by Charles Atlas, and similar systems.


They are also commonly used as a fitness test or as a mild physical punishment on the spot (while benefiting the punished), to show off physically or as demonstration of submission.

In a competitive or disciplinary context especially, it is not rare to use "nastier" variations, e.g., in mud, gravel, snow or dirt, hot ground, divested, and/or to make it physically harder, as by putting one's foot or a weight on the performer's back (possibly with sanctions if equilibrium is lost, such as spilling a glass) or to do the exercise resting on the knuckles or not use all fingers (not counting the thumb).

Record breakers and attempts

The first record for push-ups was documented by Guinness World Records: 6,006 non-stop push-ups by Charles Linster in 1965, October 5.[14]

The record for the most push-ups non-stop was 10,507, set by Minoru Yoshida of Japan in October 1980.[15] Minoru Yoshida's World Record was the last of its category for non-stop push-ups to be published by Guinness World Records. A new category, "Most Push-ups in 24 Hours," has since been introduced.

The current world record for most push-ups in 24 hours is by Charles Servizio (USA) who achieved 46,001 push-ups in just 21 hours, 6 minutes on 1993, April 24 to 25.[16]

The world record for most two-handed backhand push-ups in one hour is 1,940 by Aman Sharma of the UK, set in 2007.[17]

Doug Pruden (Canada) performed 1,025 one-arm push-ups on the back of the hand on 8 November 2008.[18]

The Guinness World Record holder for backhanded push-ups, American John Morrow, completed 123 in one minute in 2006.[19]

In the animal kingdom

There are zoology observations that certain animals emulate a push up action. Most notably various taxa of the Fence lizard exhibit this display,[20] primarily involving the male engaging in postures to attract females. The Western fence lizard is a particular species that also engages in this behavior.[21] (It may be noted that in Mexican Spanish push-ups are called "lagartijas", which means "lizards".)

See also


  1. ^ 1945 Power-Plus Course by Jo Bonomo (strongman)
  2. ^ Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Random House (2010). "push-up". Retrieved 3 December 2010. 
  3. ^ Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Random House (2006). "press-up". Retrieved 4 September 2007. 
  4. ^ "Push-up". American Council on Exercise. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Maltese Push ups". Xercise Factor. 29 December 2007. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Dr. Krishna Murari Modi. Cure Aches And Pains Through Osteopathy: Adopting the Correct Posture.
  9. ^ Vivian H. Heyward (2003 ). Advanced fitness assessment & exercise prescription pg 125. Human Kinetics
  10. ^ Sudhir Kakar (1996). The Colors of Violence: Cultural Identities, Religion, and Conflict pg 83. University of Chicago Press
  11. ^ Bruce Lee and John R. Little (1998). The Art of Expressing the Human Body pg 58. Tuttle Publishing
  12. ^ Whitehurst, Patrick. "Grand Canyon record-breaker does it again - Grand Canyon News - Grand Canyon, Arizona". Grand Canyon News. Retrieved 22 November 2010. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "World Record for Non-Stop Push-Ups". World Records for Push-Ups (Press-Ups). The International World Record Breakers' Club. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  16. ^ "World Records Stop Push-Ups". World Records for Push-Ups (Press-Ups). The International World Record Breakers' Club. Retrieved 20 July 2012. 
  17. ^ "Most Push-Ups (Using Back of Hands) in One Hour". Guinness World Records. 8 November 2007. Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  18. ^ Guinness World Records 2010. Guinness World Records. 2009. ISBN 1-904994-50-4. 
  19. ^ "Back-Handed Record: Ottumwa native Morrow sets world push-ups mark". The Ottumwa Courier. 24 August 2006. Retrieved 26 May 2013. 
  20. ^ Maurice Burton and Robert Burton (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopaedia, published by Marshall Cavendish ISBN 0-7614-7272-X
  21. ^ C. Michael Hogan (2008) "Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)", Globaltwitcher, ed. Nicklas Stromberg

External links