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What Are Push-ups?
Pushups, or push-ups, are exercises performed with your body in a prone position and supported by straightened arms (elbows not bent). Your palms face down and are placed shoulder-width apart.
You then bend your arms at your elbows to slowly lower your body until your chest is an inch above the floor and then push up to the starting position. While lowering your body in a slow and controlled pace is challenging, pushing up to the starting position is even much harder.
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Do Push-ups Work Biceps?
Yes, this exercise can work your biceps, but some pushups variations work triceps only. There are specific techniques to ensure that your pushups routine work your biceps, too. Do you want to know the secret? Of course, you do, that’s why you’re here.
Even though regular pushups will mostly work your triceps, there are superb variations designed to precisely target your biceps. In this article, you’ll get an in-depth understanding of this workout, the muscles worked, biceps pushup variations, and common mistakes to avoid when doing bicep push-ups.
Understanding Your Biceps
Biceps are the muscles located at the front part of your forearm. They always pop up proudly when you bend your elbow and try to flex a bit. Big or small, we all have these muscles. The biceps muscle comprises of entwined short head and long head that come as a pair, that’s why they’re called biceps.
These muscles are referred to as the “pull” muscles. This is because biceps are fully engaged in pulling activities as compared to pushing activities where the triceps do most of the work. It is for this reason that we have to perform specific biceps push ups to accurately target these muscles with higher intensity.
How Do Push-ups Work Biceps?
For a pushup to recruit the biceps effectively, you need to go for a variation that tends to twist these muscles as you perform bicep push-ups. Also you should aim at bending your arms more to build extra pressure on the biceps.
One good way of achieving this is by placing your hands closer together than in the standard pushups.
For the experienced athletes, one hand pushup is a great alternative. Do not attempt this variation if you’re not strong enough or have little experience in it. It demands sheer strength all the way. You may need to consult your gym instructor if you’re doing it for the first time.
Bicep Push-ups Variations
The main purpose of bicep push-ups it to exert more pressure on the biceps than you normally do in the standard pushups. They are not for the weak armed. Pushups for biceps can be defined as extreme variations, so again, if you’re a beginner, you should only do it under a trainer.
#1 One-arm Push-up
Can you trust only one arm to support all your body weight in a prone position? If yes, then this is the exercise for you. This push-up variation increases intensity on your biceps because you are only using one arm to perform the pushups. This works your biceps with high intensity.
How to do a one-hand pushup:
1: Get into the standard pushup position with your legs shoulder-width apart.
2: Place your right hand on the floor, aiming the center of your chest. Lift your left arm and place it on your lower back. Make sure to balance your body weight on your right arm.
3: Slowly lower your body down until your chest muscles are at about 5 inches above the floor. Note that you may not be able to go as low as you would have done in standard pushups.
4: Pause and push up back to the starting position. Don’t go for more than 10 repetitions per set.
Here is a video on the one arm push-up:
#2 Inside Push-ups
This is yet another electrifying bicep push-ups variation. It uses the twist technique to curl and work your biceps much harder than normal pushups do. Exercises that involve curling and twisting your arms under pressure are excellent in activating your biceps muscles. This is because of the intertwining nature of your biceps muscles.
How to do inside push-ups:
1: Assume the prone position of the standard pushups with a straight body from the neck to your heels.
2: Move your hands on the floor so that they are at your torso.
3: Turn your palms to reverse so that your fingers are pointing to your feet.
4: Lower your body steadily until your chest is about 5 inches above the floor. For beginners, only go as far as you’re comfortable.
5: Push up to the original position. Pause for another rep, aiming at three sets of ten repetitions each.
#3 Close-Stance Push-up Variation
This calls for bringing your hands close together on the floor, about 2-palms-width apart, directly under your chest. This angle allows your arms to bend more and this results in maximizing pressure on your biceps.
How to do close-stance push-ups:
1: Get in the normal pushups prone position.
2: Move your hands closer together at about 10 inches apart.
3: Steadily lower your upper body until your chest is slightly above the floor.
4: Push up back to the starting position. Aim at performing 3 sets of 12 repetitions each.
What Muscles Are Worked in Push-ups & How to Avoid Mistakes & Injuries
Performing pushups seems like a straightforward routine, mainly because we know all too well what it is – we see it in movies, we’ve perhaps done or seen others do it in our school gym, it’s commonplace. However, it’s not as simple as pushing up and down, and doing it incorrectly can do you more bad than good. It pays to learn more about pushups before going down to the floor right away.
Push-ups: All Muscles Worked
We’re talking here about the muscles of your chest. Whichever of the variations you perform, your chest muscles are always get targeted. If anything, pushups target the chest more than any other muscle of the body, and doing it regularly will give you well-built and isolated pectorals.
Shoulder muscles are also fairly activated as you perform a pushup. You can target them from the front and back angles depending on the variation. Your deltoids are fully engaged at all stages of a push up. Do not attempt to do a push-up when you have a shoulder injury. Pushups put much pressure on the shoulders and may worsen an injury.
The major forearm muscles that are worked are the triceps and biceps. While most variations will work your triceps, a select few are designed to target your biceps muscles. Biceps muscles are some of the hardest arm muscles to target doing bicep push ups. You need to execute the exercise perfectly if you have to hit them.
Abs and Obliques
You cannot properly maintain a straight body during push-ups if your core muscles are not working hard enough. This workout recruits your abs and internal and external obliques to maintain a proper form.
Lower Back and Glutes
In the process of executing this exercise, your glutes and lower back muscles tighten to complement the effort of your core. They assist in maintaining a straight position. The lower back muscles are activated to ensure it supports the spine in a neutral position.
Related: How to get 10 pack abs by working out smart
8 Common Push Ups Mistakes to Avoid
Wrong Hand Placement
THIS IS IMPORTANT: How you place your hands on the floor is one of the things that determines whether you’re doing a bicep push ups correctly or not. Why? Your hand placement determines where the pressure is directed. For example, placing your hands too wide and forward will direct too much pressure to your shoulders. This will not allow you to perform full bicep push ups and may also lead to injury.
Wrong hand placement will also result in flared elbows. You should always place your arms in a position that keeps your elbows pointing back at an almost 60-degree angle, and not flared out at 90 degrees.
Incomplete Range of Motion
Incomplete range of motion directly translates to incomplete muscle recruitment. This is a common mistake while doing many types of exercises. When doing pushups, many people don’t lower their chest as slowly as needed to fully engage the target muscles. Truth is, those short-range pulses will do you no good.
Curving Your Lower Back
A sagging lower back is yet another costly mistake that is commonly committed during push-ups. This happens when you fail to engage your core muscles to hold your trunk into a neutral position. For beginners, you may consider starting with incline pushups as you gradually build core strength.
Dropped or Raised Head
Remember, you cannot maintain a straight spine with a bent neck. Most people will raise or lower their head at different points when the going gets tough. Don’t do it. This will disorient the spinal alignment. Instead, keep your head in a neutral position and your eyes on the ground.
Pumping Too Fast
You may get fascinated by how fast you can perform a certain number of push-ups, but I’m sorry to disappoint you. You’re missing the point here. You see, these exercises are not a speed drill. What you should do is focus on maintaining slow and controlled movements that put your muscles under steady and consistent pressure. This is how you achieve the best from push-ups.
Raising Your Hips
Performing this exercise with your hips pushed up is a way of cheating. Doing so will reduce the intensity of the exercise by not fully engaging your core and glutes muscles, and that’s a disadvantage to you.
Holding your Breath
Push-ups is an intense activity that needs a consistent supply of oxygen to power the muscles, so don’t deprive them of oxygen by holding your breath. Master the art of controlling your breathing patterns without necessarily having to hold it. You should therefore train to inhale slowly as you go low and exhale as you push up. This ensures continuous oxygen supply and tightens the core as you exhale and push up.
Not Engaging Your Core, Deltoids, and Glutes
These muscles are usually underrated when it comes to doing push-ups, which is rather unfortunate since you need to engage these muscle groups to maintain the proper form for doing push-ups. A sagging lower back, unstable shoulders, and poor hip positioning are indicators of improper form and will likely result in pain and injuries.
Push-ups Possible Injury Risks
Like all other exercises, push-ups, bicep push-ups, and its other variations are beneficial to your body. They ensure a healthy and strong physique, but performing them the wrong way can increase your risk of injury. Here are just some of the injuries that a wrong form may lead to.
Shoulders – Rotator cuff injury
Your rotator cuff plays a pivotal role in a pushup. It is impossible to do this exercise if your rotator cuffs are rigid, and working them in a wrong angle or putting them under too much pressure can cause pain and injury.
Your entire backline is at risk of injury throughout the exercise, which is why you should engage your core muscles to keep the lower back from sagging. Keeping the spine straight is also another way of distributing the pressure on it and minimizing pain.
Elbow and Wrist Injuries
Bicep push-ups place most of their force on these two joints. Any inappropriate motion or positioning of your hands will result in injuring your elbows and wrists. Make sure to be in proper form and also train on a flat and steady floor to distribute your body weight to both elbows and wrists.
#1 Do push-ups work the biceps?
Yes, done right this exercise will work your biceps. There are specific variations designed to help you target your biceps with high precision. Biceps are recruited more in pulling activities rather than pushing. This is the reason why many push-ups variations are not effective in working your biceps.
#2 Are bicep push-ups bad?
Bicep push-ups, when done right will help in bulking your arms. Unfortunately, when done wrong can result to injury. Make sure to take up proper form when performing this exercise.
#3 Will 100 push-ups a day build muscle?
As in any form of exercise, pushups burn calories and build muscles. 100 pushups a day will work your biceps, triceps, and core and back muscles.
Written by Kathleen Langdon – TheHealthPot.com Founder
Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES)
Kathleen, a mother of two, struggled with ongoing weight and health issues. She created this website after she turned her life around. She built Thehealthpot.com to help inspire and motivate others with their fitness goals. Read more about Kathleen here.