50+ science backed benefits of push ups

Posted on 13 July, 2021 by Nicholas Rizzo

Push ups fall under the umbrella of a compound exercise, targeting multiple muscle groups that provide you with many different health benefits of exercise.

To showcase the benefits of push ups, we have curated data from over 50 studies and found that overall, push ups are great for:

  • Building muscle, strength and endurance in your arms, chest, and core
  • Improving heart health and reducing cardiovascular disease risk
  • Lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Helping people live longer
  • Burning calories and helping lose weight
  • Improving posture 
  • Require no equipment and are free to be done anywhere
  • Many push up variations and modifications to continue challenging yourself

Health Benefits of push ups

Push ups build muscle, strength, and muscular endurance

Push ups develop the muscles of the upper body, specifically, the arm and the chest muscles. But studies have shown that push ups can also help strengthen back muscles as well as core muscles. Push ups have also been known to improve a person’s posture.

Because push ups activate upper body and lower body muscles, it also improves a person's functional strength. This means that daily activities become easier to accomplish.

A study on 18 men who did progressive push ups for 8 weeks resulted in the:

  • Growth of the tricep muscles by 9.7%
  • Enlargement of pectoral muscles by 22.4%
  • Increase of muscle strength by 5.1% in terms of load in kilograms

In studies among athletic individuals:

  • On average athletes saw an increase of muscle thickness of 4% due to push ups
  • Higher muscular endurance on push ups is associated with elevated IGF-1 levels, a higher VO2 peak level by 12.8%, 

Push ups improve heart health and reduce mortality

Push ups strengthen the muscles and each repetition causes your heart rate to go up. It also results in more blood being delivered to various parts of your body. Press ups not only benefit your muscles, but also your cardiovascular system.

Based on a 10-year study involving male firefighters, it was determined that those who are able to do 40 or more push ups a day:

  • Are 96% less likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases
  • Have a systolic blood pressure lower by 1.8%
  • Have a diastolic blood pressure lower by 1.9%
  • Reduced their total cholesterol by 3.9%
  • Increased their HDL or good cholesterol by 4.9%
  • Decreased their LDL or bad cholesterol by 3.6%
  • Lowered their triglycerides by 20%
  • Reduced BMI by 6.6%
  • Decrease fatty liver by 13.6%
  • Reduce blood sugar levels by 2.6%

As another study noted, push ups, as part of regular strength training routine can:

  • Help reduce all-cause mortality by 23%
  • Reduce cancer mortality by 31%.

Push ups for weight loss: how many calories are burned doing push-ups 

As a compound exercise, push ups make use of different muscles and strengthen them. It also helps burn calories but not as much as cardio-based workouts.

A person uses 6 METs (metabolic equivalent) or more per push up, which means that:

  • You can burn 0.29 to 0.48 calories per push up 
  • You can burn 7 calories or more per minute
  • One hour of push ups burns 686 calories in people who weigh 180 lbs
  • A 180-lbs person can burn 34 calories doing 100 push ups in 5 minutes
  • To burn 100 calories, a human weighing 185 lbs would need to do pushups at a moderate pace for 15 minutes 

Push ups for men vs women

Men and women vary in body built, thus their push up performances are also not the same. Because women’s upper body is built differently than women, according to the United States Army’s standards for push ups:

  • Women perform 40 to 60% fewer push ups compared to men
  • Women’s upper body strength is only about 50 to 60% that of a man’s.

Based on a study conducted using AMTI force plates and software used to analyze collected data, it was determined pushups are harder in almost everyway for men. That’s because, in comparison to women:

  • Men support 60% more of their body weight during push ups
  • Men’s maximal load during a standard push up is 22.1% greater than for women
  • When doing a modified push up, men have a 16.7% higher maximal load relative to women as well
  • Men experience a 6.1% and 6.2% greater load during the static down position of a push up compared to women
  • Men’s full vertical range of motion (ROM) is 35.1% higher when doing a traditional push up

Benefits of doing push ups every day

Doing push ups every day is good for building upper body muscles and even strengthening your core, back, and lower extremities. You can start with 10 push ups a day and then work up to doing 50 or 100 push ups everyday. Breaking them up into smaller sets throughout the day can make it easier to start as well. 

We analyzed the reported benefits of doing 100 push ups everyday for extended periods of time based on the accounts of regular people.

Push ups everyday for 1-2 weeks

  • You will notice a little bit of muscle gain on your arms and chest
  • You will also feel a stronger than before you started

Push ups everyday for a month

  • Arm muscles are more defined
  • Chest muscle is lifted
  • Women noticed their breast appear fuller and firmer
  • Waist seems trimmer
  • Female fitness buffs noticed their figure appears more shapely or feminine

 Push ups everyday for 100 days

  • Push ups are easier to do
  • People with a slightly hunched posture have noticeably improved their disposition 
  • Shoulder and chest muscles are bigger
  • People have noticed they are drinking more water
  • Push ups became relaxing, instead of taxing
  • Being able to finish 100 a day makes people feel good about the accomplishment
  • People have become consistent with their fitness goals

Push ups everyday for a year

  • Obvious muscle growth in the arms, chest, and back
  • Abdominal muscles are more defines
  • Strength and endurance have greatly improved
  • Became more mindful of their overall health and fitness
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Had a more positive outlook in life
  • Better sense of discipline in sticking to workouts and other aspects of life

The downside of 100 push ups everyday

As with any type of exercise, doing 100 push ups a day also has its negative side. Some of it include:

  • Actually doing 100 push ups a day
  • Overworking the same muscles groups because there is no rest day
  • Boredom may set in as you’re doing the same movements every single day
  • Increases the risk of injury to joints of the upper extremities
  • Plateauing especially if you don’t do other muscle-building exercises

FAQs

What body parts do push ups target?

A standard push up activates 7 muscle groups which. The primary muscle groups consist of: include:

  • Chest: pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and serratus anterior
  • Shoulder: deltoid major and deltoid minor
  • Arm: biceps and triceps

Secondarily, push ups also work the following muscle groups as they play a role in stabilizing you throughout the movement and maintaining proper form:

  • Core: rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, transversus abdominis, multifidus, quadratus lumborum, and the lumbar erector spinae
  • Back: latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapeze muscles, and lower back muscles
  • Buttocks: gluteus maximus and gluteus medius
  • Legs: hamstrings, quadriceps, calf, and shin muscles

Are there push ups for beginners?

Aside from knee and inclined push ups, other types of press ups you can try include wall push up and seated push up.

 For wall push up, face a wall and plant your palm, shoulder-width apart, on it. Adjust your feet by taking one or two steps back, until your arms are extended. Your elbow should be slightly bent when you’re in the up position. Lower your upper body until your nose almost touches it. You increase the difficulty by positioning your feet farther from the wall.

 For seated push ups, you need a firm bench. Sit with your back straight, palms on the bench on either side of your body, then push down. This should lift your butt from the bench.

What if I can’t do 1 proper form push up?

If you’re having a hard time doing even just 1 proper form push up, you can modify it. Instead of being on your toes, you can do knee push ups. It reduces the weight you have to bear but still strengthens your arm, back, chest, and core muscles.

You can also try a 45-degree incline wherein you grip the arms of a chair or the edge of your seat instead of planting your palms on the floor. Even though your legs are straight, the weight your upper body bears is still less because of the incline.

Do push up bars help?

Push up bars help increase a person’s range of motion. A study done in 2012 revealed that increasing the range of motion effectively grows the thickness of the muscle and increases strength.

However, if you have a shoulder injury, avoid using push up bars until you’ve consulted your physician. The increased range of motion can aggravate lingering or active shoulder problems you have.

What are some tips for maintaining proper push up form?

Certified personal trainers shared the following tips for maintaining proper push up form:

  • Place your palms flat on the floor shoulder-width distance apart
  • Keep your back straight, do not arch
  • Engage your core, do not let it hang down
  • Keep your butt down, it should not be sticking out
  • Your body should be in a straight line

If you’re a beginner, start doing push ups on the wall, then gradually make your way off to a table, then eventually the floor.

If doing push ups on the floor is still difficult for you, you can do a modified push up on your knees instead of your toes.

Can push ups make your bones stronger?

As a bodyweight exercise, push ups help your body slow down bone degeneration. Studies have shown that any type of exercise can mitigate bone mass loss, but those that work against gravity are best in improving bone mass density.

Strong bones are also a huge benefit of jumping rope. High-impact exercises like jumping rope is another type of workout you can include in your fitness journey.

Are push ups good for posture?

Push ups strengthen your core muscles which are responsible for maintaining proper posture. Strong core muscles mean you are less likely to slouch when you’re sitting or standing.

You will notice that you’re standing taller and your back is straighter. You are also less likely to hunch because your upper back has gotten stronger.

Which push up stance should you do to target your chest muscles?

According to the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, if you want to target your chest muscles, the pectoralis minor and pectoralis major, the most effective form is a narrow stance or when your elbows are tucked to your side when you’re doing pushups. This position also helps develop your triceps for stronger arms. It also prevents rotator cuff injuries as these push ups develop strong shoulders.

Are push-ups beneficial for your abs and core?

Aside from your chest, arms, and shoulders, doing push ups also engages your entire core muscles. If you’re not engaging your ab muscles, then you do not have the correct form. You need your ab muscles engaged to keep you stable and maintain a plank position as you move up and down.

 A 2014 study revealed that suspension push ups are the best type of exercise to activate more of your abdominal muscles. Maintaining stability while suspended is harder, thus your abs work double-time to keep you in perfect form.

Can push ups help you lose weight?

On its own, push ups aren't the magic bullet if you want to lose bodyweight. However, it has been shown that those who can have greater muscular endurance on push ups (can do more repetitions) have a and a 5.6% smaller waist circumference on average.

Tracking your physical capabilities, like how many push ups you can perform in a minute, is a great way to measure performance improvement, but is going to be directly associated with improvements in physique, muscle tone, and weight loss.  

Conclusion

Push ups, or press ups, is a great form of exercise if you want to build upper body strength. Aside from that, push ups are a great addition to cardio workouts especially if you want enhanced core strength.

However, push ups are only effective if done properly. If you don’t have the proper form you can injure yourself. So before you start doing push up challenges you find on the internet, be sure you have the correct form first by consulting a fitness professional.

About RunRepeat

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When you’re doing push ups, you are most likely engaged in other forms for exercises as well. So you shouldn’t buy shoes for the sole purpose of push ups. Some of the shoes you can consider are CrossFit shoes and HIIT shoes. These trainers are designed with toe protection or have grooves under the forefoot to make it easier for your toes to bend when you're doing push ups.

Use of content

  • To learn more about the benefits of push ups, you can reach out to Nick Rizzo at nick@runrepeat.com. Nick is also available to do interviews.
  • Data found in this article is free to use in any online publication. We only request that you link back to this original source.

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Author
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo

Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.