Although push-ups work various muscles in your upper body, most variations of push-ups do not work your biceps. While you can slightly increase the biceps muscle activation during your push-ups by reversing your hands (pointing your fingers towards your feet, not forward), this method will turn push-ups into a bicep-building exercise. Even with this method, a lot of the work of push-ups will be done by the chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles.
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Why Don’t Standard Push-Ups Make Your Biceps Bigger?
The standard push-up is—as the name implies—a pushing exercise. Pushing motions engage the muscles that straighten the arms, bring the arms together, and rotate the shoulders forward. Because the biceps are not responsible for these motions, regular push-ups won’t target your biceps.
- The resistance of push-ups comes during the pushing motion.
- Biceps are primarily worked by exercises that add resistance to the pulling motion.
- There is no resistance during the pulling (downward) motion of the push-up, so the biceps are not forced to work very hard.
Biceps muscles are engaged during pulling motions. Rowing, curls, and even pulling games like tug-of-war rely on the biceps. Any exercise that puts resistance into bending your arm at the elbow will work your biceps. During push-ups, your elbows bend during the downward motion, which is the easiest part of the exercise. This makes push-ups a poor choice for a bicep workout.
What Muscles Do Push-Ups Work?
Push-ups primarily work your chest muscles, shoulders, and triceps. Different variations will help you target each of these muscles more specifically, but they are always the main muscles worked during push-ups. Additionally, because the push-up is similar to the plank position, doing push-ups will work the core muscles of your abdominals and lower back.
- Traditional push-ups mostly target the following upper body muscles: chest, triceps, and shoulders.
- You can perform push-ups variations as part of a deck of cards push-up workout to focus on each of these muscles.
- Push-ups will work your core because classic push-ups require form similar to the plank position.
- Biceps and back muscles are only used as stabilizers during push-ups.
To a far lesser degree than the other muscles we’ve discussed, push-ups activate your upper back muscles and biceps. However, these muscles mostly act as stabilizers when you do push-ups with proper form. So, your biceps won’t get much of a workout.
What Type of Push-Ups Make Your Biceps Bigger?
Some people have claimed that doing push-ups with your hands reversed (as demonstrated in this video) turns push-ups into a biceps-building exercise. However, this simply isn’t true. Despite this unique hand placement, your biceps will only be used to a small degree during these push-ups. The work will still be done primarily by the chest, triceps, and shoulders.
- There is a myth that claims doing biceps with your hands reversed will work your biceps.
- No matter what hand placement you use, push-ups will never work your biceps as a primary muscle.
- Pull-ups, chin-ups, curls, and rows are all far more effective for building biceps than any push-up.
Instead of using push-ups to build your biceps, try another exercise. Pull-ups are an amazing body weight exercise that provides a biceps workout. You can also target your arm muscles with curls, rows, and any other exercise that involves pulling against resistance. When you’re looking for biceps training options, push-ups simply don’t deliver.
How to Use Push-Ups to Grow Your Biceps
There are a surprising number of reasons to work push-ups into your daily routine. Making your biceps bigger or stronger isn’t one of them. Instead, use push-ups as part of a total-body training routine. Use push-ups as a chest, shoulder, and triceps exercise. Then, move to pull-ups to build your back and biceps. These two simple calisthenic exercises will work the majority of the muscles in your upper body, and you don’t need any weights to do them.
- Push-ups are not a good tool for building biceps.
- Include push-ups in a routine that also has biceps-training exercises.
- Take rest days from push-ups to improve muscle growth and prevent injury.
Allow for rest days from push-ups so your body can recover and build muscle. Additionally, don’t neglect your lower body. Bodyweight squats, lunges, and calf raises are all excellent at-home exercises you can do when you’re recovering from push-ups but still want to build your fitness level.
Can You Gain Bicep Muscle From Push-Ups?
You will not gain bicep muscle mass from push-ups. Push-ups are primarily a chest exercise, although they also help strengthen the shoulders and triceps. No matter what style of push-ups you’re doing, you won’t target your biceps much. Instead, perform a more effective exercise designed for working biceps. Bicep curls and pull-ups are two options that are far more suited to building bigger, stronger biceps than any type of push-up you’ll find.