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How To Build Muscle Using Only Press-Ups

Charlotte Campbell
Contributor7 years ago
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Build With Only Press-Ups

Press-ups or push-ups are the staple of many a workout, but is it possible to get a thorough workout from this seemingly basic exercise?


The answer is yes. For starters, you would be wrong thinking that press-ups are simple – they’re far from it and offer a lot more variety while working more muscles than you’re probably aware.


The mentality of lifting weights equals gains is arguable too. Sure, weight-lifting is a major part of resistance training for aspiring body builders, but it also depends on burdening, breaking and growing larger muscle groups, rest and getting the right surplus of protein and carbs in your nutrition. The immediate virtues of press-ups are that they don’t require equipment or a lot of space, they leave no room for excuses and are something that can be done with your own body weight and a bit of experimentation with angles.


Press-ups simultaneously work your chest, arms, shoulder, triceps, back, and neck. Start small and develop your technique and, when you’re ready to advance, increase the number of reps you perform in each set. A good place to start is 4 sets of 10-20 reps.


In the gym when you’re looking for muscle gains, once you reach a plateau you would naturally look at other ways to increase resistance by adding more weight and lowering the number or reps, and you would seek other options for isolating and building specific muscles. When push-ups are your only option, you should, therefore, look to increase resistance and isolate muscles in the same way that you would with equipment at the gym.


The closer together your hands are on the floor, the more you will be focussing on your triceps. The wider apart your arms are, the more you will reply on your chest and muscles in your back to bear the brunt of the pressure. In terms of angles, by curving your back so that you descend into the press at varying angles you’ll be able to build your traps and shoulders. You can use this as a basis for focussing on different muscles. The tighter the angle, the more strain your muscles will be under, and so you should accordingly reduce the reps and increase the sets. All the while, you are channelling your core muscles, which we’ll get to shortly.


You do have the option for adding a bit more to your press-ups routine. With a friend and a well-balanced weight plate on your back you could add weight to your push-ups the same way you would to a barbell. Push up equipment – the effective handles which emulate a barbell or dumb bell in your hand – can be used work a multitude of muscles and get the practice in for barbells and gym benches as well as working your grip in a way that press-ups would not. As mentioned, press-ups are a cornerstone of many workouts, from sports teams to military, and you’d be hard pressed to find an athlete who regularly performs an abundance of push-ups who doesn’t have a ripped upper torso.


Once you’ve found your footing with a varied range of press-ups, if you’re looking to grow, think nutrition and increase your protein and caloric intake over a long-term period.


Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Charlotte is a fitness and nutrition writer and blogger based in Manchester. Her articles have been featured in Cosmopolitan and the London Evening Standard.