Push exercises are ideal for developing the shoulders, triceps, and chest. However, they typically require dumbbells, a bench, and gym machines.
To that end, I’ve listed the five best bodyweight push exercises you can do with little to no equipment.
Ready? Let’s discuss.
Table of Contents
Primary Muscles Worked 💪
- Chest (Pecs)
Secondary Muscles Worked 💪
- Deltoids (Shoulders)
A Quick Look at ‘Push’ Muscles
As briefly mentioned, the push muscles in the upper body are:
- Chest (pectoralis major)
- Deltoids (shoulders)
They typically work together to produce force for you to press an external object (e.g., a barbell) away from yourself or your body away from an object (as is the case with bodyweight push exercises).
Depending on the direction of the pull, one muscle may work more than others. For example, a flat barbell bench press and a regular push-up primarily work the chest and front portion of the shoulders.
However, an incline press (the one you do lying on an elevated gym bench) places more emphasis on the upper chest. Then, there is the overhead press, which involves pressing a weight vertically overhead. It shifts the focus to the shoulders and triceps.
5 Bodyweight Push Exercises For Muscle and Strength Gain
One of the classic bodyweight push exercises that develops the chest, shoulders, triceps, and serratus anterior, also known as the boxer’s muscle.
- Get down on your knees and place your hands on the ground more than shoulder-width apart.
- Extend your legs and support your lower body on your toes.
- Tuck your butt so it aligns with the rest of your body.
- Retract your shoulder blades, engage your abs, and have your fingers pointing forward.
- Inhale and lower yourself.
- Pause briefly and press yourself back to the top as you exhale.
2. Incline Push-Up
This is a more beginner-friendly push-up variation, where the objective is to press yourself off from a sturdy and elevated object, such as a plyo box or low bench. (1)
- Place your hands on a sturdy object, such as a flat gym bench, plyo box, or even a kitchen counter.
- Extend your body, engage your abs, and squeeze your glutes.
- Take a deep breath and lower your chest toward the edge of the elevated object. Make sure your body is positioned right so your elbows don’t flare too much to your sides as you descend.
- Pause briefly at the bottom and push yourself back to the top as you exhale.
3. Decline Push-Up
- Face away from a gym bench or chair.
- Lean forward and place your hands flat on the ground, like you would for a regular push-up.
- Extend your body and position your feet on the bench or chair, supporting your lower body on your toes.
- Engage your abs and squeeze your glutes. Be careful not to allow your hips to sag (this is a common mistake).
- Retract your shoulder blades, inhale, and lower yourself to the floor.
- Pause briefly and push back to the top as you exhale.
4. Pike Push-Up
A variation where you point your buttocks toward the ceiling. This position puts more emphasis on the shoulders.
- Get down on the floor and place your hands flat.
- Extend your body as if you’re about to do a regular push-up.
- Slowly walk your feet forward until your butt is closer to the ceiling and your body is folded into an inverted V shape.
- Inhale and lower yourself toward the ground by bending your elbows.
- Pause at the bottom and extend your arms as you exhale.
5. Chair Dips
Unlike the other movements on our list, this one primarily targets the triceps, and the arms are positioned behind the torso. (2)
- Position a chair against a wall for support and face away from it.
- Place your hands flat on the seat close to the edge.
- Extend your body forward and straighten your legs. You can keep your knees bent for extra support if this is your first time performing the exercise.
- Take a deep breath and engage your abs.
- Slowly lower yourself by bending your arms.
- Pause briefly at the bottom and press yourself back to the top as you exhale.
The Immense Power of Push-Ups
Push-ups are the single best and most effective bodyweight exercise that you can do. They work multiple muscle groups, and you also have the ability to create many variations to adjust the resistance (incline push-ups: less resistance; decline push-ups: more resistance).
I spent five years in the US Army, and push-ups were like breathing as a part of our daily training. We did every imaginable type of push-up during training and morning workouts. The push-up is the cornerstone of the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) performed once a year (one of two exercises – the other being sit-ups), which says a lot about its importance and effectiveness.
So take advantage of this fantastic bodyweight exercise, and you will build and strengthen your upper body – period. When it comes to upper body conditioning, there is no better bodyweight exercise than the classic push-up, because it works multiple muscle groups:
Variations Allow for Different Resistance
And there are so many variations that you can include in your workouts to build your chest, shoulders, and arms. You don’t need to go overboard, and performing push-up reps two or three times a week is sufficient to get a great workout for your upper body.
All you really need is a clear floor and a dose of motivation to employ these bodyweight exercises in your weekly fitness regimen. Your upper body will be sore when performing the bodyweight exercises above, and you will notice a difference in your strength and physique within 4-6 weeks if you incorporate a healthy diet as part of this routine.
Want a 3D looking shoulder for a more lean build? Try these bodyweight shoulder exercises. Looking to test out your pushing strength? Try the inverted push up, an advanced variation of the pike push up.
Are you a beginner looking to start your fitness journey? Check our beginner chest workouts at home to learn more. Also, check out our chest workouts at home without equipment to get you started. Looking to complete your push workout? Check our chest and triceps workout at home.
- Elizabeth Quinn, M. (2021, December 8). Beginners build strength with incline pushups. Verywell Fit.
Marcin, A. (2023, July 24). Chair dips: How to do and muscles worked. Healthline.