2 Push-Ups to Strengthen Your Chest Muscles

By LaReine Chabut

When it comes to chest exercises, you want to find a happy medium between strengthening and toning your pecs. The technical name for chest muscles is the pectorals, but you can shorten the term to pecs. You have two pec muscles:

  • Pectoralis major: The pec major is a skeletal muscle that draws the arm inward and rotates it. This muscle enables you to give hugs. Whenever you pledge allegiance, your hand is covering the meat of the pectoralis major.

  • Pectoralis minor: The pec minor moves the scapula forward and down and also raises the ribs. This muscle resides underneath the pec major.

Modified push-up

The modified push-up strengthens your chest muscles, with additional emphasis on your shoulders and triceps. Be extra careful if you have lower-back, shoulder, elbow, or wrist problems.

Getting set

Lie on your stomach, and bend your knees. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor a bit to the side and in front of your shoulders. Straighten your arms and lift your body so that you’re balanced on your palms and the part of your thighs just above your knees.

Tuck your chin a few inches toward your chest so that your forehead faces the floor. Tighten your abdominals and use your inner thigh muscles to keep your legs parallel.

[Credit: Photograph by Nick Horne]
Credit: Photograph by Nick Horne

The exercise

Bend your elbows and lower your entire body at once. Push back up to the starting position. For an easier workout, lower only halfway down, until your arms are parallel to the floor.

Do’s and don’ts

  • DO keep your abdominal muscles pulled in tight throughout the exercise so that your back doesn’t arch like a swaybacked horse; otherwise, you’re begging for a lower-back injury.

  • DO bring your arms to a full extension.

  • DON’T lock your elbows at the top of the arm extension.

  • DON’T do the dreaded head bob. That’s when you dip your head toward the floor without moving any other part of your body. Talk about a giant pain in the neck!

Other options

Wall push-up (easier): Stand a few feet away from a wall and place your palms flat on the wall slightly wider than your shoulders. Bend your elbows and lean into the wall. Then press yourself away from the wall by straightening your arms.

Incline push-up: This version is easier than the modified push-up but harder than the wall push-up. Follow the same setup as the basic version of this exercise, but place your hands on top of a step bench that has two or three sets of risers underneath.

Negative push-up (easier): This version is harder than the modified push-up but easier than traditional push-ups. Only perform the lowering phase of the military push-up. Slow the movement down and try to lower yourself in five counts. Lower your knees to the ground and follow the modified version when you push yourself up.

Push-up

Push-ups target your chest muscles along with the abdominal muscles and butt to give good core strength and allover toning.

Getting set

Straighten your arms and lift your body in push-up position so that you’re balanced equally on your palms. Tuck your chin a few inches toward your chest so that your forehead faces the floor.

[Credit: Photograph by Nick Horne]
Credit: Photograph by Nick Horne

The exercise

Lower your body toward the floor, bending your elbows out to the side. Straighten your arms pressing against the floor to return to starting position. Complete ten repetitions.

Do’s and don’ts

  • DO keep your abdominal muscles tight to help you maintain your balance.

  • DO use proper breathing, inhaling as you lower and exhaling as you press back up.

  • DON’T arch your back. Keep it straight and in line with your head and the rest of your body.