When your fourth grade gym teacher demanded that you drop and give him twenty, you might not have asked, "What muscles do push ups work?" You probably should have. Push ups are a great upper body exercise because they require no equipment and can be done anywhere. By varying foot and hand positions, you can target specific muscle groups for a more intense workout.
Push ups are called a bodyweight exercise because they use only your body's weight and gravity as resistance. Push ups primarily work the upper body muscles, with some core muscles being worked by providing secondary support. The main muscles worked in the traditional push up are the shoulder (deltoids), chest (pectorals) and triceps. There are many variations that you can use to spice up a push up routine and target specific muscle groups.
Hand placement variations in push ups are one way to add variety. Placing your hands wider than your shoulders will work chest muscles more. The diamond hand position works the triceps. You do the diamond by placing the thumb and forefingers of both hands together in a diamond shape with your hands flat on the ground.
Foot placement has a huge impact on the level of challenge with push ups. For decline push ups, place your feet up on a bench or chair, making sure they are secure. This move will target the top part of the chest muscles. Flip the position around and do incline push ups, with your hands on the bench and your feet on the ground to target the lower chest muscles.
Push ups build strength and muscle in the entire torso, boosting metabolism as an extra bonus. Foot and hand variations provide an additional challenge. Now drop and give me twenty!