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Can You Use Push Ups To Build Muscle?

Push ups can be considered one of the best body weight exercises when it comes to building muscle and we will see exactly why.

The first time I had done a push up was when I was a kid and watched a Jackie Chan movie where he was doing push ups.

I wanted to become strong, fast, and do some crazy martial arts like Jackie. But I was weak and could not even do a single one.

Years later, I came to know about exercise and fitness and started doing some body weight exercises. And the routine included push ups.

Slowly but steadily, I was getting better at doing push ups and making progress.

Push ups are an exercise that almost every guy must have tried out one time or another when they were young.

A lot of guys still tend to make use of this exercise when it comes to building strength and muscle using body weight exercises.

But do push ups really build muscle and should you make use of this exercise as part of your workout routine?

Let us try to have a look at the humble push up and answer this question.

What are push ups and what muscles do they work?

Push ups are an upper body exercise that work out not just your chest but a lot of other muscles including your shoulders and triceps.

Since you also need to stabilize your body while performing the push up, you will also make use of your abs and get a good core workout.

So, as you can see, a push up can be considered as a full upper-body exercise and if you use it along with pull ups then it forms a pretty good upper body workout routine as you will be hitting a lot of muscles in your upper body with just these two exercises.

Can you build muscle just using the conventional push ups?

Now you know that a push up is a good exercise for targeting upper body muscles that involve the chest, shoulders, triceps, and even abs.

The problem with the regular push ups is the same as with many body weight exercises. Once you have reached a certain level, it becomes difficult to achieve progressive overload similar to how you can do with weight lifting exercises.

And we know that progressive overload is the key to building strength and muscle.

So, is the push up a waste of your time? Actually not because there are ways where you can continue to make the push ups more challenging as shown below.

How you can make push ups more challenging?

As we have seen, push ups can be a good body weight exercise for beginners looking to build strength and muscle.

But once you have reached a certain point, then the regular push ups will not help you get bigger and stronger.

The reason is that as push ups become easier, it becomes harder to use them and challenge your body.

Of course, the situation when you reach this limit will be different for someone who weighs 300lbs compared to someone who weights 150lbs. But eventually, you will hit this plateau.

But there are definitely some options that you can use that make the push ups more challenging and will help you continue building muscle.

Increasing the number of repetitions

The easiest way that you can use to make push ups more challenging is to increase the number of repetitions that you perform.

So, if you are able to easily perform 10 push ups, the next time you can attempt to perform 15 push ups to challenge yourself.

If you are able to perform 15 push ups then the next time you can attempt to perform 20.

Of course, you can only do so many repetitions after which this method starts getting ineffective as compared to some of the other methods.

You just cannot keep increasing repetitions where you end up performing 500 push ups or more.

Make use of push up variations

Once you are no longer able to progress by increasing the number of repetitions, you can make use of push up variations.

These variations include diamond push ups, feet elevated push ups, staggered push ups, explosive push ups, single-arm push ups, etc.

These variations will help you continue challenging your body and keep progressing to build strength and muscle.

Increase the weight during push ups

Another method to make push ups more challenging is to increase the weight on your body.

This is similar to how you increase the weights that you lift while performing strength training exercises in the gym.

Ideally, you should make use of something called a weighted vest that can help you carry more weight on your body while performing push ups and other body weight exercises.

Rather than just keeping weight on your back, the weighted vest will keep the vest well distributed on your body and you will not have to worry about balancing the weight on your back.

Also, the weight vests are available with a variety of incremental weights ranging from 0 to 60lbs with increments of 4-5lbs. So, you can continue using them by adding incremental weights as you keep getting stronger.


The push up is a great body weight exercise you can use to workout your chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs.

However, once you find the regular push ups comfortable enough, you will need to use some techniques to continue keeping them challenging.

You can increase the number of repetitions you perform, try some different variations of push ups, and also add more weight to your body to make the push ups challenging.

You could even use a combination of these such as using a variation such as the diamond push up along with adding weight to your body using a weighted vest.

I hope this post has given you enough information to know about push ups and how you can use them to build muscle.

If you have any questions, please feel free to add a comment below.

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