Push-ups are a versatile, convenient, upper-body exercise. You don't need any equipment to perform push-ups and they work several muscle groups in your upper-body. The different push-up variations allow you to target different muscles and work at different intensity levels. Push-ups are primarily included in chest and triceps workout sessions. However, they also target the shoulders, or, at least, parts of the shoulder muscle.
The shoulder muscle is composed of three heads: the anterior, posterior and lateral deltoids. The anterior, or front, deltoid connects to your clavicle and to your upper arm bone. The medial, or side, deltoid muscle connects to your scapula and your upper arm bone, as does the posterior, or rear, deltoid muscle. Different exercises can target one, two or all three of the deltoid muscles.
You perform a standard push-up on a flat surface. Position your hands flat on the ground with your legs extended behind you. Lower your entire body as one unit. Standard push-ups mainly target the chest and triceps muscles. According to the American Council on Exercise, push-ups also work the anterior and medial deltoids. The deltoid muscles assist the chest and triceps in pressing your body weight back up. A standard push-up does not work the posterior deltoid on the back of the shoulder.
Incline and Decline Variations
The most common push-up variations involve performing the exercise on an incline or on a decline. The decline push-up is more difficult than the standard version and the incline push-up is easier than the standard version. The higher the angle of the exercise, the more difficult or easier it is. Both of these push-up variations still work the anterior and medial deltoid muscles. As with a standard push-up, the shoulder muscles assist the chest and triceps. The posterior deltoid is not involved in these movements.
The pike press is a style of push-up that emphasizes the shoulder muscles more than the chest and triceps muscles. To perform a pike press, start in a standard push-up position. Walk your feet towards your hands, sticking your buttocks up in the air. This is a pike position. From this position, lower your head and shoulders towards the ground by bending your elbows. This style of push-up targets the anterior and medial deltoid. No style of push-up targets the posterior deltoid.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.