I watch the AthleanX youtube channel a lot to learn a lot about the body's mechanical working as well as any training tips. In one video, Jeff recommends thumbs up push ups as a no equipment work out for the back. But I can't figure out how it would work. I am sure he is right, as I have learned a huge amount from his videos.

The closest back exercise that I know of that I can compare it to would probably be a straight arm pushdown, but it is still pushing away from the body on the horizontal plane instead of vertical, like the pushdown.

He doesn't say what muscles it might work, and I can't figure it out. Does anybody understand the mechanics of it?

  • His commentary states... This video will show you how to do just that with 5 insane back exercises that are sure to help you with both the width and thickness of your back from your lats to your rhomboids, and everything in between! If that's not what you're looking for, why not just email him? – rrirower Aug 6 '15 at 14:56
  • well yes but i assume he meant that all of them together did that? i have emailed and commented in the past and not got replies... – JohnnyElite Aug 6 '15 at 15:01
  • Why not do some and see which muscles are sore tomorrow? – KurtisT Oct 27 '20 at 21:01

Thumbs up pushup is essentially a body weight alternative for Face pulls, another great exercise for posture. To be exact, a face pull emphasizing on external rotation. You do this by pulling your fist in the direction of the thumb when you pull the rope to your face.

Face pulls, hence thumbs up pushups, work your shoulders and the rotator cuff muscle group.


in a face pull you are bringing the arms in towards the scapula to work the rotator cuff muscles however in the thumbs up push up you are bringing the scapula out towards the arms. in both cases the rotator cuff muscles are shortening and thus being worked although I imagine the thumbs up push up is a tad more serratus dominant. hope this helps!


It probably maximizes hand strength and works the same as regular push ups(chest, triceps, etc.) But why would you do push ups on your thumbs? You'll end up with 2 broken thumbs and even more serious, 2 broken wrists. Also, not only that, but your traps(upper back) muscles are worked with regular push ups anyway.

  • The thumbs are pushed up in the exercise, they are not utilised at all. Also, in the video he says that it definitely is not a chest/tricep working exercise, and that it targets the back muscles. If you think about how straight arm pushdowns, or dumbbell pullovers work, it makes sense. But they work different muscles, and I was wondering specifically which ones these exercises work, since he does not explicitly mention it. – JohnnyElite Aug 15 '15 at 10:57
  • it actually does involve a little chest muscles too. – user28080 Mar 19 '18 at 12:32

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