I understand that pushups are supposed to be a chest exercise primarily. However, I find that I use my triceps and anterior deltoids more than my chest when doing the exercise. How can I engage my chest more when doing pushups? Do I do it by squeezing the chest in the eccentric portion? Thank you.

  • Don't fully extend your triceps but always focus on your chest. Tensing and squeezing your chest but never putting the full weight on your triceps.
    – Twyxz
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 13:21
  • Pushups are not supposed to be a chest exercise, it is a horizontal push exercise, which uses shoulders, triceps and chest muscles together.
    – Michael C.
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 21:17
  • Make sure to retract your scapula while performing the push up. This is the thing that will let you slightly engage your chest more.
    – Big guy
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 17:11

2 Answers 2



I'm assuming you can perform a decent number of push-ups, so it may feel like you are using your triceps and deltoids more than your chest but it may because they are smaller muscles and fatigue quicker than the larger chest muscles. The chest is still doing the majority of the work but here are some techniques you can try.

How To Engage The Chest More Performing Push-Ups

Push Up Technique

Set Up:

  • Place hands shoulder width apart with the crease between your thumb and first finger pointing straight ahead.

  • Screw your hands into the ground to create torque throughout your
    arms and shoulders. **to do this imagine holding a barbell and as
    hard as possible try to snap the bar in half and pull it apart

  • Keep your elbows about 45 degrees away from your torso, not flared out up by your shoulders or tucked close to your torso

  • During the eccentric portion of the push-up think about pulling your body into the floor and allow your scapula to retract (pulling your
    shoulder blades together).

  • Keep your shoulders over your hands during the entire movement and
    keep your forearms in a vertical position, perpendicular to the

  • During the concentric phase, continue to keep the torque throughout
    your arms and think about pushing your elbows together and squeeze
    your chest together.

Push Up Variations To Engage The Chest

  • Elevate your feet- put your feet on a bench
  • Elevate an arm- use a medicine ball or yoga block to elevate a single arm, which will result in stressing the opposing arm
  • Use a slider on one side- keeping a slider on one hand slowly slide one arm directly out the side of the body while performing the eccentric phase of pull up. As you perform the concentric phase pull the arm back into the body
  • Perform a slow eccentric push-up- lower your body as slow as possible on the eccentric phase of the push, aim for 30 seconds on the eccentric phase and when you hit 0 at the bottom of the movement push up as fast as possible
  • Perform a plyometric push-up or clapping push up- push up during the concentric phase as fast and explosive as possible, as the hands reach the ground absorb the impact and slowly perform the eccentric phase of the push-up

Push ups is a complex exercise that engages lots of muscles (it actually engages ALMOST every muscle in your upper body). You won't be able to exclude your triceps and deltoids from involvement in this exercise. But don't hurry up to the gym - neither bench press nor fly would be of any help.

Chest just can't be trained in an isolated manner at all.

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