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Increase Strength: Build Bigger Stronger Muscles With Push Ups

Updated on February 21, 2013


Reps are repetitions. While working out people usually repeat a movement multiple times. For instance they may do 20 push ups. If you want to build muscle then the last few repetitions should be difficult. Strength workouts involve a low number of repetitions. Endurance workouts involve a large number of repetitions. Increase the level of difficulty for each rep to increase strength. Increase the number of reps to improve endurance.

If I am lifting weights or doing push ups then I do sets of 8 to 12 for strength workouts. For endurance workouts I do one or two sets with a large number of reps. One day I did one set of 45 push ups while working on my endurance. I did as many as I could. The day after that I did 6 sets of 12. I did 12 push ups, took a quick break and then did another 12 until I was done.

Me doing tucked push ups with my legs in the air.
Me doing tucked push ups with my legs in the air. | Source
Me doing decline push-ups on my stability ball.
Me doing decline push-ups on my stability ball. | Source

Increasing the Weight

You can change the angle so your arms are supporting most or all of the weight and you can change your weight. One way to change the weight is to change your clothes. You can easily add an extra 5 pounds by putting on some more clothes. Winter clothes are heavier than summer clothes and you can double up.

Another way to increase the weight is to wear a backpack or have a person press down on you. You can fill the backpack with heavy clothes like jeans or whatever you have on hand. Just try to spread the weight out. To increase your actual body weight build muscle throughout your body. Workout your upper and lower body to significantly increase your muscle weight.

By using one arm at a time you can double the amount of weight your arms are lifting. One-arm push-ups require a lot of strength and balance. You can also do push ups with your legs in the air. A planch push-up is similar to the standard push-up but it is done with your legs in the air.

You can kneel on the ground so just your knees and your hands are touching and push yourself up to do tucked planch push ups. I can't do planch push ups yet but I was able to do 2 tucked planch push ups. A handstand push-up is a vertical push-up with your legs high in the air. I am training to to planch push ups and freestanding handstand push ups.

Explosive Power

When talking about the body, explosive power refers to a sudden burst of strength and speed. The movement is quick and contains a lot of force. A powerful punch uses explosive power. For push ups it refers to pushing yourself up with enough force that your hands leave the ground. It is like you are jumping with your arms instead of your legs. You don't just lift your body. You propel it into the air. That requires a lot more force than just lifting your body by straightening your arms.

Balls, Chair And Towels

You can increase the variety of push-ups by using balls, chairs and anything else use can do the push-ups on. I started using 2 chairs so I can dip down while doing push-ups. I started using balls because it is harder to stay balanced on a ball. You use muscles to balance. So balance exercises can strengthen your muscles. Using chairs and balls allows me to change the exercise. You could use balls, chairs or balls and chairs. There are stability balls and medicine balls that are designed to hold your bodyweight. Some of the most difficult push ups are done on medicine balls.

While using two towels and a smooth surface you can do sliding push-ups. You move your body down and up my changing the width of your grip. Slide your hands farther apart. Then slide them closer together. The first time you try it you should be on your knees.

Increasing Strength

To increase your strength doing push ups you should limit yourself to a small number of reps but you she also challenge yourself. The trick is to continue to increase the level of difficulty. You can do that by changing the push ups. There are lots of ways to vary your push up routine. So you can increase your strength and change the appearance of your body. If I stopped at standard push ups my strength gain would have been extremely limited but I kept finding ways to continue to challenge myself. You can progress to more difficult push up routines.

Increasing the difficulty could mean increasing the weight, exerting extra force, changing the position of your hands, reducing the time between sets or changing the order of the exercises. Simply changing the width of your grip can make a big difference. When you do narrow, wide or shoulder width push-ups you can feel the difference. Push-ups are a great way to build strength.

Building Muscle

Push-ups can work your triceps, chest, shoulders, abs and back muscles. If you want to build muscle doing push-ups I recommend a combination of strength, balance and endurance training. Spend time doing 8 to 12 reps per set and spend some time doing one set of 20 or more push ups. If your body adapts and the exercises become too easy then change your routine. My push-up routine is still difficult because I keep changing it. I look for ways to increase the difficulty. So I continue to build muscle as a result of my push-up routine.

You don't need to lift heavy weights to build muscle. You can use your bodyweight. Just make sure you train according to the results you want. Train for strength if you want strength and train for endurance if you want endurance. Training to do 60 push-ups in a row is not a good way to increase your strength. Easy push-ups are not good for building muscle. Difficult push-ups are good for building muscle. If it is difficult for you then doing it will help you build muscle. That is assuming you give your body time to recover. Get lots of sleep and maintain a healthy diet.

As a result of doing push-ups I became bigger and stronger. My chest muscles became more defined, my shoulders became wider, my abs became harder and my triceps became larger. So when I noticed people saying push ups are not good for building muscle and increasing strength I wanted share my experience. Besides gaining muscle I lost fat. Doing push ups changed my body a lot.

Bench Press Versus Push Ups

Bench presses are often compared to push-ups because the movements and position of your body are very similar. Since the position and the movements are similar they also work the same muscles. People lie down on a bench and lift a weighted barbell. If you have more weights then the level of difficulty can easily be increased by adding some more weights to the barbell. You do need a bench, a barbell, weights and a spotter for bench presses. That usually means buying the equipment and finding a place to put it or going to a gym. The bench press is a great exercise for increasing the size of your chest, shoulders and triceps.

I can just drop to the ground and start doing push ups. So push ups are much more convenient than bench presses. They are also safer. Even if I attempt a difficult push up variation I don't need a spotter. Push ups are more versatile than bench presses because there are a lot of push up variations you can do. There are over a dozen different push up variations in my workout routine. I do up to 6 different variations per workout. As far as I know there are only 3 different bench press variations. Push ups work your abs and back muscles. Bench presses don't. That is why push are better for providing function strength. You can do more with the increased strength and endurance. So push ups are superior to the bench press in some ways.

The main advantages of the bench press over push ups are that it uses fewer muscles and increasing the difficulty is simpler. For that reason the bench press is better for increasing the size of your chest, shoulders and triceps but push ups are better if you want a strong upper body. The bench press is a good exercise but if I had to choose between one or the other I would choose push ups.


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    • Rich W2K profile image

      Rich 5 years ago from Gold Coast

      Excellent hub. I usually work out at home but don't have equipment. Yet I want to build muscle. I will definitely need to read this again before my workout tonight.