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The Press Up – a brief history, examples of muscle groups used and how to do them!

The Press Up

Okay so here is a little article I wrote about the standard press up / push up. I hope you find it useful and enjoy the read. The article includes a brief history, examples of muscles used during the movement, and also an easy-to-read set of instructions on how to do the perfect press up!

The history of the press up

So to start, a little about the history of the press up. I believe that in order to understand something, we should learn about it’s origin, or as much as we can about it’s origin if some facts are vague or lost in time.

I know you guys ‘n’ gals out there want to read about how to do the press up, so I won’t go into too much detail here. The press up has been a highly respected and utilised movement to strengthen the upper body for many years. How many I hear you cry? 10? 20? 50? Try longer. A lot longer. A variant of the press up dates back thousands of years and can be traced to India. There is also some studies that suggest the Roman Emperor Constantine also conducted a version of the same movement regularly.

The version of the press up we all know, maybe have tried and tested too, which has also become common place in many training programmes to boost strength, size and athleticism and is also 1 of my ‘go to’ movements, was apparently invented in 1905 by a man called Mr. Jerick Revilla.

Muscles worked during the press up

The standard press up is widely used to build strength in the upper body, mainly the Pectorals (chest), Deltoids (shoulders), and the Triceps (back of the arm). The truth be told, many more muscle groups are also stimulated during this movement, the Abdominals (core) for example, the Serratus Anterior – a muscle shaped like a fan, located on either side of the chest on the surface of the ribs, and a bunch more. That’s what makes this movement such a great compound exercise to perform (with good form to avoid injury), as it stimulates many, many muscles at the same time.

How to conduct the press up

Now we get to the paragraph you’ve been waiting for. The ‘how to’ part. Here I am going to tell you how to pull off the perfect press up…. read on!

  • Firstly, position your hands on the ground slightly wider than shoulder width apart, just slightly. Hands also need to be below the plane of your shoulders, so have them in-line with the middle of your chest.
  • Ensure your neck is in a neutral position (so your head is in-line with the spine and you are facing the floor).
  • Retract your shoulders and engage your core to keep your hips in-line with your spine. At this point your body should now be a straight line from head to heel.
  • By bending your elbows, lower yourself towards the floor. Ensure as you bend your elbows, they are below the line of the shoulder, so about 45 degrees away from your sides is fine. Flared elbows could result in injury.
  • Once at the bottom of the movement, explode away from the floor, pushing yourself back up to the starting position. Keep your core engaged and the body in a straight line all the way through.


  1. Learn the basic press up before looking to progress or make the movement tougher.
  2. Exhale on exertion.
  3. Take your time and learn the movement, don’t rush it.
  4. Reps need to be full reps to get the greatest benefit of this fantastic, strength-building exercise.

So there you have it, a little article about the press up, a brief history of it, the muscles worked during the movement and the correct form to use with a handful of tips to help you along the way!

Thanks for reading!

A diagram showing the correct way to to do two types of push-up
The above image shows the position of the body during the press up. Take note of the position of the arms in the far left image – the standard, chest dominant press up – the press up variation this article focuses on.
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