Top 10 Body Weight Exercises No.2 – Press-up

No. 2   The proper press-up

The press-up is a fundamental upper body movement for strengthening the major upper torso structures. At Pete Fraser Fitness we use them regularly to improve our clients’ upper body strength and power.

  • Primary muscles worked: pectoralis major (chest), deltoid anterior (front shoulder), triceps brachii
  • Secondary muscles worked: Abdominals and lower back
  • Benefits: Develops a strong upper torso and improves coordination of upper torso and pelvic structures
  • Good for: Any movement involving pushing, e.g. punching or throwing
  • How to do it: kneel down with palms flat under shoulders, push up off the knees until hips move into line with the shoulders and ankles. Stay flat throughout the movement as you lower down towards the ground by bending the elbows. Stop before the chest touches the ground and push back up. No faster than 2 seconds on both up and down phase.


Variations: At Pete Fraser Fitness we like to challenge our clients with as much variation as possible to properly overload muscles and add a fun element to their programs.

Try these for added muscle stimulation:

  • Close grip press-up: as standard position except perform with thumbs touching and keep elbows tight to the body as they bend. This stimulates more triceps and central fibres of the chest.
  • Inclined press-up: as standard with feet raised on an object between knee and waist height. This works more upper pectoral fibres.
  • Claw press-up: as standard with finger ends in contact with the ground instead of palms. This builds a strong grip for other sports such as climbing.
  • Rolling press-up: this is one of the toughest. Start as standard position then raise hips up so you’re in an upside down V shape (not unlike downward dog yoga pose). Keeping the knees straight, flex the elbows and straighten the hips as your chest slowly drops forwards and down, closely followed by the hips. You’ll end up with the body flat and close to but not touching the ground. Reverse the sequence to push back into the inverted V. This movement is excellent for working the shoulders, core, lower back, pectorals and triceps.