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Wide-Grip Push-Ups vs Regular Push-Ups: Surprising Distinctions

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

When a instructor commands you to “drop and give me 20,” do you observe where you position your hands? There’s a strong likelihood that you were actually performing a wide-grip push-up when you intended to do a standard push-up. Wide-grip push-ups are a more demanding rendition of the standard push-up. As the name indicates, you will position your hands farther apart — slightly wider than shoulder-width — when executing a wide-grip push-up. Because of the different hand placement, wide-grip push-ups engage your upper body in a distinct manner compared to regular or triceps (narrow-grip) push-ups.

Wide-grip push-ups also alleviate some of the strain on your triceps. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science discovered that wide-grip push-ups recruited the chest and triceps muscles to a lesser extent than a standard or narrow-grip push-up. Instead, they target the biceps, serratus anterior (the muscles along the sides of your ribs), and latissimus dorsi (also known as your lats, the back muscles that extend from your armpit to your spine) to execute the movement.

Continue reading to uncover more information about the advantages of wide-grip push-ups, the muscles engaged, and how to execute them correctly.

How to Perform a Wide-Grip Push-Up: Correct Form and Technique

A. Begin in a high plank position with feet together and hands slightly wider than shoulders-width apart, fingers pointing forward or slightly outward. Activate your quadriceps and core as if maintaining a plank.

B. Lower your torso towards the floor by bending your elbows outwards, pausing when your chest is just below elbow height.

C. Exhale and press into your palms to push your body away from the floor and return to the starting position, synchronizing the movement of your hips and shoulders.

Complete 8 to 15 repetitions. Aim for 3 sets.

Proper Form for Wide-Grip Push-Ups

  • Position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Orient your fingers forward or slightly outward.
  • Ensure your shoulders, hips, and spine are aligned in a straight line.
  • Maintain a straight back and prevent the upper back from collapsing inward.
  • Avoid allowing the hips or lower back to sag towards the floor.
  • Maintain engagement of your core throughout the entire range of motion.

Techniques and Tips for Wide-Grip Push-Ups

  • From the high plank position, contract your chest away from the floor and then push up from that position.
  • Similar to regular push-ups, you can lower onto your knees to build strength before attempting the full range of motion. (No need to feel embarrassed — correct form takes priority.)
  • You can also place your hands on an elevated surface (such as a bench, box, or step) to reduce the amount of weight on your upper body.

    Muscles Targeted

    Wide-grip push-ups target multiple muscle groups. The main muscle groups engaged are:

  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Lats
  • Pectoralis (front of the chest)
  • Anterior deltoid (front of the shoulders)
  • Serratus anterior (sides of the ribs)
  • Core

Due to the positioning of the hands during a wide-grip push-up, various muscles are targeted compared to a traditional or narrow-grip push-up. In addition to the triceps, which are active in all types of push-ups, the biceps, chest, and shoulder muscles are activated during a wide-grip push-up. Additionally, the lat muscles that run along the sides of the body, the serratus anterior at the sides of the ribcage, and the core muscles in the abdominals and lower back are all utilized during a wide-grip push-up.

Benefits of Wide-Grip Push-Ups

Wide-grip push-ups are a bodyweight exercise that can enhance upper body strength while engaging the shoulders, chest, triceps, and biceps. This type of push-up also fortifies the core. A strong core enhances stability and is crucial for daily activities such as walking, bending, lifting, balance, and posture. Furthermore, it aids in preventing injuries and strengthening the back.

“This is a challenging push-up variation because your chest and biceps muscles are in a more lengthened state,” explains Rachel Mariotti, the NYC-based trainer demonstrating the move above. “When they’re lengthened, it’s more difficult to generate as much force,” she states.

Variations and Modifications

If you’re seeking something slightly easier or are ready to advance beyond a traditional wide-grip push-up, try these variations and modifications.

Alteration for beginners

If you’re just starting out with wide-grip push-ups, the most crucial aspect is to maintain proper form. For beginners, this may entail keeping your knees on the ground during the exercise. Once you feel comfortable in the correct position, you can raise your knees and push up through your toes into the traditional wide-grip push-up position.

Advanced variation

When you’re prepared for a challenge, you can incorporate a box or step under your feet to perform the push-up in a decline position, or try them with your feet suspended in a TRX. You can also attempt balancing a ball under your feet to further engage your core during the push-up.

Safety Precautions

Prior to beginning any new exercise, consult your healthcare provider to ensure it is safe for you.

Whenever you exercise, it’s important to adequately warm up and stretch before you start.

If you encounter any discomfort or muscular tension, cease the physical activity and grant your body a period of relaxation.

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