Wall Push-Ups – Muscles Worked, How-To, Benefits, and Alternatives – Fitness Volt – Fitness Volt

Written by Patrick Dale, PT, ex-Marine
Last Updated onAugust 24, 2022
Wall Push Up
There are over 600 muscles in the human body, and each one works in synergy with its neighbor to control your movements. Muscles are made of bundles of fibers and controlled by nerves called motor neurons. Sensory nerves tell you the position of your muscles so you can control them without even looking.
It’s really quite amazing!
But, despite this complexity, your muscles are also pretty dumb. For example, they can’t tell the difference between doing push-ups for your pecs or working out on a state-of-the-art chest press machine.
Ultimately, your muscles just know tension and time, and by manipulating these two variables, you can build size and strength using almost any type of workout equipment.
That’s one of the reasons that calisthenics is such a great workout – you can train anywhere and anytime, using only your body weight for resistance.
The most significant advantage of calisthenic training is also its main disadvantage – your body weight. Your weight could make some exercises impossible to do correctly, especially if you are a beginner.
But, the good news is that changing the angle of your body or otherwise modifying your technique can make almost any bodyweight movement more manageable.
In this article, we discuss the wall push-up, explaining why and how to do it, and how to progress your training as you get stronger.
Wall push-ups are a compound exercise. This means they involve two or more joints and several muscles working together. In fact, wall push-ups are virtually a full-body exercise!
The primary muscles trained during wall push-ups are:
Pectoralis major – known as the pecs for short, these are the muscles located on the front of your chest. The pecs have three main functions: shoulder adduction, shoulder horizontal flexion, and shoulder medial rotation.
Deltoids – the deltoids are your shoulder muscles. Known as the delts for short, there are three sets of fibers called heads in this muscle: anterior (front), medial (side), and posterior (rear). All three deltoid heads are involved in wall push-ups, but the anterior head is the most active.
Rotator cuff – located deep inside your shoulder, the rotator cuff controls and stabilizes your shoulder joint during wall push-ups. The rotator cuff muscles are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.
Triceps – located on the back of your upper arm, the triceps are responsible for elbow extension during wall push-ups. The triceps often fatigue first during push-ups, so you may feel this muscle working more than the pecs and delts.
Serratus anterior – located on the side of your lower chest, the serratus anterior is so called because it looks like the edge of a serrated or saw-tooth blade. During push-ups, this small but important muscle keeps your shoulder blades flat against your ribs.
Core – you must use the muscles of your core to stabilize your spine during wall push-ups. The core is the collective term for your rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae. These muscles surround your midsection like a weightlifting belt to create intra-abdominal pressure, which supports your spine from within.
Get more from wall push-ups while keeping your risk of injury to a minimum by following these guidelines:
Note: The further you move your feet away from the wall, the more weight you’ll put on your arms and the more challenging the exercise will be, so adjust your feet accordingly.

Do wall push-ups deserve a place in your workouts? Consider the following benefits and then decide!
Wall push-ups are the ultimate excuse-free workout as you don’t need any special equipment to do them. In fact, you could probably go and do a set right now! If lack of time or facilities makes working out inconvenient for you, wall push-ups are a good solution.
Regular push-ups involve lifting about 50-60 percent of your weight with just your arms. This could be too challenging for some people, especially calisthenics beginners. Wall push-ups put much less strain on your arms, so they’re the ideal way to build your strength before progressing to full push-ups.
Instead of diving straight into a set of full push-ups, use wall push-ups to warm up your chest and shoulders. If you have sore joints or can only do a few full push-ups, warming up with wall push-ups could make your workout more comfortable and enjoyable.
Do push-ups beyond failure by switching to wall push-ups after regular floor push-ups. Extending your set this way will make your workout more intense and potentially more productive for building strength and muscle mass.
While wall push-ups are a mostly beneficial exercise, there are also a few drawbacks to consider:
Wall push-ups don’t put a lot of weight on your arms. This is an advantage for some people but a drawback for others. If you are already quite strong, wall push-ups may be too easy to be productive, and you’ll need to choose a more challenging variation.
Wall push-ups are a highly effective upper body exercise, but that doesn’t mean you need to do them all the time. There are several variations and alternatives you can use to keep your workouts productive and interesting:
Box push-ups put more weight on your hands than wall push-ups, but not as much as full push-ups. This exercise is a decent step up from wall push-ups, but it is still suitable for beginners who aren’t ready for the regular variation.
How to do it:
With three-quarter push-ups, your knees are further back, putting more weight on your hands. You’ll also need to work a little harder to stabilize your spine, so expect to feel this exercise more in your abs than with box push-ups.
How to do it:
With band-assisted push-ups, you use a resistance band to offset some of your body weight to make the exercise easier. Start with a strong band and then progress to a weaker one as you get better at the exercise. Gradually wean yourself off the band until you can do full push-ups unaided.
How to do it:
After doing the previous three exercises, you should now have the strength necessary to do at least a few full push-ups. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should quit those easier variations. In fact, it’s probably best to continue doing them until you feel you have truly mastered doing regular push-ups.
How to do it:
Where wall, box, and three-quarter push-ups put less weight on your arms, decline push-ups do the opposite. If you can do push-ups with good form and need a more challenging exercise, decline push-ups could be the perfect exercise for you.
How to do it:
Deficit push-ups take your muscles and joints through a larger range of motion, making them considerably more challenging than other types of push-ups. You can use push-up handles, yoga blocks, stacks of weight plates, dumbbells, or even a couple of bricks for this exercise.
How to do it:
Push-ups aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay! You can train your chest and triceps without resorting to bodyweight exercises if you prefer. The chest press machine is arguably the most straightforward chest, shoulder, and triceps exercise around.
How to do it:
You can train your chest with barbells or dumbbells, collectively called freeweights. Unlike resistance training machines like the chest press, you’ll need to work a little harder to stabilize the weights, making these exercises more demanding and also more effective.
Learn how to do barbell bench presses here and dumbbell bench presses here.
Cable chest presses are an excellent alternative to freeweight bench presses and are more functional than a regular chest press machine. This is a great movement for improving shoulder and core stability while you work your pecs, deltoids, and triceps.
Learn how to do cable chest presses here.
If you want to tone and strengthen your chest, shoulders, and triceps, push-ups are hard to beat. But, as convenient as regular push-ups clearly are, they may be too demanding for some people.
The good news is that you don’t HAVE to do full push-ups and can get an effective workout with easier push-up variations, such as wall push-ups, three-quarter push-ups, and band-assisted push-ups.
So, regardless of your current level of fitness and strength, it’s good to know that push-ups can always be part of your workouts, and you can use them to work your upper body anywhere and anytime!
Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine, gym owner, and fitness qualifications tutor and assessor. In addition, Patrick is a freelance writer who has authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos. He’s not just an armchair fitness expert; Patrick practices what he preaches! He has competed at a high level in numerous sports, including rugby, triathlon, rock climbing, trampolining, powerlifting, and, most recently, stand up paddleboarding. When not lecturing, training, researching, or writing, Patrick is busy enjoying the sunny climate of Cyprus, where he has lived for the last 20-years.
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