Man doing a bad push up

Do push ups grow your arms? Yes, but not as much as you think! Push ups are an exercise that activate several muscle groups (including chest, shoulders and triceps), but is not focused on your arms in the first place. If your goal is to find a workout routine that primarily focuses on arm growth, there are other exercises besides push ups that are worth trying. In this article, we explain why most push-up variations are not optimal for building your arm muscles and suggest a routine that might be a better choice for you.

What you will learn in this article:

Push up workout: what we find on social media?

Man watching push up videos on social media

More and more often videos with workout tips are being shared on social media. Unfortunately, in most cases these tips are wrong or not entirely correct. Let’s take as an example a TikTok video showing how to train your arms with push ups.

The workout routine consists of:

  • Standard push ups – 3×15 or 3×20
  • Diamond push ups – 3×15 or 3×20
  • Archer push ups – 3×15 or 3×20
  • Pike push ups – 3×15 or 3×20

Could you detect something weird in this routine? If you have never heard about these push ups, take a look at our article about Push Up Variations.

Why this push ups routine doesn’t grow your arms: 1st issue

  • Graph showing why push ups are not good for growing arms
  • Graph showing when push ups are too easy
  • Graph showing when push ups are too hard
  • Graph showing the right number of reps for push ups

The first problem is that all exercises are done in the same rep range but they are not equal in difficulty (Picture 1). 15-20 Archer or Pike Push Ups are much harder than 15-20 regular or Diamond Push Ups so it makes no sense to suggest the same rep range for all 4 exercises. If you are an advanced athlete you won’t get challenged enough when doing 15-20 Regular or diamond push ups (Picture 2) and if you’re on an intermediate level you won’t even be able to do 15-20 Archer or Pike Push Ups in the first place (Picture 3). 

Besides that even 15-20 regular or diamond push ups are no piece of cake. It is necessary to show easier progressions so that beginners are also able to do this routine. Another option to make this routine work is to vary the rep range of the harder exercises. So if 15-20 Regular or Diamond  Push Ups are very challenging for you it would be way more realistic to aim for 3-8 reps when doing Archer or Pike Push Ups (Picture 4). Important tip: Always start your training with the harder exercises in the lower rep range, of course after you’ve done your warm up, and finish it with the easier ones in the higher rep range. 

Why this push ups routine doesn’t grow your arms: 2nd issue

  • Muscles that you train with normal push up
  • Muscles that you train with diamond push up
  • Muscles that you train with archer push up
  • Muscles that you train with pike push up

The next issue has to do with the targeted muscles because these exercises are not really arm focused. The regular push up is a mix between chest, shoulders and triceps. The diamond push up focuses on your triceps while the shoulders and chest do their part too. The archer push up has a similar muscle activation like the regular push up on the bent arm and a strong chest focus on the straight arm. And the pike push up is clearly shoulder focused with upper chest and triceps support. 

So all 4 exercises involve the triceps somehow, but only one of them really focuses on it. Besides that, none of these exercises work your biceps or brachialis.

The best workout routine to grow your arms

  • Man showing the key points of triceps dips
  • Man showing the key points of sphinx push up
  • Man showing the key points of triceps extension
  • Man showing the key points of diamond push up
  • Man showing the key points of chin ups
  • Man showing the key points of biceps curls
  • Man showing the key points of triceps curls

 If you really want to target your arms with calisthenics do the following exercises.

  • Reverse Biceps Curls
  • Biceps Focused Chin Ups
  • Bodyweight Biceps Curls
  • Triceps Dips 
  • Diamond Push Ups
  • Sphinx Push Ups
  • Bodyweight Triceps Extensions 
Man with a ranking of arms exercises

Of course there are also other calisthenics exercises that work your biceps and triceps, and if you want to know more about it, you can have a look at our 22 Arm Exercises Ranked video. Now we show you how a true calisthenics arm workout could look like. 

  • 3-4 Triceps Extensions – 6-12 reps / 2-3 Min Rest 
  • 3-4 Sets Diamond Push Ups – 15- 20 reps / 1-2 Min Rest
  • 3-4 Sets Reverse Biceps Curls –  6-12 reps / 2.3 Min Rest 
  • 3-4 Sets Bodyweight Biceps Curls 15-20 reps / 1.-2 Min Rest

Always keep in mind that the arms are already involved in nearly every upper body exercise you do in calisthenics, so you don’t need to train them that often or do that many sets. Most of the time 1 session for arms a week is enough and it’s also ok if you don’t have an arm day at all and just include 1 exercise after your pull or push workout.

Let’s sum it up: The workout we mentioned at the beginning is not good for targeting your arms, and if you’re doing it on top of your shoulder or chest routine, it can easily lead to an overtraining for those muscles while the arms are not really challenged that much. It’s ok as an all around push workout and a good mix of shoulders, chest and triceps but of course this only works if you make the adjustments I mentioned before. So vary the rep range and adapt the difficulty of the exercises to your level so that they are neither too hard nor too easy for you. 

Watch this video to learn more

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