Push ups will mainly work the chest, shoulders, and triceps. However, the biceps are the antagonist (opposite) muscle to the triceps, so they will get activated in some way. The biceps provide support and balance while the triceps are being worked. But, even though the biceps are being activated, it isn’t in a way that will stimulate muscle growth.
How Do Push Ups Help Biceps?
Whenever you perform push ups the opposite muscles to the one’s being worked will become activated.
They basically work as stabilizing muscles.
So, in effect, the lats and biceps will get stimulated in some way as the opposing muscle groups to the chest and triceps.
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However, this is definitely not enough to stimulate muscle growth.
You can make the biceps have an increased role by performing more tricep-focused push ups.
This will involve bringing the hands closer together or even doing diamond push ups.
But, you certainly won’t produce a set of bulging biceps from push ups alone.
With that being said, it’s important to realise that the triceps take up approximately two-thirds of the upper arm area.
So, it makes sense that you should work the triceps twice as much as the biceps.
By doing so you can definitely produce a great set of arms, and more focus on the triceps will certainly make the upper arms look much bigger.
There is of course a bicep push up variation, but in truth I’m not a fan.
And I’m definitely not alone in my thinking.
Are Bicep Push Ups Bad?
If you’re training at home, or with as little equipment as possible, I’m sure you realise that the back and biceps are probably the most difficult muscle groups to hit.
You can train just about every other muscle in the body with absolutely no equipment.
However, in order to hit the upper back and biceps you’ll need to perform some type of pulling exercise.
The most obvious exercises will be pull ups and chin ups.
But, these movements require a pull up bar.
You also have the option to perform inverted rows.
You can change the position of your hands to target different muscles.
But, once again, you will usually require a bar of some type.
You can actually work around this by using a couple of chairs and a broom handle.
However, you’ll need to be careful and ensure that the set up is sturdy enough to support you and your weight.
So, if you’re looking to target the biceps with absolutely no equipment, realistically this is almost impossible.
The Evolution of the Bicep Push Up
This is probably why the “bicep push up” evolved.
The main problem with the bicep push up is that you’re not actually using the biceps in a way that can stimulate growth.
The main role of the biceps is that it flexes at the elbow, supinates the forearm, and assists in shoulder flexion.
So, if you’re looking to work the biceps you’ll need to perform one, if not all, of these movements.
But, in truth, the bicep push up doesn’t perform any of these functions.
Due to the placement of the hands in the bicep push up there is some form of supination.
This is similar to how you would hold a pair of dumbbells at the bottom of the bicep curl movement.
And unfortunately this is where any similarities to a bicep exercise ends.
There is no contraction of the bicep muscle during the movement even though you do flex at the elbow.
Basically, all you’re doing is performing an isometric bicep hold at best.
This is the same as picking up a set of dumbbells to perform curls, but then just holding the dumbbells in a static position at the bottom of the movement.
I will also say that bicep push ups put the wrist joints under extreme stress.
There are definitely exercises you can perform with your hands and wrists in this position, but these are more of an advanced nature.
A prime example of this would be variations of the planche.
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Can You Get Bigger Arms By Doing Push Ups?
As I’ve mentioned, you can most certainly focus push ups more on the triceps.
And as the triceps take up two-thirds of the upper arm this can of course lead to much bigger arms.
Diamond push ups are typically the “go-to” exercises for triceps.
However, once again, I’m not really a fan.
This boils down to wrist position once more, and the additional pressure you are placing on the joints.
This includes both the wrist and shoulder joints.
I much prefer performing close push ups, or close hand position push ups.
When it comes to diamond push ups the stress that is placed on the wrist joints is plain for all to see.
Then because your hands are turned inwards in order to make the diamond shape your shoulders become internally rotated.
This is not good news for your shoulders when performing any push-based exercise.
I also feel that diamond push ups shorten the range of motion.
So, they may feel much harder than standard push ups, but in effect you’re actually doing less work.
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Finally, the tricep muscle is worked by straightening the arm at the elbow joint.
Therefore, forming a diamond shape with your hands has very little to do with tricep stimulation.
For me, simply having the hands closer together than the traditional push up position will work the triceps far better.
Plus, it won’t put anywhere near as much stress on either the wrist or shoulder joints.
Push ups won’t work the biceps in the right way to stimulate muscle growth. The biceps work as a stabilizing muscle, but it is the triceps that receive the muscle-building benefits of push ups. You may look to perform bicep push ups, but once again there isn’t enough stimulus for the biceps to encourage muscle growth.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.