Why Do I Feel Pushups in My Biceps? What You’re Doing Wrong

why do i feel pushups in my biceps?

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Why Do I Feel Pushups in My Biceps? What You’re Doing Wrong

Pushups are often hailed as the quintessential exercise for toning your chest and triceps. However, many people are surprised to find that they also feel a significant burn in their biceps while doing this classic move.

This phenomenon raises the question: “Why do I feel pushups in my biceps?” Understanding the muscle groups activated during a pushup can provide valuable insights into your workout routine. More importantly, it can help you perform pushups correctly, ensuring that you’re getting the most out of this versatile exercise.

In this article, we’ll delve into the anatomy of a pushup, why you might be feeling it in your biceps, and how to maximize muscle engagement during this compound exercise.

Why Do I Feel Pushups in My Biceps?

Feeling pushups in your biceps is a common experience that can be attributed to several factors such as incorrect form, muscle imbalances, and even pre-existing conditions. While pushups primarily target the chest, triceps, and shoulders, the biceps also play a stabilizing role during the exercise. Incorrect hand placement or flared elbows can shift the workload to the biceps, causing them to engage more than they should. Additionally, if your chest and triceps are stronger than your biceps, your body may naturally recruit the biceps to compensate for the imbalance. Pre-existing conditions like tendonitis can also make you more sensitive to bicep engagement during pushups. Understanding these factors can help you adjust your form and approach to pushups, ensuring a more balanced and effective workout.

Anatomy of a Pushup

When you perform a standard pushup, you’re not just working your chest and triceps; you’re engaging a complex network of muscles that includes your shoulders, back, and yes, even your biceps. The primary muscles involved are the pectoralis major (chest), triceps brachii (triceps), and the anterior deltoid (shoulders).

Secondary muscles like the serratus anterior, rectus abdominis, and the muscles in your legs and lower back also play a role in stabilizing your body during the movement.

So, what role do the biceps play? The biceps brachii, commonly known simply as the biceps, are responsible for elbow flexion. While they are not the primary muscles used in a pushup, they do serve as stabilizers that assist in the downward and upward phases of the exercise.

When you lower yourself to the ground, your biceps work in an isometric contraction, helping to control the rate at which you descend. As you push yourself back up, they again act as stabilizers to ensure your body moves in a controlled manner.

Understanding this can help you engage your biceps more effectively and could be the key to unlocking a more efficient and comprehensive pushup routine.

Why You Might Feel It in Your Biceps

Incorrect Form

One of the most common reasons people feel pushups in their biceps is incorrect form. When your hands are positioned too far forward or your elbows flare out excessively, it can put additional stress on your biceps. This improper alignment can make your biceps work harder than they need to, leading to increased muscle fatigue and soreness in the biceps rather than the intended target muscles like the chest and triceps.

Muscle Imbalance

Another reason could be muscle imbalances. If your chest and triceps are stronger than your biceps, your body might naturally recruit your biceps to help perform the pushup. This is your body’s way of compensating for the imbalance, but it can lead to overuse and strain on your biceps over time. Regularly incorporating bicep-specific exercises into your routine can help correct this imbalance.

Pre-existing Conditions

Lastly, pre-existing conditions like tendonitis or muscle strains can make you more sensitive to feeling pushups in your biceps. If you have a history of arm or shoulder issues, the pushup motion might exacerbate these conditions, causing you to feel discomfort or pain in your biceps. In such cases, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Related: Overcoming Activation Barriers: Why Can’t I Feel Bench Press in My Chest?

Types of Pushups and Muscle Engagement

Standard Pushup

The standard pushup primarily targets the chest, triceps, and shoulders. However, as we’ve discussed, the biceps also play a stabilizing role. In a standard pushup, your hands should be positioned slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and your body should form a straight line from head to heels.

Diamond Pushup

The diamond pushup is a variation that places more emphasis on the triceps. By bringing your hands close together to form a diamond shape under your chest, you reduce the involvement of the chest and shoulders, making the triceps work harder. This variation is less likely to engage the biceps significantly.

Wide Grip Pushup

In contrast, the wide grip pushup focuses more on the chest by positioning the hands farther apart. This wider stance reduces the workload on the triceps and biceps, making it a good option for those looking to target the chest specifically.

Bicep-focused Pushup Variations

If you’re interested in engaging your biceps more during pushups, consider variations like the “bicep pushup,” where you rotate your hands so that your fingers point toward your feet. This adjustment shifts some of the workload from the triceps to the biceps, allowing for more targeted muscle engagement.

The Science Behind Muscle Activation

Understanding the science behind muscle activation during pushups can provide valuable insights into your workout routine. In a standard pushup, the primary muscles activated are the pectoralis major, triceps brachii, and anterior deltoids.

These muscles are responsible for the majority of the force exerted during the exercise. However, secondary muscles like the biceps, serratus anterior, and core muscles also play a crucial role in stabilizing the body.

Electromyography (EMG) studies have shown that muscle activation varies depending on the type of pushup performed. For example, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that diamond pushups activated the triceps more than any other pushup variation.

Another study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science indicated that wide grip pushups activated the chest muscles to a greater extent than standard pushups.

Expert opinions also support these findings. Fitness trainers and physiologists often recommend varying pushup styles to target different muscle groups effectively. By understanding the science behind muscle activation, you can tailor your pushup routine to meet your specific fitness goals.

Related: Bench Press Showdown: Should You Do Flat and Incline Bench Press on the Same Day?

How to Correctly Perform a Pushup

Step-by-step guide

  1. Start Position: Begin in a plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels.
  2. Lowering Phase: Inhale as you lower your body towards the ground, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle from your body.
  3. Bottom Position: Go down until your chest almost touches the ground. Ensure that your body is still in a straight line.
  4. Pushing Phase: Exhale as you push yourself back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms but without locking the elbows.

Common mistakes to avoid

  • Flaring Elbows: Keep your elbows close to your body to avoid shoulder strain.
  • Sagging Hips: Maintain a straight body line to engage your core and protect your lower back.
  • Incomplete Range of Motion: Make sure to go all the way down and all the way up to get the full benefits of the exercise.
  • Rushing: Perform each pushup in a controlled manner to maximize muscle engagement and minimize the risk of injury.

By following this guide and avoiding common mistakes, you can ensure that you’re performing pushups in a way that is both effective and safe.

Tips for Effective Pushups

Warm-up routines

Before diving into your pushup routine, it’s crucial to warm up properly. A good warm-up increases blood flow to the muscles and prepares your body for the workout ahead. Consider doing 5-10 minutes of light cardio followed by dynamic stretches targeting the upper body.

Breathing techniques

Proper breathing is essential for effective pushups. Inhale as you lower yourself and exhale as you push back up. This breathing pattern helps you generate more force and makes the exercise more efficient.

Progression methods

If you’re new to pushups or looking to advance your routine, consider using progression methods. Start with knee pushups or wall pushups if you’re a beginner. As you get stronger, progress to standard pushups and then to more advanced variations like diamond or wide grip pushups. You can also increase the number of sets and reps or reduce the rest time between sets for added intensity.

By incorporating these tips into your routine, you can make your pushup workouts more effective and see better results over time.

Push Ups and Grip Strength

Improving your grip strength can significantly impact why you feel pushups in your biceps. A stronger grip allows for better control and stabilization during the pushup movement, reducing the strain on secondary muscles like the biceps.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that enhanced grip strength can lead to better overall muscle engagement during pushups. This can help shift the focus back to the primary muscles like the chest and triceps, making the exercise more effective.

For those looking to improve their grip strength, products like grip strengtheners and sport-specific CBD products can be beneficial.


Why don’t I feel pushups in my chest?

If you’re not feeling pushups in your chest, it’s likely due to incorrect form or muscle imbalances. Make sure your hand placement is correct and that you’re engaging your chest muscles as you push up. If you’re still not feeling it, consider consulting a fitness trainer to assess your form.

Can pushups replace bicep curls?

While pushups can engage your biceps, they are not a direct replacement for bicep curls. Pushups are a compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, whereas bicep curls specifically target the biceps. For targeted bicep growth, it’s advisable to include both exercises in your routine.

How many pushups should I do to build biceps?

The number of pushups you should do to build your biceps varies depending on your fitness level and goals. However, if you’re looking to engage your biceps more, consider doing variations like the bicep pushup. Aim for 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps, and adjust as you progress.

Final Thoughts…

In summary, pushups are a versatile exercise that engages more than just your chest and triceps; they also work your biceps, among other muscles. Understanding the anatomy of a pushup and the role each muscle plays can help you perform this exercise more effectively.

Incorrect form, muscle imbalances, and pre-existing conditions can all contribute to feeling pushups in your biceps. By paying attention to proper form and incorporating the tips and variations discussed, you can maximize muscle engagement and make your pushup routine more comprehensive and effective.

Remember, knowledge is power—especially when it comes to mastering the pushup.

Do you feel pushups in my biceps? Have our tips been beneficial to your training? We’d love to hear your feedback, so please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you’re a sports enthusiast who utilizes CBD for optimal recovery after intense workouts, then you’ve found your tribe. Welcome to Sport CBDs, where we push our limits in training and prioritize recovery in the most effective way possible.

We regularly share workout routines on our YouTube channel and offer a range of health and fitness products designed to give you that competitive edge.

Why not explore the high-quality CBD products we proudly feature on our site? Visit the Sport CBDs Store by clicking here. In addition to CBD, we also offer an array of fitness clothing and yoga accessories to complement your active lifestyle.

Until next time, we wish you the best in your fitness journey. Remember, your progress is our passion. Stay strong and keep pushing!

Beginners Upper Body Kettlebell Workout


Founder – Sport CBDs

Featured Image Attribution – Image by prostooleh on Freepik

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