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Military Push-Ups: 8 Quick Answers (For Beginners)

There are many push-up variations that you can add to your training program, including military push-ups.

These have come to be known as a cool exercise while still adding some good benefits to your workout.

In this article, we take a close look at military push-ups and answer some common questions people have about them.

From what they are and how to do them, to why they’re so hard and the number of them to do to be considered ultra fit, as well as everything else in between.

By the end of it, you should have a much better understanding of military push-ups and where they can fit into your training plan.

Topless man doing a military push-up in a river

What Are Military Push-Ups?

Military push-ups are similar to standard push-ups except that your arms are in a slightly different position throughout the exercise.

During military push-ups, your arms are kept close to your body so it’s a much narrower body position.

Your elbows point behind you (or above you when you are in a push-up position) and your arms are almost touching your torso.

This narrow arm position takes a lot of the emphasis away from your chest and moves it onto your triceps making the exercise quite a bit more challenging.

How To Do Military Push-Ups

  1. Get into a high plank position (think of the highest point of a push-up where your arms are almost straight, your back is flat, and your hands are almost underneath your shoulders).
  2. Your feet can either be together or up to 12 inches apart, depending on how you feel most comfortable and stable.
  3. Keep your arms tucked in close to your body so the inside of your upper arms are as close to your lats as possible.
  4. Slowly lower yourself down toward the ground making sure you keep your body in a straight line.
  5. Keep your arms close to your torso throughout and keep your elbows high at the lowest point so they are pointing up to the ceiling.
  6. Once you get your chest as close to the ground as you can, push yourself back up to the starting position.
  7. This is one rep, pause for half a second at the top of the movement before repeating for the desired number of reps and sets.

(For those visual learners, watch below!)

Are Military Push-Ups Harder?

Military push-ups can be harder than regular push-ups.

As your arms are closer to your body, your chest activates less so is unable to assist in the movement as much as it can in other push-up variations.

This means that other muscle groups, such as your triceps, need to work harder to make the movement happen.

As your triceps won’t be as strong as your chest, military push-ups tend to be quite a bit more challenging than regular push-ups for most people.

Why Are Military Push-Ups So Hard?

Less Chest Activation

Your chest is a big muscle group that can generate some impressive power.

During standard push-ups, your chest does a lot of the work. And as it’s such a strong muscle group, many people can do some pretty high numbers of them.

However, as your arms are so close to your body during military push-ups, your chest isn’t able to activate and assist in the movement as much.

As a result, it comes down to smaller muscle groups, such as your triceps to make the movement happen.

With less chest activation, military push-ups are quite a bit more challenging to do compared to regular push-ups.

A Different Push-Up Position To What You Might Be Used To

Sometimes, simply changing the way you do a certain exercise can be enough to make it feel a lot harder than the regular version of the exercise.

Even small changes can make a big difference, so by moving your arms closer to your body during military push-ups, you might be surprised by how much harder you find them to do.

Are Military Push-Ups Better?

Deciding whether military push-ups are better for you or not will ultimately come down to your fitness goals and personal preferences.

If you want to build and develop your triceps, shoulders, and lats, then military push-ups could be better for you.

However, if you want to use push-ups as part of a chest-building program, regular push-ups might be a better choice.

What Muscles Do Military Push-Ups Work?

Military push-ups work your triceps, shoulders, lats, core, and your chest to some extent too.

Pretty much all of these muscle groups are worked during regular push-ups too, but they’re all worked to varying degrees in the two variations.

Military push-ups will put more focus on your triceps and lats while regular push-ups will focus more on your chest.

What’s A Good Number of Military Push-Ups?

This will depend on what you’re trying to achieve but, as a general rule, being able to do 2 – 3 sets of 10 – 20 reps will likely be considered good.

Obviously, it’ll take time to build up to these numbers so don’t be disheartened if you can only do a few to begin with.

As your muscles continue to develop, you’ll be able to do more military push-ups.

How To Get Better At Military Push-Ups

Build Strength In Your Triceps

During military push-ups, your triceps will need to be even stronger than they would when doing regular push-ups.

A good way of improving the number of military push-ups you can do is to develop your triceps so they get stronger and are better able to deal with the extra stress placed on them.


Perhaps the best way of getting better at military push-ups is to do military push-ups.

Even if you can only do a few repetitions, if you continue to practice doing them, you will get better and better the more you do them.

As hard as they may seem, like normal push-ups, they get easier over time.


Why Exercise Gets Easier Over Time