The answer to the question
“Can pushups build muscle” is……
Sorry, I’m gonna keep you hanging for just a minute! The answer isn’t so straight forward. First I need to briefly discuss what is required to build lean muscle.
There are a few fundamental principles that must be satisfied
to build muscle:
The load (resistance) you are trying to move must be great enough (in this case, your body)
The human body will adapt to this load so you must apply progressive resistance
You can’t grow muscle out of thin air so you also need to eat right!
Let’s take a deeper dive into the concept of
So how much resistance??
A general rule of thumb is that anything over 20 reps will not build a significant amount of muscle (there are many exceptions to this but that’s a topic for another post).
This would imply that banging out 30 pushups to build muscle and shooting for more than 30 pushups the next time you try won’t give you much lean muscle growth. It will give you muscle endurance.
The muscle fibers that really like to grow are to ones that move heavy loads OR move ”moderate” loads faster. Both equal force applied to your muscle. Force is good.
So my recomendation to build lean muscle on your chest, shoulders and arms using pushups is to add enough resistance to keep your sets in the 8-15 rep range. If you are fairly new to exercise, lean towards the higher end of the rep range.
There are many options available to add resistance such as:
Elevate your feet
Push up from suspension straps
and my favorite: