All You Need To Start Building Upper-Body Muscle Are These Press-Up Workouts

Woman on the floor smiling after doing the press-up exercise
(Image credit: Getty Images / Eugenio Marongiu)

If anyone is ever foolish enough to tell you that even the best bodyweight exercises can’t be effective in building strength and size, simply ask them to get down and give you 50 press-ups. See how they feel about the challenge of bodyweight moves after that.

The press-up is not just a brilliant bodyweight exercise – it’s one of the best chest exercises full stop, and it also works your triceps, shoulders and core. 

Because of this, you can use press-ups to get a great upper-body workout done in a short space of time – you’ll find 10-minute and 30-minute workouts below to attest to that fact. You can also vary your press-ups easily to change the focus on your upper-body muscles or enlist new muscle groups by combining it with other exercises. And if you ever do find that dropping and knocking out 50 press-ups is getting easy, then turn them into plyometric press-ups  – aka clap press-ups – and see how far you get. 

Press-Up Workouts

10-minute pump-up

What This high-intensity 10-minute three-move circuit will flood your upper-body muscles with blood to create a huge pump and thoroughly fatigue your muscle fibres while keeping your heart rate high for both a muscle gain and a fat loss effect.

How Do as many diamond press-ups as you can, then rest for 20 seconds. Then do as many normal press-ups as possible, then rest for 20 seconds. Finally do as many wide press-ups as possible then rest 60 seconds. Repeat this circuit four times.

30-minute challenge

What This half-hour EMOM (every minute on the minute) workout will increase your upper body’s muscular endurance by taxing the muscles hard, resting, then going again through the process of accumulated fatigue.

How In the first minute and subsequent odd-numbered minutes do 10 normal press-ups and rest for the remainder of the minute. In even-numbered minutes do 10 reps of another press-up variation that targets the shoulders or triceps more, then rest for the remainder of the minute. So you’ll do a total of 300 press-ups in just 30 minutes to improve muscular strength and endurance. If 10 reps feels too easy, do 12-15 reps in each minute.

Press-up Burpee Challenges

How to do press-up burpees

Four stages of the press-up burpee

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

Stand tall, then drop down so your hands are on the floor and your knees are tucked in to your chest. Kick your legs backwards to get into the press-up position then perform the move with perfect form. Bring your legs back in to your chest, jump up and land back in the start position.

Minute mayhem

Do as many reps as you can in a minute. This is simple and effective. Working against the clock will help to push your body out of its comfort zone. Make a note of your score and try to beat it next time.

Burpee ladder

Do one press-up burpee, then do another rep, but this time do two mid-rep press-ups. Continue that pattern, adding one press-up each time, until you reach failure. Aim to beat your score next time.

Burpee battle

Do this with a training partner. You do one rep, then your partner does one rep. You do two, then your partner does two. Keep adding a rep until one of you fails.

More Press-Up Workouts To Try

Joe Warner
Former editor of Men’s Fitness UK

Joe Warner is a highly experienced journalist and editor who began working in fitness media in 2008. He has featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness UK twice and has co-authored Amazon best-sellers including 12-Week Body Plan. He was the editor of Men’s Fitness UK magazine between 2016 and 2019, when that title shared a website with Coach.

With contributions from