Do Push-Ups Work Lats?

do push ups work lats

Push-ups are a great upper-body exercise targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps muscles.

It also targets your core and lower back muscles, making them stable and robust.

This compound exercise primarily targets upper body muscles but indirectly involves your back muscles- latissimus dorsi, commonly called Lats.

The lats stabilize muscle during push-ups, which is why you experience sore lats after push-ups.

This article aims to look into the role of lats in push-ups and their potential benefits to your fitness routine.

What Is the role of Lats in Push-ups?

The Latissimus dorsi is a wide pair of muscles of your back. Lats are not the primary muscles in push-ups.

They play a secondary role in performing push-ups. Here is how you lats contribute to push-ups.


Push-ups target your chest and shoulder muscles during the movement. To keep the shoulder blades stable and in place, lats stabilize these muscles. Ensure your shoulder muscles don’t experience excessive rotation or jerk.

Helping in the pushing phase

Majorly chest muscles – pectoralis major and triceps support the pushing phase of pushups.

Triceps and chest muscles perform most of the work, but lats prevent the body from the risk of fall or overarching lower back. It helps to maintain the balance.

Assisting in lowering the phase

Lats contribute as a controlling muscle while your triceps are bent and your chest moves toward the ground.

At this point, your body requires reasonable control. Lats shift the weight and don’t let the body fall too quickly on the floor.

Do Push-Ups Work Lats?

man do Push-Ups

Although push-ups are a pushing exercise, and your lats are mainly a pulling muscle, they do play a role in push-ups.

During push-ups, you engage your lats to help stabilize your body. They keep your body in alignment and provide support to your working muscles.

As you perform push-ups, your lats are activated to provide stability. In fact, a study has shown that push-ups activate the lats at about 20% of their maximum voluntary contraction.

In conclusion, while push-ups do work your lats to some extent, it is not sufficient to build or develop them significantly.

To focus on your lats, incorporating pulling exercises like pull-ups or rows would be more effective.

Why Do The Lats Get Sore After Push-ups?

 lats sore after push ups

1. Involved in stabilizing muscles

As explained previously, lats are not the primary muscles but play an essential role in stabilizing muscles during push-ups.

Your lats are indirectly activated, which helps to attain better posture and precision.

It is impossible to perform push-ups without muscle coactivation. Lats constantly go through a contraction in each rep.

They not only stabilize the movement but also keep your shoulder joint intact.

During this movement, your lats get fatigued and experience soreness of mild to moderate degree depending on the sets and variation of push-ups.

2. Other muscles are sore

Lats is the secondary muscles in push-ups that often get sore due to the soreness of other muscles.

Serratus Anterior

You might confuse the soreness of the serratus anterior with sore lats. The muscles cover the outer edge of your shoulder region and the chest cavity.

The serratus anterior is called the “boxer muscle.” This muscle is fully involved in the ascending phase of the push-ups.

Due to the proximity of serratus anterior, participants were confused about the soreness of the two muscles.

Teres Major & Minor

You may confuse the muscle soreness with the teres major and minor.

Teres major is present just above the lats, the muscle helps in upper arm extension. In contrast, teres minor helps in bringing your upper arm close to the midline.

Both teres major and minor stabilize the shoulder joint. These muscles undergo tension during the push-ups, which makes them sore. As these muscles are present close to the lats soreness is hard to differentiate.

3. Hands Position- Higher or Rotated

The hand position is a little critical in push-ups. But we don’t pay much attention to it.

Your hands in line with your shoulders is the most suitable position, but some weightlifters bring the hands in front of the shoulders or sometimes rotate them inwards.

The change in hand placement can bring unnecessary burdens on your lats, leaving them sore.

Is It Wrong To Get Sore Lats After Push-ups?

Having sore lats after push-ups is nothing to worry about; it is pretty normal.

During any form of exercise, other than the target muscles, some other muscles are involved due to the coactivation muscle phenomenon.

To stabilize the shoulder muscle, the latissimus dorsi comes into action along with the pectoralis major. Lats contribute to the smoothness of the lowering and pushing phases.

Are Wide Push-Ups Good For Your Lats?

Wide push-ups are a variation of the traditional push-up exercise, and you may wonder how effective they are in targeting your lats.

Before diving into their effectiveness, it’s essential to know that wide push-ups emphasize the chest and shoulders more than your lats.

In wide push-ups, the reduced flexion and extension of your elbows shift the focus to your chest and shoulders more than your lats.

But do wide push-ups work your lats at all? Well, they do activate your lats, but not as much as regular push-ups.

A study found that wide push-ups activate only about 15% of your lats’ maximum voluntary contraction, which is less than the activation level during regular push-ups.

Moreover, it’s important to note that performing wide push-ups excessively or improperly can increase the risk of shoulder injuries.

So, while they engage your lats to some extent, wide push-ups aren’t the best option for targeting them.

It’s better to opt for other variations, like pike push-ups or renegade rows, that engage your lats more effectively while minimizing the risk of injury.

Variations of Push Ups That Help Lats

Regular push-ups don’t target the lats to a greater degree, but below are some push-up variations that involve the lats more;

Push-up To Renegade Row

This variation combines a push-up with a row, effectively engaging your lats. To perform this exercise, you’ll need a pair of dumbbells.

Start in a push-up position with a dumbbell in each hand. Perform a push-up, then, as you come up, lift one dumbbell up towards your chest in a rowing motion.

Repeat the process with the opposite arm, and continue alternating sides. Your lats will definitely feel the burn!

Hindu Push-Up

Another push-up variation that works your lats is the Hindu push-up. Begin in a standard push-up position but with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.

Push your hips back and up, so your body forms an inverted “V” shape.

Lower your chest down and forward, scooping it along the floor, then lift your chest up, extending your spine.

Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. This movement really engages your lats and provides a great stretch.

TRX Push-up

Lats are fully involved in this variation as your arms are locked close to your torso. TRX push-ups are also called ring push-ups.

Spiderman Push-ups

The Spiderman push-ups target your lats more. Keep one knee towards the same side and alternate sides with each rep in your lowering phase.

When you switch knee to elbow motion, your lats are more stable than the ordinary push-ups.

Pike Push-up

Finally, the pike push-up is another excellent option for targeting your lats.

Begin in a push-up position with your feet close together. Walk your hands back towards your feet, lifting your hips to create an inverted “V” shape.

Keep your legs and arms straight, then lower your head towards the ground by bending your elbows. Push back up to the starting position, engaging your lats.

Common mistakes while performing push-ups

There is always a correct manner to perform a particular exercise. We often neglect small details and later experience the consequences.

By fixing these mistakes, you might get less soreness in your lats after pushups.

  • Neglecting core engagement: Push-ups are upper body exercises, but supporting the muscle core engagement is essential. If you are not shifting the stress to your core, you might have a faulty posture and form. Sagging of hips is the most notable sign of neglecting core engagement.
  • Improper hand and wrist position: The correct position of your hands is right under your shoulder. If you excessively bend your wrist, it will lead to injury or muscle discomfort.
  • Head position: Your head should be in the neutral position, facing the ground.
  • Wrong hip position: Avoid lifting your hips high in a pike position; it will create more stress on your shoulders and chest muscles.
  • Sagging or arching the back: Keep your body in a straight line to achieve the best posture. An arched lower back can cause strain in the lower region of your back.
  • Incomplete range of motion: Make sure you are going to the full range of motion capacity. Lower your chest closest to the ground and keep your arms fully extended. When you are raising upwards, exhale. Try to hold your breath, you will experience a lack of stability and hindered performance.
  • Speed over control: Instead of performing push-ups quickly, focus on performing push-ups with great control and stability. Speedy pushups will not involve your muscles as desired and will make you tired.

Frequently Asked Questions

 Wide Push-Ups

Can Push-ups Contribute To Back Muscle Development?

While push-ups are not specifically aimed at developing back muscles, they work the lats and other stabilizing muscles in your back, such as the trapezius and rhomboid.

Including push-ups in your workout routine can contribute to overall back muscle development over time.

Why Does My Back Feel Sore After Doing Push-ups?

Your back muscles, including the lats, are engaged during push-ups to help stabilize your body.

If your lats are sore after push-ups, it could be due to fatigue or strain from engaging those muscles.

Ensure that you practice proper form and gradually increase the intensity and volume of your push-ups to minimize soreness.

Are There Specific Push-up Techniques For Targeting Lats?

While push-ups are not the most effective exercise to target lats. But you can try adjusting your hand position to a wider stance or performing variations like the Hindu push-up to increase lat engagement.

However, if your primary goal is to work your lats, it’s best to incorporate exercises specifically designed for them, such as pull-ups and bent-over rows.

How Do Muscle-ups And Push-ups Differ In Working Lats?

Muscle-ups and push-ups are both bodyweight exercises, but they target different muscle groups.

While push-ups mainly work your chest, triceps, and shoulders, muscle-ups are a compound exercise that involves pulling yourself up on a bar.

This puts a greater emphasis on your lats, making them a more effective exercise for working those muscles.

However, muscle-ups require more strength and skill, and it’s essential to practice proper form to avoid injury.

What Muscles Do Push-ups Work?

Push-ups are a compound exercise that work multiple muscle groups. They primarily target the chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor) and triceps.

However, push-ups also work the shoulders, core, and even the lower body muscles.’

Do Push-ups Work Traps?

Yes, push-ups can work the trapezius muscles (traps). The traps are used to stabilize the shoulder blades during the movement. However, push-ups primarily work the chest, triceps, and shoulders.

Why Does My Back Hurt After Push-ups?

If your back hurts after doing push-ups, it could be due to poor form or technique. It is important to maintain a neutral spine and engage the core muscles during the movement. If the pain persists, it is recommended to consult with a medical professional.

Do Muscle Ups Use Lats?

Yes, muscle ups involve a pulling motion that heavily involves the latissimus dorsi (lats) muscles. However, muscle ups are an advanced exercise that require significant upper body strength and technique.


The lats are involved in push-ups but not as a primary muscle. Due to muscle coactivation, you experience soreness of the lats after push-ups, which is not a problem.

Sometimes, due to the wrong posture or hand position, you feel the tender muscle. Correcting your technique, you can have a better experience.

If you want to work on your lats exclusively, some push-up variations target your lats more.

Moreover, to effectively work on lat hypertrophy, strength, and endurance, you should consider incorporating other exercises that are specifically designed to engage the lats. Some alternatives to try include pull-ups, rows, and lat pulldowns.

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