Pushups are one of the most effective bodyweight exercises you can incorporate into your routine.

Targeting your arms, chest, back, and shoulders, it takes a decent amount of strength to complete multiple reps correctly.

If you struggle to perform standard pushups on the ground, wall pushups are a great starting point. Using a wall removes some of the load, allowing you to strengthen your muscles, perfect your form, and prepare you for standard pushups.

This article reviews the benefits of wall pushups, which muscles they work, how to perform them safely, and variations to try.

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Wall pushups are a great option for beginners who cannot yet perform a standard pushup. By pushing against the wall, it reduces some of the load caused by gravity, allowing the exercise to be performed more easily (1).

However, this doesn’t mean you’re not benefiting from wall pushups. In fact, they’re a great way to train your body to correctly perform pushups, as it’s a similar movement and recruits the same muscle groups (1).

Over time, this can help prepare you to perform standard pushups with proper form. In fact, as long as you don’t have a condition such as shoulder impingement, starting with wall pushups can improve your form, as you can slow down and focus on perfecting your form (1).

This provides you the time to develop proper mind-body connection and recruit the correct muscles for the job.

Additionally, wall pushups may be useful for people with mild wrist pain, as there’s less load on the wrist joints. It may also be better for those with lower back pain or elbow pain.

Finally, whether you perform a standard pushup or a wall pushup, you’ll benefit from strengthening your upper body and improving your posture, which can translate to better function in your daily life.

Summary

Wall pushups are a great starting point for beginners or people who struggle to perform standard pushups on the ground. They can help you learn proper form while also taking some of the load off of your joints.

Wall pushups are a full-body workout. While you may primarily think of them as an upper body exercise, they engage many muscles in the body to stabilize the pushup position and movement.

The main muscles used during a wall pushup include (2, 3):

  • the chest muscles (e.g., the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor)
  • the serratus anterior
  • the triceps
  • the deltoids
  • the upper and lower back muscles (e.g., the trapezius and rhomboids, as well as the spinal stabilizers)
  • the core muscles (e.g., the transversus abdominis, multifidus, obliques, and rectus abdominis)

To some extent, this exercise also employs your lower body muscles, such as your glutes, quads, and calves, for stability. These muscles are used to help improve your postural stability, balance, and upper body mobility.

Summary

Wall pushups target the upper body muscles, such as the chest, arms, and shoulders, as mobilizers. Other muscles in the body work to stabilize the position.

Compared with a standard pushup, wall pushups are considered the easier option since part of the load from gravity is reduced. For example, a standard pushup involves greater muscle activation of the pectoralis major and serratus anterior (1, 4, 5).

That said, that doesn’t mean wall pushups won’t give you a great workout.

Performing wall pushups can be a great segue to learning how to correctly perform a standard pushup. They also target many of the same muscles and may allow you to complete more reps before your muscles fatigue (1).

They’re also great for alleviating pressure on the wrists and shoulders, as standard pushups put tremendous pressure on the wrists while they’re extended. This can lead to pain, especially among people with weak wrists (6).

Furthermore, performing a standard pushup with incorrect form can lead to improper muscle recruitment and injury. Therefore, it’s better to modify an exercise to ensure you can safely and effectively perform it.

Wall pushups are easy to adjust as you get stronger. The closer your feet are to the wall, the easier they are. The further away your feet are, the harder they become.

Summary

Though wall pushups are easier than standard pushups on the ground, they still target your upper body muscles and can be a challenging workout for beginners.

To perform a wall pushup, all you’ll need is a wall.

  1. Stand around an arm’s length from the wall with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Place both palms on the wall at around shoulder-level height and shoulder-width apart, with your fingers pointed toward the ceiling. If you feel like you’re reaching too far, move your feet closer to the wall.
  3. Slowly bend your elbows and begin to lean your body toward the wall until your nose almost touches it. Keep your back straight and elbows bending at around a 45-degree angle (instead of straight to the sides).
  4. Slowly push back to the starting position.

While performing the wall pushup, make sure that your spine is neutral and your hips do not dip forward. Imagine there’s a straight line that goes from the top of your head, through your back, and to your feet.

Focus on slow, controlled movements instead of rushing. This will help you establish proper form for the most effective workout.

You can make this exercise easier or more challenging by adjusting the distance between your feet and the wall. The farther away they are, the more of your own body weight you’ll have to support and the harder the move will be.

Summary

When performing a wall pushup, focus on proper form and slow, controlled movement.

If you want to increase the difficulty of your wall pushup, here are some great variations you can try.

1. Close hands wall pushup

In this variation, instead of taking a wide hand placement, you’ll move your palms in toward the midline of your body. This will place more emphasis on your triceps and pectoral muscles and be more challenging than standard wall pushups (3).

  1. Assume the starting position with your feet and legs together, standing about an arm’s length from the wall with your arms straight out in front of you. Your palms should be on the wall at about shoulder-level height, but this time, almost touching each other, with your fingers pointed toward the ceiling.
  2. Keeping them tucked at your sides, bend your elbows and begin to lean your body toward the wall until your
    nose almost touches it. Ensure your back stays straight and your hips don’t sag.
  3. Push back to the starting position and repeat.

2. One-arm wall pushup

If you can complete multiple reps and sets of a regular wall pushup, consider adding a one-arm pushup progression. It’s a unilateral move, meaning it works one side of your body at a time. This can help even out strength imbalances, and it gives your core a good challenge.

  1. Assume the starting position with your legs and feet wide, standing about an arm’s length from the wall. One arm should be straight out in front of you, palm on the wall, at about shoulder level, and in line with the center of your body. Place your other arm behind you across your lower back.
  2. Bend your elbow and begin to lean your body toward the wall as far as you can go. Ensure that your back stays straight and your hips don’t sag. Try to keep your body weight evenly distributed instead of leaning to one side.
  3. Push back to the starting position.
  4. Switch arms and repeat.

If you struggle to perform the same number of reps on each arm, this can be a sign of muscular imbalance, meaning one side of your body is stronger than the other. With practice, you can strengthen your weaker side.

4. One-leg wall pushup

This variation relies on your core to make up for the lack of stability caused by standing on one foot. This move is considered advanced and should only be tried once you’re comfortable with a standard wall pushup.

  1. Assume the starting position by standing an arm’s length from the wall with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Place both palms on the wall at around shoulder-level height and shoulder-width apart, with your fingers pointed toward the ceiling. If you feel like you’re reaching too far, move your feet closer to the wall.
  3. Lift one leg off of the ground behind you.
  4. Slowly bend your elbows and begin to lean your body toward the wall until your nose almost touches it. Keep your back straight and elbows bending at around a 45-degree angle (instead of straight to the sides).
  5. Slowly push back to the starting position.

5. Feet on the wall pushup

This is an advanced move, requiring strength and balance. Only attempt this if you’re an advanced exerciser and can safely perform a standard pushup with ease.

  1. Start in a plank position on the floor with your feet touching the wall.
  2. Walk your feet up the wall until you reach a comfortable height. This can be parallel to the floor or above your body height on a decline. The latter is more challenging. This is your starting position.
  3. Bend your elbows and perform a pushup, ensuring your back stays straight and your hips don’t sag.
  4. Push back to the starting position.
  5. Complete as many reps as possible.

If you struggle to perform pushups on the ground, try doing them against a wall.

Wall pushups may be easier than standard pushups but still target the same muscle groups. They’re a great option if you can’t perform a standard pushup with proper form or need to take pressure off of your wrists.

As you become better at performing a wall pushup, try experimenting with different variations to help build your strength even more.