Box press-ups are the gentler way to build chest, shoulder and arm strength

Welcome to our weekly Move of the Week series. Every Monday, we’ll be sharing with you one of our favourite exercises – how to do them, what muscles they work and why they should be a regular part of your workout regime. This week: box press ups. 

Press-ups might be a bodyweight exercise, but they’re one of the trickiest. Nailing a full rep on your toes is no mean feat, as it requires you to push most of your body weight through your hands using the strength of your chest, shoulders and triceps. 

If you’re not there yet, there are a load of variations you can take. These include doing press-ups from your knees, doing negative press-ups or doing box press-ups. The latter is a great way to get used to keeping proper press-up alignment without all of the weight. 

What is a box press-up

A box press-up involves completing a press-up motion but with your hands placed on a raised surface – such as a box, but also a chair, table or bench – rather than the floor. 

The exercise is great because:

  • It works your upper-body muscles: It strengthens the ‘pushing’ muscles at the front of the body, including your chest and shoulders. 
  • It challenges the core: Your entire trunk stabilises during the movement.
  • It’s great for beginners: Placing your hands to a higher surface reduces the range of motion, so you take on less load compared to a full press-up. 
  • It maintains good form: Rather than going from your knees, which changes the alignment of your body.

What muscles do box press-ups work?

A box press-up will work into all the muscles that are involved in the ‘push’ motion, including:

  • Pecs (chest)
  • Anterior delts (the front of the shoulder)
  • Triceps (the back of the arms)
  • The core (including the transverse abdominals, abdominal rectus and multifidus)

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HOW TO DO A box press-up

  1. Place your hands on the box or raised surface, slightly wider than shoulder-width with your arms straight and your toes touching the floor behind you.
  2. Draw your belly button in towards your spine and squeeze your glutes – your back shouldn’t be arching, but your hips shouldn’t be pushed towards the sky either. 
  3. Maintaining the tension in your abs, bending your elbows to lower your chest towards the edge of the box. Keep your elbows tucked in and your neck neutral. 
  4. Squeeze your core and glutes to extend your arms to the starting position.

    Keen to improve your form? Check out our How To library to see exactly how the experts do over 100 of the most common strength training exercises.

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