Drop to the floor and do twenty. You’ll be glad you did.
Even with all the exercise equipment available at the gym, the old-fashioned push up is still at the top of the list for strengthening and sculpting your chest, arms and shoulders. The best part? You can do it anytime, anywhere and it counts as strength training.
Standard Push-ups. Lie face down on the floor. Place your palms at shoulder width apart, fingers pointing forward, legs straight behind you, toes to the floor. Lower yourself until your chest is close to the floor and then push yourself back up. Breathe out as you push, in as you lower yourself. To accent the chest, place your hands wider than shoulder-width; to target the back and triceps, bring your hands close together with thumbs and index fingers touching.
Push-ups look easy but can cause serious injury if you don’t use proper technique. Make sure your body is one straight line throughout the push-up and make sure to squeeze your abs to engage your core in the push up. Lead with your chest and keep your head aligned with your spine – these tips will help keep you in good form.
Try the Push-up Variations described below and chisel your chest and shoulders. Remember to focus on proper technique. Straighten your back, tighten your stomach and butt. Extend your arms fully with each push to maximize your muscle gain.
Modified Push-up. This push up is for beginners who do not have enough strength for a full push up. Begin your push- up by kneeling and then place your palms on the floor shoulder width apart and in line with your shoulders. Lower your chest to the floor and push yourself back up. Try to complete 10 of the modified push-ups before trying the standard form.
One-Arm Plank. Assume the standard push-up position. Push up and hold the pose. This is the Plank, which tones your abs and challenges. Now widen your stance by placing your feet slightly more than hip-width apart. Place one arm either behind your back or straight ahead at the same level with your head. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Lower your arm and repeat with the other arm.
T-Push-up. Push up, fully extending your arms. Before you lower your body, twist your torso, raising your arm high up into the ceiling. Hold the pose. Your body forms a T on its side. Bring your palm back to the floor and twist to the other side. Pause, and bring your palm back to the floor. Lower your body and repeat.
Close-Grip Push-up. Start in a push-up position but keep your hands directly under your shoulders instead of out to the side. Your legs are extended straight out behind you, your feet slightly apart, so you are balancing on the balls of your feet as well as your palms. Keep your elbows pressed firmly against your torso as you slowly lower yourself down. Exhale, press back up to the starting position, and repeat.
Feet elevated. Perform standard push-ups with both feet up on a bench. Keep your knees locked and your back straight as you lower your chest to the floor and push back up. Repeat.
Feet on a Swiss ball. Same as the above exercise, only this time you use a Swiss ball below your shins. This is an advanced work out. Try this when you’re more confident with your core stability.
Push-up with rows. Assume the push-up position holding two dumbbells. Push up and then pull one dumbbell close to your side. Lower and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.
Depth Push-ups. Place your hands on 4″ blocks. Let yourself fall between the blocks. Push yourself back up on the blocks.
Uneven push-ups. Same as above, but this time, you have one palm on a block and the other on the floor. Keep the palm on the floor steady and push up only with the palm on the block. This unilateral exercise strengthens your body’s strength one side at a time so if one side of your body is weaker than the other, the stronger side does not compensate for it.
Clap push-ups. Start in your usual push-up position. Slowly lower yourself to the floor. With an explosive burst, exhale and push yourself up, bringing your hands off the floor and clapping them together. Land in the push-up position and repeat.
Handstand push-ups. This variation builds your shoulders. Perform a handstand and push your body, lengthening your arms. Lower and repeat. For safety, try this exercise with your feet sliding up and down a wall for support.
Dovetail Push-ups. Lower your body one-third of the way down and push back up. Lower yourself again, this time going only two-thirds of the way before pushing back up. On third try lower your body all the way. This is one rep.
Spiderman. Push-up and lower your body towards your left, putting most of your body weight on your left hand. Push back up and lower towards your right. Push up and back to center and perform a standard push-up.
“If you do push-ups correctly, you develop your scapular muscles and your rotator-cuff muscles to stabilize your shoulders. If you do bench presses instead of push-ups, you don’t have to use those muscles as much,” says Michael Clark, C.S.C.S., a physical therapist and president of the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
When someone has a chronically sore shoulder from bench-pressing, for example, the problem is usually that the chest and shoulder muscles are too strong relative to the muscles behind them. Push-ups not only build the muscles in your upper body, but they also develop the support system beneath those muscles. This muscular balance is important for developing serious strength.