Become a Push-Up Pro

The Push-up is a great compound exercise you can do at home. The push-up is one of the most effective ways to build upper body and core strength. Minimal space and no equipment is needed to perform this exercise. The push-up is a great exercise for beginners and experts in the fitness field because the level of difficulty can be modified or intensified based on the way you position your body.

A compound exercise is an exercise that recruits the muscles of two or more joints in your body. Basically multiple muscles work in unison to perform a movement. This approach is effective because you can work multiple muscles at once. Performing compound exercises are more beneficial than performing isolation exercises. With compound movements, more muscles are being utilized which means more energy is expended and ultimately more fat is burned.

Anatomy of a Push-Up

The primary muscles stimulated in the push-up are the chest, shoulders, triceps and abdominal muscles.

The chest or pectoral muscles are the essential muscles used in horizontal pushing movements. The chest is also one of the biggest muscles of the torso so the pectorals assist in any movement involving the upper body. Having a developed chest is a sign of overall strength. Neglecting the chest will lead to its underdevelopment compared to other muscles of the upper body which will lead to bad posture, muscle imbalance and even injury.

The shoulder is the most moveable and unstable joint of the body so it is essential that the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint are developed to protect the joint. The shoulder is comprised of three muscle divisions called deltoids. The anterior deltoid is located in the front of the shoulder, the medial deltoid is located on the side and posterior deltoid is located in the back of the shoulder. The anterior deltoid is the primary shoulder muscle used in push-ups. The anterior deltoid is responsible for raising your arm up (shoulder flexion). Shoulder flexion enables you to reach things above you, lift a child overhead, or wash your hair. Exercising the shoulder will also increase the range of motion of the joint.

The triceps brachii is involved in pushing activities and assist with chest and shoulder movements. Strengthening the triceps help with tasks such as throwing or passing a ball, hammering a nail, or painting a wall.

Focusing on developing your abdominals will strengthen your core. Your core is pivotal in performing upper and lower body actions with proper form and reduced risk of injury.

Push-Up Variations

There are many different push-up variations to accommodate your individual fitness level.

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The least difficult push-up variation is the wall push-up. In the wall push-up your chest, shoulders, triceps and abdominals will work in unison to press roughly 10% of your body weight throughout the exercise. To perform the wall push-up stand in front of a wall raise your arms to shoulder level and place your palms on the wall so that they are slightly wider than your shoulders. Next scoot your feet back a couple of feet. You should be leaning towards the wall at an angle. Next bend your arms and then outstretch them. Repeat this motion for your desired amount of repetitions. Squeeze your abdominals while performing the exercise and avoid arching your back excessively.

A less difficult variation of the standard push-up is the hands elevated push-up. By placing your hands on an elevated surface such as a chair or a countertop, a little more than half of your body weight will be supported on the aforementioned surfaces instead of on your hands. To perform the exercise, place your hands on the elevated surface at a distance slightly wider than shoulder width. Next bend your arms, then outstretch them and repeat for your desired amount of repetitions. Squeeze your abdominals while performing the exercise and avoid arching your back excessively.

The knee push-up is simply a push-up performed with your knees on the ground instead of on your toes and is more difficult than the hands elevated push-up. Kneel on your knees and place your hands on the ground at a length slightly wider than shoulder width. Next bend your arms, then outstretch them, and repeat for your desired amount of repetitions. Squeeze your abdominals while performing the exercise and avoid arching your back excessively. Your chest should touch the ground on each repetition.

Standard Push-Up

In the standard push-up you will be pushing roughly 60% of your body weight throughout the exercise. To begin the exercise lie on your stomach and place your hands at a distance slightly wider than shoulder width. Squeeze your core muscles and press your body up off the ground until your arms are in an outstretched position. Your bodyweight should be supported on your hands and toes. Your legs should be straight and your hips shouldn’t sag and your back should be flat. Return to the starting position and repeat. Your chest should touch the ground on each repetition.

Feet elevated push-ups are more difficult to perform than the standard push-up. in this push-up variation, your upper body will be pressing approximately 75-80% of your body weight throughout the exercise depending on the level of feet elevation. You will perform this variation just like the standard push-up, except your feet will be elevated on a box, chair, bed or whatever will place your body at a declined angle.

Try It Out!

Due to the fact that no equipment is necessary and you can modify the level of difficultly by simply putting your body in different positions, the push-up is a great exercise to perform at home. For those that don’t want to splurge on a gym membership or just don’t have time to go to the gym on a constant basis, thanks to exercises like the push-up, you can build muscle and gain strength in the comfort of your own home.

Find more great home exercises on the F&F Corner!