On the surface, the push-up looks like a pretty simple movement. But this straightforward maneuver is one of the best body weight exercises out there.
If push-ups aren't part of your training routine, they should be. They're a full-body strengthener, not just an upper body exercise. Plus, they don't require any special equipment, meaning you can get your sweat on whenever and wherever you can find a spare patch of grass (or carpet).
However, with an exercise seemingly so uncomplicated, form is actually quite critical. Otherwise, you end up cheating yourself of the true benefits push-ups offer. First, don't let your hips or belly sag and definitely don't scrunch your shoulders up toward your ears. Instead, draw your belly button in towards your spine to activate your core and engage your glutes and legs to support your lower back. Second, as you lower yourself, don't flare your arms out to the sides. Instead, keep your elbows close to your body and your eyes focused in front of you to maintain a neutral neck. Last, don't forget to breathe! Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up.
Start With the Basics ...
While a standard push-up requires a fair amount of strength, you can build up to it. Modified push-ups teach proper body alignment and muscular engagement and help you generate the strength you need to maintain good form and full range of motion once you move on to the regular push-up.
Stand facing a wall with your arms extended and hands at shoulder height. Raise up on your toes and engage your core. Draw your shoulder blades together and down as you lower toward the wall. Then press back away from the wall.
In this modification, the body supports a bit more weight than in a wall push-up. Start in a plank position and lower your knees to the ground. Your knees should be behind your hips, creating a straight line from knees to head. Raise your feet off the ground, lower down into a push-up position and press back up.
... Then Mix It Up!
Just as there are many ways to modify a push-up, there are endless variations — letting you isolate and work on different parts of your body.
Here are five to get you started:
- Diamond push-up: Bring your thumb and index fingers together to create a diamond shape under your chest. The narrower hand placement brings the focus of the move to your triceps.
- Unstable push-up: Place your hands on a stability ball. The unstable surface requires more core stabilization.
- Knuckle push-up: Make a fist and place your knuckles on the ground. Performing a push-up on your knuckles strengthens your wrist and challenges your balance.
- Elevated push-up: Place your feet on an elevated surface such as a bench. This variation brings more weight onto your hands, placing further emphasis on the chest muscles.
- Spiderman push-up: Lower into a push-up. As you reach the bottom of the move, draw one knee up toward the same-side elbow. As you press back up, straighten your leg and return to starting position. Repeat on the opposite side. Talk about a full body burn.
Push-ups are a phenomenal exercise you can do anywhere you want. So what are you waiting for? Drop and give us 10!
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Christine Yu is a freelance writer, runner, yoga instructor and wannabe surfer. She blogs at Lovelifesurf.com.