Pushups develop the upper body, including muscle groups in your arms -- biceps, triceps and forearm muscles, your shoulders -- deltoids, and chest -- pectorals. Toned upper arms are a symbol of muscular fitness in both men and women. However, because women tend to store fat in the upper arms, this area of the body is often a concern. As a body-resistance training exercise, the position of your arms during pushups emphasizes different muscles. The position of your knees determines the difficulty of the pushup.
Bent-knee pushups require less strength, and so are the pushups of choice for beginners or for those who have been away from exercise for a while. Position yourself on a mat in a crawling position, with your hands and knees on the mat. The position of your hands affects the intensity of specific muscles worked during this exercise. A wide distance between your hands puts more emphasis on chest muscles. Hands closer together than shoulder-width works your triceps muscles in your upper arms, and hands at slightly greater than shoulder-width apart provide a balanced workout of your upper body and core. Place your knees directly under your hips to facilitate this exercise. Keep your lower legs flat against the floor or bend them up at the knee, if desired.
Advanced beginner, intermediate or advanced-level bodybuilders can improve muscular strength and definition with knee-up pushups. Position yourself on a mat on your hands and knees. Reach one leg and then the other leg back. Balance on your toes. Keep your legs straight in plank-style alignment. Do not bend your knees during this exercise, but keep your legs extended at all times. If you are in a building phase, working your way up from bent-knee pushups to knee-up pushups, you can perform as many knee-up pushups as you can, and then drop to your knees to complete your desired number of repetitions in a bent-knee position.
The tripod pushup is a Pilates-style push for advanced bodybuilders. The beginning position for the tripod pushup places your hands under your shoulders and your legs extended straight behind you in a knee-up pushup position. Keep your head in alignment with your spine and look at the floor during this exercise. Lift your right leg approximately 6 inches, forming a tripod, with your weight on your arms and the toes of your left foot. Do six to 10 pushups. Lower both knees to the floor, then assume a tripod position with your left leg lifted. Do six to 10 pushups. You can also perform the tripod pushup from a bent-knee position until you gain enough strength for the knee-up tripod.
Warm up for five to 10 minutes with jumping jacks or light aerobics to prepare your muscles for more strenuous exercise. Do arm, shoulder and chest stretches at the end of your pushup workout to increase flexibility and reduce soreness. Consult your medical doctor before you start a new exercise regime.
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