The push-up is one of the most underrated exercises in fitness training. It is often dismissed as a basic or beginner exercise when, in reality, its many benefits show that push-ups should be the part of virtually everyone's workout. Push-ups develop your chest, shoulders and triceps muscles while delivering a secondary workout for your legs and core muscles. There are a number of exercises you can perform to improve your push-up ability so you can get even more from this champion bodyweight exercise.
To minimize your risk of injury, perform three to five minutes of light cardio, followed by some dynamic stretches and joint mobility exercises, before starting any form of strenuous exercise. Make any type of push-up easier by bending your legs and resting your knees on the ground or harder by wearing a weighted vest or loaded backpack. For safety, never allow your hips to drop or your lower back to become excessively arched when performing push-ups.
Close Grip Push-Ups
For many exercisers, the triceps are the weak link in push-up performance. Located on the back of your upper arm, when these muscles get tired, you will have no choice but to stop your set. Close grip push-ups specifically target this troublesome muscle and will turn it from a weak link into a strong one. Place your hands on the floor so that your thumbs and first fingers are touching and form a diamond shape. Keep your elbows tucked into your ribs and lower your chest down to lightly touch your hands. Push back up and repeat. Perform as many repetitions in good form as you can. (See ref 1 )
Decline push-ups involve elevating your feet by placing them on a box, bench or step. This places an increased load on your upper-body pushing muscles which will subsequently increase your strength. Stronger muscles will make regular push-ups easier and will translate to more repetitions. Elevating your feet places an increased load not only on your arms but also your core. Keep your abs tightly braced to stop your hips from dropping and your lower back arching.
Staggered-hand push-ups place an increased amount of weight on one hand. This allows you to increase the overload on your muscles and therefore develop more strength. More strength means you'll be able to perform a greater volume of regular push-ups or make the same number of repetitions feel easier. In the push-up position, keep one hand under your shoulder and move your other hand down your body to just above waist level. Most of your weight should now be on your upper hand; use your lower arm for assistance only. Bend your arms and lower your chest and then push back up again. Perform as many repetitions as you can and then rest. Change arms and repeat. With practice and perseverance, you may even find you can progress to full one-armed push-ups.
Plyometric, or clap, push-ups develop upper-body pushing power. Power is your ability to generate force quickly and is an important factor in many sports, especially those that involve throwing or punching. Increased power also means you will be able to perform regular push-ups more quickly and easily. To perform plyometric push-ups, lower your chest to the floor as normal and then extend your arms as fast as you can. Drive your upper body up into the air so your hands leave the ground. Clap your hands to show you are airborne, if you wish, as this is optional. Land on slightly bent elbows and repeat. This exercise can be hard on your lower arms so do not attempt this variation if you have a history of wrist or hand pain. (See ref 3)
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