Pushups strengthen your shoulders, chest and triceps while also working your core, making it an effective strength exercise for a woman. Complete a warmup and stretch your shoulders and chest before doing pushups. If you're a beginner, start with six repetitions and work your way up to 12 or more, suggests Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Erika Lilley at Shapefit.com. To work additional muscles or keep your workouts interesting, incorporate a variety of pushups into your strength-training routine.
The standard pushup targets your chest, shoulder, triceps and core muscles. Start with your palms on the floor with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms fully and extend your legs behind you, pushing yourself up onto your toes. Your body should create a straight line from your ankles to your head. Bend your arms to lower yourself to within an inch of the floor, keeping your elbows tucked in toward your sides and keeping your body straight. Push back up until your arms are fully extended again, keeping your body straight, to complete one repetition.
Modified pushups – often referred to as “knee” pushups or even “girl” pushups – reduces the load considerably, making them easier to complete for those who haven’t developed the strength for standard pushups. When in the starting position for a pushup, keep your knees on the ground, but move your hands forward a few inches. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your knees, and lower yourself to within an inch of the ground. Push back up until your arms are fully extended again for one repetition.
A leg-kick pushup forces you to hold the lowered position, which activates more muscles in the chest and shoulders. It also targets your hip flexors, glutes and hamstring muscles. Start in a standard pushup position, and lower your body until you are an inch off the floor. Lift your right leg and kick it to the right side, opening your legs as far as possible without bending the right knee. Pause, bring your right leg back to the center, and push your body back up. Repeat with the left leg.
Spreading your arms wider while doing a pushup further targets the chest and shoulders, while also working the lats. Avoid doing this type of pushup if you have shoulder or wrist pain as moving your arms wider causes both joints to be unstable. Start in a standard pushup position, then move each hand outward a few inches further so they’re spread wide. Lower yourself, allowing your elbows to bend out toward the side, then push yourself back up to complete one repetition.
A corkscrew pushup not only works your upper body, but targets your quadriceps, calves and core muscles as well. Start in the classic pushup position, but walk your feet toward your hands until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Your hips should be slightly higher than your head. Rotate your body so your knees are pointing toward the left, and lower yourself until you’re slightly above the floor. Hold for a beat, rise and repeat on the other side.
Diamond pushups put more emphasis on the triceps. Start in a classic pushup position, but separate your feet so they’re shoulder-width apart. This helps with balance. Move your hands together, placing them directly under your sternum, so your index fingers touch each other and your thumbs touch each other to form a triangle shape. Lower yourself toward the floor, bending your elbows out to the sides. Push yourself back up for one rep. You can also complete this exercise with your knees on the floor for a modified diamond pushup.
The wall pushup may be appropriate for beginners, if the modified pushup is too challenging, as it reduces pressure on your arms, back and abdominal muscles. Stand facing a wall with your arms extended, and place your hands on the wall directly in front of you. Step back a few inches if you want to make the pushup more challenging. Bend your elbows slowly and allow your face to come within an inch of the wall. Push back and straighten your elbows for one rep.
Stability Ball Pushup
This pushup requires a stability ball, a large air-filled ball that challenges your balance. This exercise primarily targets your chest and shoulders, with additional benefits to the triceps and ab muscles. Begin with your stomach on top of the ball and your hands and feet on the floor. Walk yourself backward so your feet are firmly on the floor, your chest is on the ball and your hands are holding either side of the ball directly under your shoulders. Squeezing the ball, exhale and push your body up until your elbows are straight, maintaining a long straight line from your head to your ankles. Inhale and lower yourself to the starting position for one rep.
Pushup with Single-leg Raise
A pushup with a single leg kick primarily targets your deltoids, triceps, pectorals and glutes. Start in a standard pushup position, keeping your core muscles engaged. Slowly lower yourself to the floor until you’re within an inch of the floor, keeping your elbows close to the side of your body. Push back up, and as you straighten your arms, lift your left leg off the floor. Hold for a beat, then return to the starting position. Repeat on the right side.
A pushup that starts with your toes on a higher surface than your hands is more challenging than the standard pushup. Position yourself in front of a step or bench that is about 12 inches high with your feet on the bench and your body extended in front of it with your hands directly below your shoulder. This puts you in a classic pushup position, except that your body is on a decline from your ankles to your head. Lower yourself to the ground, and push back up for one repetition.
- Men's Health: 8 Variations of the Pushup
- Military.com: The Push-up Push Workout
- Men's Health: The Ultimate Chest Warmup
- Women's Health: The Perfect Pushup
- Women's Health: Pushup: Start with Wall Pushup
- American Council on Exercise: Stability Ball Push-Up
- American Council on Exercise: Push-up with Single-leg Raise
- Shapefit.com: Best Bodyweight Exercises - Body Weight Push Ups & Variations
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.