The Hindu pushup is said to trace its routes back to ancient India, where it was a staple of training for wrestlers and combat warriors. Though you may not be training for battle anytime soon, you can still benefit from the challenge of this exercise. Start with a basic variation and work your way up to the full form.
Hindu pushups ask a lot of your entire body. Even a basic version puts your shoulders, chest and lower back through the wringer. Be sure you’re well warmed up with enough cardio to give you a pleasant glow of sweat and gently stretch the muscles of the upper body. The Hindu pushup is challenging, so trying it without being warmed up or prepared can seriously tweak some joints and muscles.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with performing Hindu pushups on your knees. It’s not wimping out or cheating. In fact, it’s a safer way to get familiar with the movement while still benefiting from the challenge of the exercise. The key to this style of pushup is to keep your face as close to the ground as possible for as long as possible. From a neutral position on all fours -- knees slightly wider than hip width and hands shoulder-width apart -- bend your elbows and lower your face as close to the floor as possible. You’ll see this forces you to stick your backside out, creating a curve in your lower back.
As you push forward from the knees and extend the body, the workload transfers to your chest, shoulders and upper back as you continue to keep your face close to the ground. When your hips are fully extended and you’re in a plank position on your knees, straighten your arms and arch your back to look up at the ceiling like a cobra. Return to a neutral position on all fours and repeat the motion.
You can gradually progress to the full form by coming up off your knees. A good time to make the switch is after you can compete 10 to 15 repetitions with good form utilizing the knee variation. Continue to keep the knees bent to find a happy medium between the beginner form and the full form. As your body adjusts to performing the pushups on your feet with the knees bent, gradually work toward starting in a full pike position with the legs straight.
For an added challenge try doing the pushup in reverse, finishing at the normal starting position. This interrupts the flow of the pushup to some extent, but steps up the level of difficulty. Regardless of whether you start basic or advanced, these pushups require a lot of upper-body control. It may be best to start with standard pushups if you don’t already have a good amount of shoulder, chest and back strength. You can vary the level of difficulty to some degree by keeping your face farther from the floor, but it’s always best to stay conservative and not sacrifice proper form.
Jullie Chung writes regularly for various websites. She is a nationally certified fitness trainer and performance enhancement specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and trains regularly in yoga, flatwater kayaking, boxing and mixed martial arts. An avid outdoor fan, she regularly hikes, climbs and trail runs.