Regardless of your weight, pushups are an effective body weight exercise to help you develop your pectoral muscles and strengthen your core. The general guidelines of three sets of 10 to 25 repetitions makes no allowance for different weights. If you weigh 200 pounds, you're lifting a significant amount of weight on each repetition, so this could affect the number you can do correctly. As with any exercise, performing it excessively can lead to muscle strains, so avoid the temptation to embark on lengthy pushup sessions.
When you perform pushups correctly, they target your pectoralis major muscles, which are the large muscles in your chest. Although frequent pushups can help you develop strong pecs, the exercise also works a number of other muscles in your body. Muscles that help you execute the pushup motion include the anterior delts and triceps of your shoulders and upper arms, respectively. Pushups also strengthen such core muscles as your abs and obliques, as you tighten your core to keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
As with any exercise, performing pushups with the correct form limits your risk of sustaining an injury. To perform a pushup properly, ExRx.net suggests starting by lying on the floor on your stomach. Bend your arms and place your hands on the floor a few inches away from each shoulder. Tighten your core muscles and straighten your elbows until your arms are vertical and your body rests on your hands and toes. While holding your core tight, lower your chin toward the floor and then push yourself back into the upper position. For any exercise you should always limit yourself to the number you can do in proper form. So if your back sags, for example, you shouldn't add more reps until you can improve your core strength.
According to Spectrum Fitness Consulting, you lift about 71 percent of your body weight when performing traditional pushups. For someone who weighs 200 pounds, this percentage equates to 142 pounds, which might make the standard number of sets and reps challenging. Instead of abandoning the exercise, consider pushups off your knees. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reports knee pushups require you to lift just 52.9 percent of your weight, which equates to about 106 pounds.
Strength training is an important element of any workout, but you must always give your muscles time to recover. The recommended recovery time is between 48 to 72 hours and will vary according to how hard you've pushed your muscles., Skip pushups if you're still sore from a previous workout session.
- ExRx.net: Push-Up
- American Council on Exercise: Push-Up
- Spectrum Fitness Consulting: How Much Weight Do You Lift Performing Pushups?
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Dynamic and Electromyographical Analysis in Variants of Push-Up Exercise
- American Council on Exercise: Should I Train My Abs Every Day? Also, What Ab Exercises Are Best?
- Davey Wavey Fitness: How Often Should You Exercise Your Abs?
- ExRx.net: Push-Up (on Knees)
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.