Just because you are doing a modified pushup, doesn’t mean that you aren’t getting a killer arm workout. Modifying your pushup so it’s done on your knees still targets your arms and chest. This variation does reduce how hard your arms have to work, so begin with the modified pushup and move on to a regular pushup to increase the intensity.
Modified Pushup Basics
During a pushup, you use your body weight to serve as resistance to strengthen your muscles. During a modified pushup, your lower body is supported by your knees instead of your toes. This decreases how much weight your upper body has to lift; yet, this is still a solid upper body exercise. During a modified pushup, the primary targeted muscles are your pectoralis, front deltoids, or shoulder muscles, and triceps. You also use your biceps and abdominal muscles to help stabilize your body.
When it comes to targeting your upper body, a modified pushup activates your muscles less than a normal pushup, according to the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” in 2005. The study showed that initial load, or resistance from your body weight, is 13.5 percent lighter when the pushup is performed on the knees compared to the toes. Muscle activation in both the triceps and pectoralis muscles is less in the modified pushup compared to the traditional pushup.
To do the modified pushup, begin lying on the floor with your knees bent up towards the ceiling. Place your hands under your shoulders slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Push your upper body off the floor by straightening your arms. To lower, bend your elbows and lower until your chest nearly touches the ground. During the entire move, keep your back straight and your knees bent. Rise back up to the starting position by straightening your elbows and repeat.
Increasing the Challenge
How you position your hands during the pushup can determine how much of an arm workout you get. Increase the intensity by aligning your hands in the form of a triangle during your modified pushup. Instead of positioning your hands directly under your shoulders, place your thumbs and forefingers together to form a triangle between your hands. Keep the rest of the exercise the same so your knees are on the floor and you create a straight line from your shoulders down to your knees. Slowly lower down to the floor by bending your elbows but keep your upper arms close to your torso as you lower. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.