The fitness industry is filled with gimmicky products that promise to reshape and redefine your body. While some of these products may actually do what they promise, most are nothing more than marketing hype. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on equipment, women can reshape their body by using their own body weight. By engaging in push-up and sit-up routines, you can create a toned upper body and strengthen your abdominals, or core.
Beginners and advanced-level exercisers may do push-ups in a variety of hand and leg placements. The standard push-up consists of lowering the front of your body to the ground and positioning your hands shoulder-width apart while supporting your legs on your toes. However, beginners may find this position too difficult. Therefore, they may do either wall push-ups or bent-knee push-ups, where the lower body is supported on the knees instead of the toes. Those seeking a more challenging push-up may engage in decline push-ups or single-leg raise push-ups. You may also target specific muscle groups beyond your chest through variations such as the close-grip push-up, which works the triceps muscle.
Just like push-ups, sit-ups may be varied based on your current fitness level. The standard sit-up involves lying on your back, securing your feet and lifting your shoulders off the floor until your torso is in an upright sitting position. If you find this movement to be too difficult or if you experience pain in your lower back, the standard crunch is an effective alternative. Sit-ups and crunches may be altered to target different areas of the abdominals or to increase difficulty. For example, the jack-knife crunch simultaneously lifts the upper and lower body to isolate the entire abdominal region while the lying twist movement isolates the obliques.
Push-up routines vary according to your desired fitness goals and your current strength level. However, if you are at a more advanced level and wish to challenge your muscles while promoting muscular endurance, Stew Smith, former Navy SEAL and fitness expert, recommends performing the 200/200 pushup routine. This routine consists of performing 200 push-ups every day for 10 days. On even numbered days perform 200 pushups throughout the day. It does not matter how many push-ups you do in one setting as long as you complete 200 in this 24-hour period. On odd numbered days, Stew Smith recommends performing 200 push-ups in a limited number of sets. On these days, aim to complete 200 push-ups in a fewer number of sets than you do on even numbered days. Use as many push-up variations as you desire.
According to Len Kravitz, Ph.D., it is possible to workout abdominal muscles every day; however, Dr. Kravitz suggests training the abdominals at least three to five times per week. The ideal sit-up routine is one that features variable intensity and exercises. Because muscles continually adapt to exercise-induced stress, you must prevent your abdominals from fully adapting to a particular sit-up routine. Therefore, perform five to 10 abdominal exercises per workout session and alternate exercises every two to three weeks to prevent plateauing.
- American Council on Exercise: Push-Up
- ExRx: Push-Up (On Knees)
- ExRx: Decline Push-Up
- American Council on Exercise: Push-Up with Single-Leg Raise
- ExRx: Close Grip Push-Up
- ExRx: Jack-Knife Sit-Up
- ExRx: Lying Twist
- Military.com: The Push-Up Push Workout
- University of New Mexico: Super Abs Resource Manual
Jonathan McLelland has been a professional writer since 2005. He has worked as a story writer and editor for the international sitcom, “Completing Kaden,” as well as a proposal writer for various production companies. McLelland studied communication and theater at St. Louis Community College.