When it comes to chest exercises, nothing beats the push-up for all-around efficiency, convenience, and results.
While primarily targeting the chest (pectorals), this compound body-only exercise also works the shoulders and triceps area. No wonder serious athletes and muscle-building beginners alike enthusiastically integrate it into their workout routines.
5 Ways to Power Up Your Push Up Game
The Classic Push-up Technique
- Lie on a flat surface face down and place your hands roughly shoulder length apart while holding your torso up at full arm’s length.
- Lower yourself down until your chest just misses the floor as you inhale.
- Breathe out and press the upper body back up to the start position while squeezing your chest in.
- Briefly wait at the top (contracted) position; lower yourself down again and repeat for a set number or until failure.
Push-ups are tailor-made for busy people looking for a robust physical exercise routine that does not compromise their schedules. For example, if your job involves regular travel that makes hitting the gym tough, push-ups can be an integral part of a varied, “no equipment” workout that can be performed right in your hotel room.
In some cases, it may be difficult to budget for gym memberships or home fitness equipment. Fortunately, performing push-ups come with no strings or cost attached.
Just find some clean floor space at home and you are good to go!
Sure, the push-up may look boring and ineffective to some. However, there are ways to spruce things up once you get beyond the beginner’s stage:
Alternative Push-Up Techniques
Fingertip Push-Up à la Bruce Lee
Instead of classical “flat palm” positioning, try supporting yourself with your fingers when performing your push-ups. Along with working the chest, it will translate into better grip strength for your fingers, so crucial for optimal resistance training.
Narrow Grip (Narrow Width) Push-Up
To really test your chest muscles and shoulders, narrow the distance between your arms and see how many you can do to before failure.
Using a flat bench, exercise ball, or stack of Yellow Pages (are those still around?), you can add a higher level of resistance and/or instability to your push-up sets. By altering your center of gravity, the upper chest is easily targeted.
The scapula, i.e. shoulder blade connects the humerus (arm bone) with the clavicle (collarbone). Obviously, then, a targeted scapula push-up can do wonders for upper body strength. It is an excellent warm-up exercise for injury prevention and shoulder health. However, do not sag your hips or back when performing it, since this can lead to acute shoulder pain.
There are also one-armed push-ups (remember Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky”, or Jack Palance’s Oscar acceptance speech?) and clapping push-ups if you are really up for a fast twitch muscle fiber challenge.
Who Said Push-Ups Were Boring?
Often overlooked by machine-dependent bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, the push-up can be the foundation for advanced muscle-building and sports-specific exercises down the road. In many ways, it is the ideal pushing exercise for men (and women) who have disdain for high-tech equipment and are turned off by fast-talking trainers.
In my opinion, the push-up is one of the most powerful and underrated chest building exercises.