Widely used to develop upper-body strength, power, and local muscular endurance, the Push-Up is much-loved by all fitness enthusiasts alike. Though the load during a push-up is limited to a person’s body weight, you can bring about many variations to alter muscle activity by providing either a lesser or greater challenge to target muscles. These variations include altering hand and foot positions that impact muscle recruitments patterns, joint stresses, etc.
Before talking more about push-ups, let’s take a look at their benefits.
A standard push-up activates every muscle in the body. And the results are far more than just toned muscles and increased endurance.
Benefits Of Push-Ups
Full Body Activation And Increased Functional Strength
The push-up activates major muscle groups, such as core muscles, triceps, biceps, anterior deltoids, and lower body muscle groups. For this reason, it is classified as a compound exercise, meaning multiple muscle groups are involved in doing the movement.
Boost Your Cardiovascular System
As stated above, the push-up is a compound exercise that involves multiple muscles. In order to simultaneously work large muscle groups at the same time, the heart must work faster to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the muscle tissues. This activity results in effective cardiovascular exercise, which supports heart health.
Protects Shoulders From Injuries
One of the most common injuries older individuals suffer from is rotator cuff or shoulder injuries. While the injury happens due to various reasons, push-ups are one of the many ways to protect your shoulders against it.
Now, this is a passive benefit of the push-up. When doing a push-up, you need to properly hold your shoulder and back and keep your entire core strong enough in its vertical position. This results in the muscles required to support proper posture get stronger.
The Right Way To Do A Push-Up
The standard push-up requires locking up the knee joints, pelvis, and spine to keep your body in a straight line, from head to feet. The shoulders and elbows should be flexed and extended to raise and lower the body, and the scapula retracts and protracts to facilitate the movement. Inhale as you lower your chest and breath out as you push back up.
Here is a video to help you learn the right form:
There are many variations of the push-up, of which the most popular variations can be achieved by just altering hand positions. The common classification of the variations falls under the following categories:
- Wide Base – Wider than shoulder-width or 150% shoulder width
- Normal Base – Shoulder width
- Narrow Base – Palm inside the shoulder or 50% shoulder width
It is commonly believed that wide palm positions during the push-ups activate pectoralis major to a greater degree, whereas narrow palm positions activate triceps brachii to a great degree.
Progressing Into A Push-Up
There are many different ways to build strength progressively and perform proper push-ups. To achieve this, the first thing you should do is figure out the part of the push-up you are strong at and the part that you are weak at. So, you can work around the area. For instance, find a point after which you can no longer lower yourself or push yourself up in a controlled manner.
Find a sofa arm, bench, chair, or any other elevated and stable object. Place your hand against its surface and perform the normal push-ups. Nevertheless, ensure it isn’t very easy. Consider finding an elevation where you can get a full range of motion of push-ups. As you keep growing stronger, keep lowering the surface until your reach the floor.
If you find it challenging to perform elevated push-ups, start with standing against the wall with your hands in a push-up position and push yourself away from the wall. This is known as a Wall Push-Up.
Now, this is a scaled-down version of a push-up. On a high plank position, place your knees on the floor, slightly away from the hip. Your palms should be shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows until your chest touches the floor and come back up. Perform this version until you get used to it and then move on to the next progression.
Bottom-Up Work Or Hand Release Push Up
Lie on your stomach with hands and feet in a push-up position. Try to push yourself up from the floor at a single go. If you can’t, then push the floor as hard as your can and hold this position for 5-6 seconds. Here is how you should do it
Top-Down Work Or Half Push-Up Hold
Start by being in a plank position. Now, lower your body in a controlled way. Note the position where your body gives up, and you can’t control the movement anymore. Perform 5-6 second hold at this position, and as you keep getting stronger, start to lower yourself from the same point until you can control the entire movement from top to the floor.
How To Increase Reps After First Few Sessions?
If you have mastered the art of doing some decent push-ups and want to increase your reps going further, increasing the range of motion can help. For example, consider using a pair of kettlebells or dumbells to improve your strength and achieve that few more extra reps. With a proper posture, lower yourself towards the ground as much as you can manage and then push yourself back up.
Accessory Exercises To Get Stronger At Push-Ups
Almost all pressing exercises involve the triceps muscle. The triceps straighten your arms at the elbow. Hence, getting them worked will help you perform pressing movements more smoothly. A few exercises worth trying to improve your strength include kickbacks, overhead extensions, triceps dips etc.
The bench press is an excellent way to strengthen your chest and muscles that assist in performing pressing movements from the chest. Getting stronger at bench press is a great way to learn how to push a lot of weight.
As mentioned earlier, a push-up is much like a moving plank. For this reason, practicing the plank positions on both hands and elbow positions will help strengthen the core.