What Makes The Push-up So Special?
Many people grow up detesting them but push-ups are one of the greatest exercises ever invented based purely on the fact that they are a functional exercise that can be performed anywhere at any time and you only need your body weight to execute them. As an exercise that challenges your strength, power, stability and endurance, push-ups are a full-body exercise that has countless modifications and progressions. By making a few slight adjustments to your hand position, angle of your body and the tempo of the exercise, you can later how the push-up impacts your body and different muscle groups. Often you will find a variety of fitness challenges, either in your gym or maybe even your workplace (emergency services, military) that incorporate a certain amount of push-ups as part of their requirements.
How To Do A Proper Push-up?
While it seems like a relatively easy exercise in theory, the practical execution of a proper push-up is often a challenge for people. Too often people will perform push-ups incorrectly with their elbows flaring out, hips dropped, butt in the air, head not in the correct position or they lack proper depth.
- With regards to the most basic form of a push-up, start on your hands and your knees (in a tabletop position).
- Place your hands and wrists directly under your shoulders, slightly outside of shoulder width. If you place your hands in line with your head instead of your shoulders, you will more than likely place a lot more pressure on your shoulders and cause potential injury. Extend your legs out behind you (plank style). This is your starting position. Place your feet approximately hip width apart for stability. The closer your feet are together, the more challenging it will be for proper balance.
- Make sure your spine stays in neutral position. Imagine a pole running from the back of your head, straight down your neck and back.
- Do not look straight down, focus on a spot slightly 2-3 feet out in front of you.
- When executing a push-up, it is important to keep your elbows at approximately a 45 degree angle.
- The target depth of a traditional push-up is to have your chest approximately a fist height away from the ground on the decline. When you push back up, remember that you want to return to full height. Many people tend to cut their range of motion (one way or the other) short, which stops you from attaining the full benefit of the exercise.
- Breathing tips – Breath out during the concentric movement (raising up), breath in during the eccentric movement (lowering down).
- Some simple modifications for those who find regular push-ups to be a challenge include, wall push-ups, incline bench push-ups and knee push-ups. For those who have weak wrists or struggle reaching full depth, the option of using push-up bars could be a helpful tool.
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Common Push-up Mistakes:
- The two most common mistakes people make when doing push-ups is either allowing their back/butt to elevate and round up in the air, or the exact opposite and allowing their lower back and hips to sag. This can very easily lead to potential lower back pain and possibly injury.
- Do not allow your elbows to lock when you reach the height of your push-up as doing so can lead to stress and strain on the joints.
- Range of motion. If you are not reaching full depth or full height of your push-up, you will simply fail to receive the full benefit of the exercise.
- Don’t bob your head up and down. Most people, especially those with long hair will think that they are getting closer to the ground because their face or hair is lower. However this will cause strain and stress on your neck and ultimately have minimal gain from the exercise.
- Tempo. Take your time during your push-ups. Rapid fire or pulsing push-ups are a recipe for bad form, control and technique just to get through the set. It’s best to complete less push-ups with proper execution than to just hammer out as many as you can as quick as you can and have horrible technique.
Ten Benefits Of Doing Push-ups
1. Physical & mental health benefit
As with any form of exercise or working out, there are multiple physical and mental health and wellness benefits such as improved strength and posture, increased energy, happiness and positivity as well as lower risk of depression and stress. While just doing a few push-ups here and there won’t help much, a proper workout program that includes push-ups will help with weight loss, increasing your metabolism and helping with your blood circulation.
2. Benefit of doing push-ups: Anytime & anywhere
One of the most important benefits of doing pus-ups is that they can be done anytime and anyplace. While there are certain pieces of equipment that you can use to change and alter the challenge of the exercise, at the end of the day, it is a simple bodyweight exercise. If you choose to roll out of bed and grind out a set of 20-30 to kick off your day or maybe you need a quick "pick me up" in the middle of your work afternoon, all you need is enough space to lay your body out (and even that can be modified).
3. Various muscle groups trained
As a compound exercise, push-ups work a variety of different muscle groups, including: arms (biceps and triceps), shoulders (deltoid major and minor), chest (pectoralis major and minor, serratus anterior) , core (abdominal), back (latissiumus dorsi, trapeze muscles, rhomboids, lower back) and legs (glutes, hamstrings, quads).
4. Improve your cardiovascular health.
By simultaneously working major muscle groups, the heart must work harder to deliver blood to muscle tissues. Daily exercise can help reduce blood pressure, body weight and bad cholesterol levels in the blood. While push-ups alone won't totally impact your cardiovascular endurance or health, they are a great complement to any exercise program.
5. Variations are plentiful.
From something as simple as lifting one leg to a more complex single-arm push-up to an extremely challenging explosive clapping push-up, the options are almost endless. With each variation and different placement of your hands, legs and depth, different muscle groups will be challenged. You can also use a variety of equipment that will help add a challenge to your push-up routine such as bands, weights or balls/bosu/balance boards to add a stability element to your program.
6. Assistssist with improving your balance and stability.
By keeping proper posture during a regular push-up, your muscles are constantly being worked in order to keep your body in correct alignment. When you add an instability challenge to your push-up, those major muscle groups work extra hard. Our stabilizer muscles assist with improving our flexibility and mobility, something that many people tend to forget about when they hit the gym.
7. Reduced risk of injury.
Push-ups and other forms of body weight exercises help keep bones strong. As bone mass tends to naturally decline with age, they become fragile and prone to injury. As push-ups help strengthen the entire body, they are a great exercise for protecting the rotator cuff and lower back.
8. Push-ups are a functional exercise.
Whether you are pushing a grocery cart or a gardening wheelbarrow or even your kid on a swing, the pushing motion is something that we use multiple times a day, often without thought.
9. Push-ups provide a great stretch for various muscle groups.
With proper tempo, the downward motion of a push-up provided a nice stretch for your back muscles, while the upward movement helps to stretch out the biceps.
10. Look great and feel great!
Everyone likes to look good rocking their favorite sunny day clothing or filling out a suit/dress for a formal evening. While push-ups help strengthen numerous muscle groups, they also help tone, giving you that beach body ready vibe.
Are There Any Risks Of Doing Push-ups?
Because they are an “anytime/anyplace” exercise, there is a risk that you could overdue your push-up exercises. Doing a small amount periodically each day most likely won’t have any negative impact on you, however if you do enough that leaves you sore the next day, it might be a good idea to pass on them until your next workout. Just because you work out every day, it doesn’t mean that your muscles get bigger each time you train. Allowing muscle groups to repair and recover is when they actually increase in size and strength.
Many times we get into a cycle in which we become creatures of habit with our workouts. This can lead to not enjoying being in the gym or doing exercises. While it’s great to have push-ups as part of your routine, switching it up will not only help your body, but your brain as well. If you hated doing push-ups in the first place, you will most certainly detest them if you do them every day. You could also find yourself unmotivated by a repetitive and possibly boring workout. As easy as it is to put your brain on “autopilot”, keeping it challenged and engaged is just as important as keeping our body in shape.
As mentioned, push-ups are a great full body workout that targets the major visual muscles that everyone wants to see in the mirror and attracts others, however it should not come at the expense that you ignore the rest of your body. It’s one thing to have a strong, toned upper body, but when you have little, scrawny legs, it doesn’t exactly give a physically well balanced appearance.
Different Types Of Push-Ups
As mentioned, the great benefit of doing push-ups is that there are so many variations that you can do to change things up and keep your workout fresh and challenging. Beside the traditional push-up which we already covered, try adding some of the following alterations to your workout.
Place your hands in a diamond shape with your pointer fingers and your thumbs. Position your hands just under your chest. Keep your elbows tight to your obliques and ribs.
Typewriter (Side to Side)
From a traditional position, instead of lowering straight down, lower your body to one side touching chest to hand. The typewriter progression is once you touch one hand, slide your body across to the opposite hand and then push back up.
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By challenging your fast twitch muscles, these explosive push-ups require both speed and power to execute properly and safely. In the same form as a traditional push-up, lower yourself to the ground and then on the push stage, explode as hard as you can to elevate your hands off the ground and quickly clap your hands together before softly landing in your starting position.
Similar to the clap push-up, explode off the ground and tap your chest with both hands at the same time. Return safely to a soft landing.
You may choose to place your hands in a staggered form or keep them in the traditional position. On your decline, bring one knee towards your elbow, as if you were “crawling”. The option is to keep the leg elevated for a number of reps or return it forward and back for each push-up.
After you master the clap, then chest tap, a further progression is the Superman. With an explosive push off the ground, extend both your arms and legs into a “Superman” pose before returning safely to the ground.
With the ability to alter the difficulty or ease of the push-up and the fact that you do not need a single piece of equipment in order to make it a challenging workout, the push-up is one of the most effective and efficient exercises for total body strength and conditioning. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced, try adding a new type of push-up to your daily/weekly workout routine for a full body workout exercise.
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