The push up is a classic exercise used to target the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. What most people don't know is that push ups also recruit other muscles groups, such as the glutes, thighs, abdominals, biceps, and back, to help keep your body stable throughout the movement. The best part is, with pushups, you don't need any resistance to build muscle, just your body. It's no wonder why personal trainers consider the push up to be the best exercise for a full body workout.
How to Do Push Ups
There are many ways to perform a pushup. Some are easier while others will take your chest work to the next level.
Basic Push Ups
Keeping your body erect, hover facedown against the floor on your toes and hands. Keep your feet apart and your hands underneath your shoulders. Tighten your abs to avoid sagging in the hips and lower back.
Descend in a controlled manner until you're a few inches off the ground. Then, press yourself up.
If this move felt a bit difficult, the wide pushup might be a better option for you. If this was easy, try one of the more challenging pushup exercises.
Wide Push Ups
Pushups can be intimidating for beginners. Women, in particular, tend to struggle because their chest and arm muscles are not as naturally strong as their male counterparts. A wide push up is a great alternative. The only difference is the position of your hands. Separate your hands more than you did on the basic pushup, a few inches on each side so they are wider than shoulder distance apart.
Just like you did in the basic pushup, lower down until your elbows come to a 90 degree angle. Then, press yourself up. If this was still too difficult, try a pushup modification (below).
Jackknife Push Ups
The jackknife push up is designed to work the upper chest and the top of the shoulders. Some personal trainers call it the "Down Dog Push Up" due to its resemblance to the yoga pose.
From your basic push up position, press your hips up and back until your body takes the shape of an upside-down V.
Bend your elbows so the top of your head lowers toward the floor.
Straighten your arms to return to starting position. Another take on the same angle is to put your feet up on a bench. Either way, make sure to keep your abs tense and your back straight throughout.
Push Up Sidestand
This variation is actually a regular push up with an added twist. Complete your basic pushup, only this time as you press up, lift one arm off the floor, rotating your body and reaching your hand toward the ceiling.
Keep your feet apart and rotate your heels to the floor until your hips stack. Then, place your hand on the floor to return to the starting position. This move is great for overall balance. Plus, it involves working the obliques, which can help you sculpt and stabilize your midsection.
Triangle Push Ups
Another simple but effective take on the same exercise is the triangle push up. Start with your thumbs and index fingers together. This forms a little triangle between your hands.
Place your hands on the floor directly below your chest and complete your push ups. Triangle push ups are great for putting an extra burn on your triceps, firming what are often called "bat wings" under the arms.
Clapping Push Ups
The clapping push up is a hardcore exercise, performed exactly as it sounds. You clap your hands together between each rep, which means you have to press yourself up with enough force to lift your hands and your body into the air.
This move is for you if you'd like to add a little spice to your push up routine and get your heart-rate up to burn more calories.
An easy way to modify any type of pushup is to place your knees on the ground.
This reduces the amount of overall resistance, so you can complete the exercise and reap the benefits, no matter what your level of fitness is.
Push Ups Chest Exercise Workout
Finally, you can pull together a sample push ups chest exercise workout using the components above. Begin with 50 to 100 jumping jacks to warm up and two to three minutes of light stretching.
Complete the entire circuit two or three times. For modifications, see the video below.
- 10 basic or wide push ups
- 10 jackknife push ups
- 10 pushups with sidestand (5 on each side)
Together, these three exercise will hit every angle of your chest. Three sets should take about 10 minutes to complete. Once you're done, cool down with a brief walk and 5-10 minutes of stretching.
Set a timer at an interval of 45:15. Execute each exercise for a length of 45 seconds with 15 seconds of rest in between. Complete the entire workout three times through.
- Basic push ups
- Pushups with sidestand
- Jackknife push ups
- Triangle pushups
- Clapping pushups
The entire workout is meant to bring your arm and chest muscles to the point of failure. How many pushups you complete will depend on your fitness level. Feel free to modify when your muscles begin to fatigue. Check out the video for modifications.
Here's a video with all the push up variations, including a brief demonstration of warm up exercises and stretches.
Push Up Benefits for the Chest
Pushups directly activate and strengthen the pectorals, the muscles of the chest. Building the pecs lifts and firms them, creating a look of confidence. Men tend to love pushups for the definition they give their chest while women enjoy the bustier appearance of their cleavage. Performing push ups is also essential for anyone who is looking to increase the amount of unassisted pull ups they can complete because they engage assisting muscle groups at a lower level. If this is one of your ultimate fitness goals, push ups are definitely for you.
A lesser known benefit of the pushup is chest flexibility. When completed with proper form, the shoulder blades draw together on your back, laterally stretching the chest. The result is better posture, reduced tension in the neck and the shoulders, and a lower chance of injury in the long run.
Build Chest Strength With Push Ups
There are many ways to perform a push up. Some variations are right for beginners while others, like slam ball push ups, are perfect for those seeking a challenge. Either way, incorporate this classic exercise into your routine so you can strengthen and sculpt your chest and begin reaping the benefits.