Push up is a fundamental bodyweight workout, which does not require a gym membership. You can practice it anywhere, at home or outdoors. It carves out a chiseled body and works out your upper body. Although it is a free hand exercise, you can use a yoga ball, a medicine ball or a dumbbell to practice it. However, this basic form of exercise, if done incorrectly can lead to serious injuries. Therefore, for beginners, expert supervision is recommended.
Performing Push Ups the Right Way
A perfect push up is beneficial for your chest and other upper body muscles. The body must remain in a flat position with chest down. Avoid forming an arch backward. Maintain an erect spine, while performing the push up. A tight core during lowering of the body as well as pushing it up is the key to a successful push up.
Push Ups for Beginners
The traditional push-up has a beginner’s version that is easy to perform with low resistance. Beginners should start with a very basic version of push up to ensure they do not end up with wrist injuries. Consistent practice of beginners’ push up renders flexibility to your body and you can do justice to any variation of the push up.
Beginners Wall Push Up
- Facing the wall, place your hands on the wall. The distance between your hands should be equivalent to the distance between your two shoulders.
- Keep your spine erect and move 2-3 feet away from the wall with hands still in the same position.
- Press your chess against the wall by squeezing your shoulder blades and relax them as you move away from the wall.
- This work out targets different upper torso muscles at the same time and is very popular with people of all ages.
Standing Incline Push Up
The next basic model of push up is the standing incline push up. This is the next level after you successfully perform the wall pushup. All you require is any horizontal surface like a table, chair or a countertop. Ensure that the surface is solid and sturdy. The angle of incline varies with the height of the surface. The resistance decreases as the surface height increases. This workout typically targets the forearm and chest muscles along with your triceps and abdominal muscles.
- Face the surface, chest down position and place your hands on the surface. Bring in the elbows right besides the rib cage. They would be apart at a distance equal to the distance between your shoulders. Avoid keeping your fingers too close to each other as it puts pressure on the wrist.
- Extend your legs behind you. Keep the balls of your feet on the ground and make sure your shoulders, hips and feet are in a straight line.
- With straightened legs, erect spine, pelvis thrust backward, stomach stuck inwards, and butt squeezed in, you are good to go.
- Breathe in and while bending your elbows, slowly lower your chest down to two inches above the surface.
- Now exhale and bring your chest up as if pushing the surface away and get back to the initial position.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades to bring them together while going down and relax them while you get back to the starting position.
- Maintain an erect back throughout and repeat the cycle.
Push Up Common Mistakes
Unless you become an expert, you are prone to make common mistakes while performing pushups. They however, are easy to set right.
- Keep your elbows close to your body. Stay away from keeping them wide apart as that would risk injuries. Flared up elbows put you in a vulnerable position.
- Try to look straight ahead. Avoid the mistake of hanging your head down or keeping the hips in an arch-back position. The spine must be in an erect posture.
- In an active shoulder movement, you bring your shoulder blades together, while lowering your body and keep them apart while coming back to starting position.
- Correct posture automatically follows the active shoulder movement. Drooping shoulders indicate weakness.
Push Up Variations
We incorporate variations in traditional pushups to target different muscles. There are many common variations of pushups some of which are the Close-grip pushup, Wide-grip pushup, Incline pushup, Decline pushup, One-armed, Dead-Stop, Clap pushup, One-leg pushup, Eccentric pushup and Spider-Man pushup.
Close Grip Push Up
Close grip push up requires you to place your hands on the floor closer together towards your centerline. With your elbows pointing back, arms beside your rib cage and maintaining your body posture in a high plank position, lower your body and bring it back up.
In a Diamond Close Grip Pushup, you form a diamond or a triangle with your index fingers and thumbs touching each other while spreading out the other fingers.
Sphinx pushup and Diamond pushup mainly target your tricep muscles. They simultaneously work on chest, shoulders, and upper thighs stabilizing the body.
Wide Grip Push Up
A very simple work out with your hands positioned wider than your shoulders. With fingers pointed forward, stick the balls of your feet on the ground. Tighten your back, keep spine straight, butts squeezed in, lower your body until your chest touches the floor and move up slowly maintaining the plank posture.
Some of you may want to perform the wide grip push up using a medicine ball or dumbbells beneath your hands. However, make sure you maintain your balance while applying pressure on the ball or dumbbell.
Muscles Worked During Push Ups
Apart from being a simple and complete upper body workout that focuses on arms, chest, and abdomen all at the same time pushups have many other benefits as well. They help maintain balance and create stability by reducing the reaction time of proprioceptive receptors. The nerves are in constant motion thus helping you create proper balance and speed.
Different versions of pushups affect different muscles.
- The prime movers of pushups are the front part of your shoulders, your chest and your triceps.
- The secondary muscles targeted are your serratus anterior, transversus abdominis and rectus abdominis muscles, which is commonly known as a six-pack. These muscles are engaged because you need to maintain a neutral curve in your spine.
- Left pectoralis major is the main muscle on the left side of the chest that is engaged by pushups. Pushups imparts strength and stability to the muscle.
- Pushup workouts help revitalize right pectoralis major and right deltoid muscles.
- The pectoralis minor (located beneath the chest muscles), biceps, oblique and the trap muscles around the back, get tremendous boost from push up exercises.
Be careful as your shoulder muscles may ache and become sore after a push up routine. Increasing pushups also develops your triceps and your core muscles. Triceps are used to straighten out of your arms. The left rectus abdominis and core muscles help in keeping the body erect.
Benefits of Push Ups
A push up, just like pull-ups is one the basic calisthenic exercise that you can do. Pushups help increase your ability to burn more fat thereby losing weight. Pushups work out so many muscle groups together. This leads to an increase in calorific expenditure. It also strengthens bones in your wrists and forearms. Pushup is a very effective exercise to strengthen your abs, obliques and your lower back muscles. This is because you are maintaining a plank position and these muscles help sustain this position.
Improving Your Push Ups
In the beginning start slow, say 10. Try to do as many pushups as you can in a single bout. Then next day try to beat that number. Like with any other strength training exercise there is no magic number of reps that you should do per day. You need to overload progressively over a period. Try not to focus on quantity. Instead, focus more on the quality of pushups you are doing every day.
- The plank position enhances your endurance. Your overall core strength is directly proportional to how long you can hold your push up posture. Your sagging lower back indicates weakness.
- Quads have a great impact on your push up. With a weak quad, you will not be able to keep your knees extended, for long.
- Practice under an expert eye to avoid inaccuracy and perfect the art of push up.