The push up is the king of upper body body weight – only exercises.
It’s always a staple of workouts I design for myself, my training clients, and my online workout programs.
But odds are that:
1) you don’t know the exact push up type/variation you should be using for your specific fitness goals/ability level/etc.
2) you aren’t aware of the sheer amount of push up variations you can use in your workouts!
This post is all about push up progressions – and no matter your current goals, fitness or knowledge level, by reading it I’ll bet you’ll learn something new about this seemingly-simple exercise that will help you get better results.
Why the push up is king
Here’s a few reasons why the push up is king:
- Push ups can be done anywhere, in a small amount of space and with no added equipment whatsoever
- They work many of your major muscle groups, including the chest, shoulders, triceps, lats, abdominals, lower back, core stabilizers (just to name a few)
- Push ups can be very easily progressed or regressed for your specific fitness level/goals/etc.
A lot of folks have trouble with that last point. That is, figuring out the best push up progressions for their specific fitness level and goals.
So, in this article, I’m going to help you solve that problem. I’ll start by covering the ‘easiest’ type of push up a beginner would start with … I’ll give you some tips for doing more push ups … and finish with some really hard push up varieties if you’re looking for the ultimate challenge.
‘Easiest’ type of push up a beginner would start with
- Start with Wall Push Ups:
- Just like with a regular push up, clench your glutes, brace your abs, and set your hands on a wall at a width that’s wider than shoulder-width apart. Walk backwards with your feet until your arms are fully extended and supporting your weight (generally one decent sized step back with both feet will suffice). Keeping the rest of your body in a straight line, steadily lower yourself towards the wall until your nose almost touches the wall, and then explode back up to the starting position (source): http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/arms/exercises/push-ups/
- The knee push up would be the next progression from here, and then the push up with the feet on the ground and the hands slightly elevated on a bench, etc. (BTW, I cover this in detail in the manual and video portion of the Lifetime Kettlebell Fitness program)
Tips for doing more push ups
- http://www.gotstrengthblog.com/?p=217 - 7 Steps: Knee, Incline, Regular, One-Legged, Decline, Spider, Clapping
- http://www.livestrong.com/article/346429-progression-to-full-push-ups/ - Descriptions of various push ups
- When performing a set of pushups, move quickly. Gravity is affecting your muscles throughout the exercise, so the longer you take, the more strain you’re putting on your body per repetition, explains Stew Smith, military trainer and former Navy SEAL. Always go as fast as you can without sacrificing proper form. Having a friend or trainer time you regularly will not only help you keep track of your pacing, but will alleviate any anxiety you may feel about being timed during a fitness test.
- Your pushup is only as strong as the weakest muscle, so strength training the muscles involved in the exercise independently will help you do more pushups. Try chest presses or dumbbell flies to work your pectoral muscles, military presses or lateral raises to work your shoulders, and triceps dips or pulldowns to target your triceps muscles. Always give your arms a full day to rest between workouts, including pushup workouts.
- http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/pushup-variations/ - 14 exercises & improvements that help to increase push ups
Really hard push up varieties
- http://kevinlarrabee.com/its-all-about-progression-push-ups/ Scroll down to Phase 4, they have sample videos and then under “Spicing it Up” have more tips. In the comment section, somebody also posted this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z92Za3K4SvY
- Basketball Push Ups: Same as the standard push-up, except you balance one hand on a basketball, medicine ball, or Swiss ball. This works stabilizer muscles.
- Deep Push Ups: Same as the standard push-up, except you need three chairs. Place the chairs so your feet are resting on one and your hands are on the others. Now you can go down farther than you could when doing push ups on the floor.
- The plyo push up is pictured somewhere in the examples, but here’s a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAqSnGWHrxU
In conclusion, push ups are one of the best upper body body weight – only exercises around. They’re a staple of workouts I design for myself, my personal training/boot camp clients, and my online workout programs. However, they also can be tricky to progress/regress for your specific fitness goals and ability level. This article shows you how to make push ups as hard or as easy as you want – and how to blast your results through the roof using the almightly push up!
PS - I’ve got a brand new body weight – only at-home workout program in the works and am a week or two away from finishing it up. To get first news of it’s release – and for some more cool free stuff – sign up for my weekly email newsletter by dropping your name and email into the box at the upper right of the page!