The push up. One of the first exercises that most of us learn, and usually the first one that we abandon. Most think that the only way to successfully build a strong upper body is the bench press, but they would be making a big mistake. While the push up and the bench press both work your chest, shoulders, and triceps…the push up also trains your abdominals, lower back, upper back, and glutes.
“If you do pushups correctly, you develop your scapular muscles and your rotator-cuff muscles to stabilize your shoulders. If you do bench presses instead of pushups, you don’t have to use those muscles as much,” says Michael Clark, C.S.C.S., a physical therapist and president of the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Plus, you can do push ups anywhere, you don’t need any fancy equipment (a.k.a. they’re free), and they’re an excellent way to judge your strength to body weight ratio!
The proper way to complete a push up:
Kneel down on all fours and place your hands slightly beyond shoulder-width apart. Set your feet together and straighten your arms and legs. Your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your head. Keeping your elbows pulled toward your sides, lower your chest to just above the floor, and press back up. That’s 1 rep.
Some of our favorite push up variations:
- Rotational Push Up – Assume the classic push up position, but as you come up, rotate your body so your right arm lifts up and extends overhead. Your arms and torso should form a T. Return to the starting position, lower yourself, then push up and rotate till your left hand points toward the ceiling.
- Walking Push Up – Set up in the classic push up position on a smooth floor, and place your feet on a towel. Walk with your hands across the room, turn, and walk back. Keep your back flat throughout the movement.
- Explosive Push Up – Set up in the classic position on a well-padded carpet or exercise mat. Push up hard enough for your hands to come off the floor and catch some air. When you hit the floor, go immediately into the next repetition, pushing up again as hard as you can and catching more air.
- Leg-Kick Push Up - Assume a push up position, and then lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Kick your right leg out to the side as close to a 90-degree angle as possible without bending your knee. Pause, and move your leg back to the starting position. Push your body back up and repeat with your left leg.
- Uchi Mata Push Up – From a push up position, lift your right foot so your leg is parallel to the floor. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Now raise your lifted leg higher into the air. Push back to the starting position. Do half your reps, switch legs, and finish your set.
Our favorite push up resources:
onehundredpushups – The six week training program to get you on your way to completing 100 consecutive push ups
Men’s Health Push Up Test – How do you rate?
The Push Up (CrossFit Journal) – The man, Greg Glassman, goes over the power of the push up and a list of CF milestones.
Now drop down and give us 50!
Now drop down and give us 50!