Get More Out of a Basic Exercise: The Push-up

December 10, 2015
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Push-ups are the basic muscle-building exercise that every major athlete from swimmers to bodybuilders incorporates into their training because these work! The movements are simple, the required equipment is limited to the floor, and the muscles targeted include the arms, chest and core – truly, an exercise that requires minimal expense yet generates maximum benefits.

Yet another benefit of performing push-ups is the opportunity to add variety to the basic push-up. In fact, you should add variety for two reasons – first, it breaks up the tedium of performing the same movements multiple times in a session; and second, it confuses the muscles so that greater muscle gain can be achieved.

You will then be able to get more muscle-building benefits when adding variety to the basic push-up. You have several choices including changing the elevation, moving the hand and feet positioning, and adding equipment, all of which can be done with existing equipment. You can also ask your personal trainer at Anytime Fitness for other ideas.

Here are a few ideas about adding variety to your basic push-up. Choose two first and then gradually add to your repertoire.

Changing the Elevation

Perform a basic push-up, walk with your hands to a bench, and perform a hands-elevated push-up. Walk back down to your stating position, which is a single rep. Do as many reps as you can without stopping for at least 30 seconds.

Changing the Grip

Depending on the grip, a basic push-up can focus on the triceps or the chest.

  • A narrow grip push-up targets the triceps. Perform a basic push-up but your hands should be just a few inches apart from each other, instead of shoulder-width apart, underneath your chest.
  • A wide-grip push-up focuses on the chest muscles. Start by assuming a basic push-up position but spread your hands wider than your shoulder width. Your chest will pick up most of the work required, not the triceps and shoulders, as is the case with the basic push-up.

Changing the Arm Positions

When changing the arm positions in a basic push-up, be mindful of your body coordination as your arms will likely bear the brunt of impact with the floor.

First, a T push-up is a full-body workout because it targets the chest, strengthens your shoulders, build rotational power in your core muscles, and opens up your thoracic muscles.

  • Start from the basic push-up position.
  • Take your left hand off the ground, raise it straight up into the air (T shape), and lift your head sideways so that it follows your raised hand.
  • Repeat on the other side. Add dumbbells to increase its intensity.

Second, a one-arm push-up targets the arms and chest. You can also perform it on a power rack or a Smith machine; lower the bar’s height according to your muscle strength.

  • Assume the basic push-up position but keep your feet wider.
  • Use a single arm to perform the push-up while keeping your elbow as close to your body as possible.

Third, a clap push-up targets the chest and adds a challenging aspect to the basic push-up.

  • Perform the basic push-up.
  • At its peak push yourself up off the floor and clap your hands in mid-air. Be as fast as possible in clapping your hands to avoid impact with the floor. The fast jolting force of the movement contributes to the explosive power and, hence, to faster chest muscle gain.

Changing the Leg Positions

Yet another way to add variety is to change your leg positions. Instead of working the lower limbs, however, the changes add explosive power to the upper body workout.

First, the single-leg push-up targets the upper body and abdominal core muscles. Just lift one leg off the floor and perform a basic push-up for a single set. Switch legs on the next set.

Second, the feet-elevated push-up intensifies the work that the upper body and core muscles must do. Perform a normal push-up but keep your feet elevated on a box or bench; ensure that the platform is stable. Choose a higher platform to increase the muscle work required on your chest, core and shoulder muscles as well as on your scapular stabilizers.

Third, the Spider-Man push-up will do wonders for your core muscles. Raise one knee toward your elbow; choose the same side while rising on the push-up, a move similar to Spider-Man climbing up a wall. Perform a normal push-up and switch your knees when doing another rep.

Using Equipment

Adding variety to the usual push-up also includes using simple equipment already available in your commercial gym.

  • Single-arm medicine ball push-up focuses the work on your arms, pectorals, and shoulders. Get a medicine ball, assume the normal push-up position but with just one hand on the ball, and perform a push-up. Switch hands after each set.
  • Push-up with arm reach targets the arms. Use a slideboard for the exercise. Slid one arm in front of you while lowering your body; be sure to keep your elbows locked straight. Switch your arms after each rep.

What are you waiting for? Get on these push-up variations now!

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