Workout From Home Series - Push-Ups

Push-ups are a great way to build strength in your upper body. They don’t require elaborate set ups, just a small space on the floor and a couple of props if you’re feeling adventurous.

Push-ups are defined as a compound movement, meaning they activate multiple muscle groups at once, rather than targeting muscles in isolation. This helps you to get the most out of the exercise as the energy spent working the muscles is spread across a greater area of the body, meaning that each movement you make provides broader benefits.

They are especially effective at strengthening your chest and triceps, however, depending on your form and how you set up, they can also activate your core, shoulders, biceps, hips and upper back muscles. You can achieve this through subtle changes in hand positioning and body angle as you set up, along with altering the style of push up that you complete.

Your muscles aren’t the only areas of your body that will receive benefits from push-ups. You joints, bones, cardiovascular system and overall posture will strengthen and improve with consistent exercise.

How To Do One Properly

You might have heard the word “form” thrown around before during talk of push-ups. What is meant by form is the positioning of your entire body before the exercise and your movements in relation to this positioning during the exercise.

The reason form is so important is because it has a direct influence on which muscle groups you work, the effectiveness of the movement in working them and the likelihood of the movement being either beneficial or harmful to your joints and muscles.

Set Up

Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Angle your hands so that they feel comfortable – they might be straight on, pointed slightly inwards or outwards, or you might even feel more comfortable on your knuckles.

Similarly with your feet, find a position that is most comfortable. This could be with your feet touching, or they could be spread wide apart. Again, find what feels natural and right for you.

Imagine your body as one straight line throughout the exercise – from the top of your head right the way through to your heels. Try to ensure that you have your hips in line with the rest of your body and not sticking up in the air. Clenching your butt and your abs can help to give you proper alignment.

Cast your gaze ever so slightly out in front of you so that you chin comes in to contact with the floor first when you lower all the way down. As you progress you can experiment with changing the position of your head to activate different muscle groups.

Slowly lower yourself until your chin is almost touching the floor – or as low as you can go. Pause for a moment, and push back up to the starting position by squeezing your chest and triceps, keeping your elbows tucked in neatly by your side as opposed to sticking out wide.

If this is too difficult, you can always try pushing up on an incline (by pushing off a raised bench and not the floor) or you can support yourself on your knees.

Now that you’ve got the standard push up down, here are a few variants you can use to maximise the benefits

Wide Push Up

Equipment needed: None

Assume a normal push up position and extend the gap between your two hands as wide as you can. This will put more pressure on your chest by transferring most of your weight to your pectoral muscles. By focussing on squeezing your chest as you rise you help them to grow in size and strength.

Push-Up Hold

Equipment needed: None

Set up like you would for a normal push up. Lower yourself slowly, and once you get to the bottom pause for as long as you can, holding your position. Push back up and repeat until your muscles give in. The hold will work your muscles overtime, along with core, shoulders and arms. It also helps to build mental resilience as you need to push beyond your perceived limits.

Diamond Push-Up

Equipment needed: None

From the standard starting position, move your hands close together until your thumbs and index fingers touch, forming the shape of a diamond. Perform a push up as you normally would, keeping your elbows tucked neatly close to your chest. This set up is a great way to really work your triceps and the muscles of your inner chest.

Decline Push-Up

Equipment needed: A small box, bench or chair

This exercise is essentially performing a standard push up with the exception of placing your feet on a raised surface so that your legs are on a higher level than your hands. This increases the difficulty by loading the upper chest, and the higher the bench / box / chair, the greater the load.

Staggered Hands Push Up

Equipment needed: None

From your normal push up position, move one hand forward and the other backward so that they’re offset by at least 15 cm. The farther apart, the greater the difficulty. Lower your body until your chest is below the level of your elbows, keeping your arms tucked in close to your body. Switch between the two hands evenly.

Clap Push Up

Equipment needed: None

This is a standard push up, except that as you push your self up from the ground you explode upwards so that the force is sufficient enough to lift your hands off the ground. For greater difficulty, you can bring yourself high enough off the ground so that you can clap your hands together in mid air. It is important to keep your back flat and hips level throughout the movement so that the forces exerted come from your chest.

As you progress you can increase the number of claps to two, three, or even clap behind your back for an added challenge.

Flying Push-Up

Equipment needed: None

Similar to the clap push up, only more extreme. This time you not only push your hands off the ground but your feet as well. For this version it makes things easier when spread your feet a little wider. Also, be sure to keep good from throughout and avoid using too much hip movement for lift. For an added challenge, try clapping both your hands and feet together while in mid air!

One Arm Push Up

Equipment needed: None

Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, a standard push up performed with one arm. You will need to move your pushing arm more towards the centre below your chest in order to maintain balance, with the other arm held behind your back. As this one requires a bit more balance you might find things a little easier if you spread your feet wider apart to give a good solid base.

As with any form of diet or exercise, consistency is key to seeing results. When you incorporate these exercises in to your lifestyle on a regular basis you give yourself every opportunity to increase your upper body strength and tone your muscles.

For tips on how to be consistent with your training, check out our blog on exercise motivation here!