Push-ups — love ’em or hate ’em, the indisputable fact is that they’re terrific for building muscle and getting fit in general.
Movements like running and swimming come somewhat naturally as they are based on movements that our body is instinctively programmed to perform for survival (Did you know that babies instinctively tread water?)
Push-ups, however, are different. They focus on a set of movements which in turn focus on a specific group of muscles, isolating and developing them. This repetition of movements (especially when performed in sets) supports the growth and development of muscle fibers.
The push-ups workout also utilizes major muscle groups which are crucial when performing exercises, aimed at developing other minor muscles.
Some pros of doing push-ups:
- It is convenient and easy to grasp in its basic form.
- You don’t need any equipment to start out.
- You don’t need a lot of space, just your body length on the floor.
- It builds upper body strength.
Push-ups are also often used as a form of training or punishments in sports or the military. Getting a head start on the number you can competently perform is a huge bonus.
Push-ups also build confidence. There’s something primal about being able to do body weight exercises easily. According to studies, you support between 70% to 75% of your body mass while performing a push-up.
Another great thing about push-ups is that by including simple variations in your posture or positioning, you can work on completely different muscle groups.
Let’s go through the different variations of the push-up.
1. The Traditional Push-Up Workout
The traditional or basic push up is the classic workhorse of push-ups.
To start, lay face down on the ground with your palms slightly out from your shoulders. Lift yourself to the point that your arms are fully extended. Clench and engage your core and make sure your back is straight. If you find it difficult to maintain this position with your legs extended, it is fine to drop your knees to the ground. However do make sure that your weight is still predominantly on your arms and upper body, and that your back is still straight.
Inhale and slowly lower yourself to the ground. Keep your body straight and even, ensure you are parallel to the ground. It is also important to keep your elbows close and tucked in. They shouldn’t protrude to the sides. When your chest is almost touching the floor, exhale and push yourself back up to the starting position.
The traditional push up is great for training your chest, abs and arms while also cultivating good balance.
2. Diamond Push-Up Workout
The diamond or triangle push up is one of the tougher forms of push-ups out there. That’s because it focuses on your inner chest and tricep muscles. These muscles are not used or focused on normally in your daily life and thus tend to be weaker. By practicing the diamond push up, you can build these lesser-used muscles.
To perform a diamond push up, place your arms closer together than normal. The index finger and thumb of each hand should be touching, forming a diamond shape. Lower yourself while ensuring that 1) your elbows remain close to your body and 2) your back remains straight.
3. Clapping Push-Up Workout
The clapping push up is known for being a feat of strength. It is often used in film or TV to show characters as impossibly strong or manly. Besides being good for flaunting, the clapping push up also trains your explosive power and fast-twitch muscles.
To start the clapping push up, assume the starting position of the traditional push-up. Once you lower yourself to the point your chest is almost touching the floor, push against the floor as hard as you can and use your core and chest strength to propel yourself into the air. Make sure you are high enough to have time to clap your hands and return your arms into a safe position to land and absorb the impact of your landing. As you land, lower yourself close to the ground and spring up again, beginning your next rep.
If you aren’t completely confident of your strength level, don’t be shy to start this push up with your knees on the ground. Alternatively, you can begin by training your explosive power: start by pushing yourself up but not attempting the clap, and work your way upwards.
4. Superman Push-Up Workout
An advanced version of the clapping push up, the superman push up makes more use of your fast-twitch muscles and explosive power. Similar to the clapping push up, start in the traditional push-up position and lower yourself until your chest is almost touching the floor. From here, push yourself up into the air. Your whole body should lift off, not just your arms. While your feet are in the air, bring your arms up and above your head as if you’re flying in the air like Superman. Ensure you have enough air time to safely land and begin your next rep.
5. Pike Push-Up Workout
For this version of the push-up, you have to assume a yoga pose traditionally referred to as the downward-facing dog.
To enter this pose from the normal push up pose, arch your back and try and rest both your palms and the soles of your feet flat on the ground. Your body should be in an inverted V shape, with your head in between your arms. Maintain the V shape and bend your elbows to lower your head towards the floor. Return to the starting position after. This type of push up trains muscles in your shoulder like deltoids and trapezius.
6. Cat Stretch Push-Up Workout
The cat stretch, Hindu or super pike push up was actually popularized by Bruce Lee. It strengthens your shoulders, triceps, core and improves flexibility. From the downward-facing dog pose, swoop downwards, leading with your head. Bend your elbows and lower your face to the floor. At this point, instead of rising, move your body through your arms. Slide your face, chest and torso through your arms. Towards the end of this movement, arc your head and body upwards.
At the end of the arc, your arms should be straight and hips against the ground in the cobra pose. Reverse your movements until you’re back in the downward-facing dog pose.
7. Knuckle Push-Ups
These push-ups are normally used by martial artists to train and toughen their wrists, forearms and of course, knuckles. You perform this by assuming the traditional push-up stance. The difference is that instead of your palms resting on the ground, your rest on your knuckles. This version also places less strain on your wrists and thus is an excellent choice for those suffering from wrist injuries.
8. Staggered Hands Push-Ups
This push up trains your muscles one side at a time and uses more of your core to remain stable.
Start from the normal push up pose. Extend one arm out further than the other. The side that maintains the normal positioning is the side that you’ll be training. While balancing, lower yourself and return to the top as if performing a normal push up. As usual, your elbows should be tight and back straight at all times. After your desired amount of reps, swap hands. Make sure you train both sides evenly to avoid lopsided development.
9. Spider-man Push-Ups
The spider-man push up focuses on the normal push up areas but adds extra emphasis to your core and obliques.
Begin in the normal push up position. As you descend, bring one leg out to the side. Your knee should be bent and you should aim for your knee to touch your elbow. It is important to keep your leg as level as possible. When you ascend, return the leg back to its starting position. On your next rep, switch legs.
1. Planche Push-Ups
The push up to end the rest, Planche push-ups are extremely difficult. Start from the normal push up position. Lift your legs in the air while keeping your hands steady. Balance yourself over your arms and lower yourself till your elbows are bent. Make sure your body is constantly straight. You will support your entire body weight with this variation so be sure to be confident before attempting.
2. Modifications To Push-Ups
You can add many modifications to any of the push-ups described above. These modifications will either increase or decrease the difficulty of the push-up.
By placing your hands at a higher level than your feet, you will reduce the difficulty of the push up you are performing. This is especially useful if you have just started out and are unsure if you have the requisite strength to complete the movement.
By placing your feet higher than your hands, you increase the difficulty of the push up you are attempting. This is because more weight is placed on your arms instead of your feet. This modification is more suitable for seasoned practitioners.
By using a weighted body vest or a weight belt, you can increase the difficulty of your push-ups. Again this is only suitable for seasoned practitioners.
If the whole range of movement proves too difficult, you can instead focus on negatives. Negatives are simply the descent of the push-up. Your muscles can take much more strain on the descent than the ascent. By practicing the descending motion, you will increase your strength.
Always remember, whatever exercise you attempt, be sure to prepare for it in advance. Do not be discouraged by failure: rather, try and practice frequently until you fully grasp and master your choice of exercise.
Have fun with your push up workouts! And if you’re keen on trying more exercises, here are The 12 Best Glute Exercises For Men To Keep You Pumped.