Chest Exercise – The Perfect Push-up

One of the simplest exercises you can perform at home is a push-up.  It’s a great exercise for guys to develop their chest muscles and for women to tone up “the girls.”  It’s also an exercise that most people perform incorrectly.  So, let’s take a look at this great chest exercise.

Muscles Used in Push-upsWhile a push-up is intended to work your chest muscles (pectoralis muscles or pecs in gym lingo), it also works your triceps and shoulder muscles (deltoids).  You might find that your triceps will be the limiting muscles in performing this exercise as your chest muscles are bigger and stronger than your triceps.

Push-upTo begin, kneel down on the ground and place your hands down straight down from your shoulders.  Place your body on your toes and hands and make sure that your body is in a completely straight line.  Lower yourself slowly to the ground, and then push yourself back up. All the while keep your core muscles tight and engaged.  The starting position of a push-up is called a plank in yoga.  If you just held that starting position for a while, you will definitely feel it in your core muscles.

Tips for a Perfect Push-up

Tip #1 – Make sure that your body is in a straight line when you perform a push-up.  Don’t stick your rear end up in the air or sag your mid-section towards the ground.

Tip #2 – Don’t just fall to the ground – lower yourself in a slow and controlled manner.  The up motion and the down motion should be at the same pace.

Push up - Elbows In lady

Perfect Push-up – Notice her elbows are by her sides

Tip #3 – Don’t stick your elbows out to the side – they should be in line with your forearms and relatively close by your sides.  If you stick your elbows out at a 90 degree angle from your body when you perform a push-up, you run the risk of injuring your shoulder or rotator cuff muscles.

Tip #4 – This is a chest exercise, so remember to push up with your chest muscles, not your arms. I realize that this can be difficult at first.  So you get the idea, put your arms out in front of you parallel to the floor and lock your hands together.  Then push.  Can you feel your chest muscles squeezing?  This is the sensation you should feel as you perform a push-up.  Really focus on pushing up from the ground with your chest muscles and not your arms.  Squeeze your pecs as you push.  As I mentioned earlier, you will really feel this exercise in your triceps as well, but the main muscles you want to work are your pecs.

Variations of the Push-Up

So, you go to try a push-up and you’re just not strong enough to perform one correctly.  I understand completely.  Push-ups can be a difficult exercise, especially for women, even though you’re only using your body weight.  So, there are a few ways you can do a push-up to build up your strength before you do the version I just described.

wall-pushupsWall Push-ups – Instead of performing a push-up against the floor, do one against a wall. Depending on your height, stand 2 or 3 feet away from a wall and perform a push-up.  All the other rules apply, you’re just doing the exercise standing up.

Knee Push-ups – Once you’ve built up some muscles in your chest and arms, you can try to do a push-up where you balance on your hands and knees instead of your hands and toes.  Some people call these “girl push-ups.”  Guys, do not be afraid to do these push-ups on your knees!  You can do this exercise in the privacy of your home, so no one is going to see you.  If you don’t have the muscle strength yet to do a regular push-up, there’s no sin in doing these on your knees. Men gain muscle much quicker than women due to your higher testosterone levels, so you’ll be able to do a regular push-up in no time.  Once again, all the other rules, such as keeping your back straight apply.

Elevated Push-ups – If doing a regular push-up seems easy to you and you can do 50 push-ups, no problem, then try elevating your legs.  You can put your legs on a bench or chair or exercise ball.  This will put more weight on the exercise.

There are many more different variations of a push-up.  Placing your hands closer together will emphasize different muscles.  You can clap in between reps.  You can do these one-handed, with the other hand behind your back.  You can place your hands on a Bosu ball for instability training.  There are many different versions, but this should get you going.

Conclusion

Push-ups are a great upper body exercise.  If you perform them correctly, it will really help build your pecs and triceps.  Push-ups are something you may have been doing since you were a child, but that doesn’t mean that you were performing them correctly.  Take note of all the tips, especially keeping your elbows in by your sides.

To see a video of this exercise, click here.  Bodybuilding.com has lots of great exercise videos.

Until next time, remember that… there are no excuses when it comes to your health!

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