Pushups: The Perfect Exercise

Posted On Sep 4, 2013 By Tom Holland

A fit woman performing a push up on a track.

There are few exercises as simple and as effective as the pushup. This is why pushups should be a staple of almost everyone's workout routine, regardless of your age, sex or fitness level. Here are just a few reasons why the pushup is such a valuable exercise:

  • Simplicity: You can do pushups anytime, anywhere – and they require absolutely no equipment.
  • Scalability: It doesn't matter if you are a true beginner or advanced, young or old. You can modify the pushup to challenge your current level of fitness.
  • Functionality: The pushup is a functional movement that helps you perform your everyday activities, as well as improve sports performance.
  • Time-saver: The pushup is a compound exercise, which means it works more than one muscle group at a time. So, instead of doing three or more different exercises to target certain muscles, you can hit them all at once by doing a pushup. Chest, shoulders, triceps and your core muscles are all muscle groups involved in a pushup. You can vary the relative activation of each of these muscles by simple modifications to the movement as well.
  • Effectiveness: Everyone is looking for the greatest results in the shortest amount of time, and the pushup is one of the few exercises that delivers on both of these counts. You can make significant changes to your strength and lean muscle in just a few short weeks of doing pushups.

Here are a few different types of pushups, starting with the easiest and increasing in difficulty:

  • Wall Pushups: Great for beginners and older exercisers. Perform a traditional pushup with your hands on a wall instead of the floor. You can increase the difficulty by moving your feet farther away from the wall.
  • Knee Pushups: The precursor to a traditional pushup; once you can do 10 good knee pushups it's time to graduate to doing sets of several "real" ones on your toes. [Note: These are no longer to be referred to as "women" or "girl" pushups. I know many women who can do more real pushups than the average guy.]
  • Diamond Pushups: By placing your hands together to form a diamond you increase the relative difficulty of the pushup. The closer your hands are together, the less the large muscles of the chest are involved and the more you rely on the smaller tricep muscles to raise your body off the floor.
  • Spiderman Pushups: A great way to increase the intensity while activating the core musculature even more, this variation entails bringing your knee to your elbow as your lower yourself down to the floor, alternating legs with each repetition.
  • Plyometric Pushups: Plyometrics involve rapid contractions of the muscles through explosive movements. There are numerous simple ways to make the pushup plyometric, including adding claps at the top of each repetition.

Pushups. Love them or hate them, you should really do them. Give it a little time, and you'll be glad you did.