Author: Bryan Niles, B.S., CSCS
Push-ups target the muscles of the chest (pectorals), back of the arm (triceps), and shoulders (anterior deltoids). Different variations and hand placements will affect the degree at which these muscles come into play.
This article goes through proper technique, variations, and progression of this popular and effective exercise.
To perform a standard push up with good form, place your weight on your hands and feet, with your spine and head in alignment with the legs, and your hands just slightly wider than shoulder-width apart (palm ﬂat on the ﬂoor). Lower your upper body to the ﬂoor, ﬂexing the elbows, then rise back to the start position. Keep your head still, and keep your eyes looking down. Breathe in on the way down, and out on the way up, and pull the abdominal muscles tight throughout the exercise.
Push-ups which are performed with elbows closer to the body put more emphasis on the triceps muscles (back of the arm).
Wide arm push-ups with the arms at a 45-75-degree angle focus more on the chest muscles.
To avoid shoulder problems, it is recommended your perform push-ups with the upper arms at a no more than a 75-degree angle from the torso.
Push-up progressions generally start with wall pushups and then proceed to the next steps after it is easy to perform wall pushups for 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions.
1. Wall push-ups.
Performed against a wall. To ﬁnd the starting position, stand away from the wall and extend your arms in front of you till the tips of your ﬁngers come in contact with the wall. If you ﬁnd the exercise too difficult, step the feet a little closer to the wall.
2. Box push-ups.
Performed with knees on the floor and hips at a 90 degrees angle.
3. Three quarter push-ups.
Performed with the knees and hands on the floor and the spine and thighs in line.
4. Three quarters push-ups + 5s eccentric push up.
Begin with a 3/4 push up on the way up, go onto the balls of the feet and perform the lowering phase of a standard push up to the count of 5 seconds.
5. Regular Push-ups.
Your upper arms should form a 45-75-degree angle with your torso, hands shoulder-width apart. Lower yourself with good form through the whole range of motion until the chest and nose almost come into contact with the ﬂoor.
About Bryan Niles:
Bryan Niles B.S. C.S. C.S. graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. Degree in Exercise and Sport Science in 1995. He attained his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Certification in 1997 from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Bryan is an exercise physiologist at Tonicity Fit Personal Training Studio in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
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