Today, there are many different kinds of exercise equipment available to help you increase strength in your upper body. However, don’t fall into the hype that you’ll only see results if you invest in expensive equipment or a year’s gym subscription. There are several simple, easy exercises – including push-ups – you can do at home that takes advantage of your body’s weight and give you the results you’re looking for. This exercise remains one of the cheapest and most effective methods for building strength in your back, shoulders, and arms.
Push-ups And Jogging
A great way to make your pushups more effective is to complete them with a significantly increased heart rate. This sends more blood to the pectoral tissues which make the muscles more inflated. Weight lifters refer to this as “the pump”.
Find a local school with a standard length track. The track should be a one-quarter mile long when running from the inside lane. How much you run and how many pushups you do depends on your level of fitness. You should be able to attempt to run at least two miles, which is eight laps around the track. After every lap, drop and do a series of pushups. The number of pushups should be done in an A-shaped fashion allowing for a build-up followed by a cool down.
After your first lap, drop and do 10 pushups for a quick warm-up. After the next lap, do 15. After that, 20. After that, 25. After that, do as many pushups as possible effectively “maxing out”. From there, backtrack so that you end your workout with a 10 pushup cool down.
The key to this exercise is to avoid the temptation to stop for breaks. By never allowing your body the chance to rest, you’ll keep your heart rate increased and blood flow at a maximum. This entire exercise should only take about 20 minutes, but it will strengthen your chest and shoulders while aiding your cardiovascular health.
Keep things creative by varying the type of pushups that you do. You can do close-handed pushups after some laps, wide grip after others, and you can even use the bleacher stairs to do incline and decline pushups.
Just remember, above all else, keep pushing yourself! There’s no gain without some pain. This jogging and push-up exercise will be pretty painful, but you’ll see some noticeable gains almost immediately!
Types Of Push-ups
Everyone knows how to do a basic, two-handed push-up, but there are several other ways to do a push-up. We’re going to share a few popular variations on the push-up. Each of these offers different benefits and isolates different muscles.
As a general rule, push-ups that are significantly challenging (and thus hard to achieve more than just a couple repetitions) are more suited for those looking to gain mass. Anyone looking to trim themselves down, or increase their lean muscles mass should stick to push-ups that allow for a higher number of repetitions.
There’s a reason the basic push-up is, well, the “basic” push-up: it’s safe, effective, and easy to learn. Some of the push-ups we’ll mention in this article are quite challenging. It’s important to always take stock of your fitness level. Some of these push-ups aren’t capable of being completed by everyone. Be aware that injury can occur when one is attempting a push-up beyond the scope of their fitness level.
As the title might suggest, fist push-ups are done with your knuckles as opposed to the palm of your hand. Physically, these push-ups differ from a basic push-up in that there is less surface area on which to distribute your upper body weight. In other words, the knuckles are smaller than the palms.
With less surface area shouldering the weight of your body, the chest, shoulders, and triceps will have their work cut out for them. In general, most people can only do about 75% of the number of fist push-ups as they otherwise might normally achieve through regular push-ups.
These push-ups are also commonly referred to as “closed-grip push-ups”. While in a normal push-up position, bring your hands together and make a diamond with your thumbs and index fingers. These push-ups are harder than a basic push-up, but still quite achievable.
By bringing your hands together, you place more emphasis on the triceps to complete the exercise. This, in addition to “dips”, are a great way to isolate the triceps without needing assistance from weights or machinery.
The opposite of pyramid push-ups, wide push-ups require you to spread your hands far apart. This takes the pressure off of the triceps and forces your chest and shoulders to bear a heavier load to complete the movement.
A wide push-up stance reduces the range of motion you will achieve during the exercise. Depending on how wide your position is, it may be impossible to push yourself more than just a couple of feet off the ground.
I forget if it was the first Rocky movie or Rocky IV (where he fights the Russian) in which Sylvester Stallone made famous the “Rocky push-up”. This is a very challenging push-up that should not even be attempted by anyone but those of the utmost fitness level. The Rocky push-up is essentially nothing but one-handed push-ups with one little twist: you change hands after each repetition without taking weight off of your toes.
So on the upward motion of this push-up, it is important to launch yourself into the air enough to take the hand that did the push-up and place it on the small of your back and to take the hand that was on the small of your back and place it into position to do the heavy work for the next repetition. This is almost impossible to achieve without a very wide foot stance. By spreading your feet 2-3 feet apart, the body is more balanced and thus capable of enduring the chaotic movements of the upper body. Truthfully, this push-up is more useful as a stunt than it is as an exercise.
This is perhaps the most challenging push-up one could attempt. Quite simply, place one hand directly below your chest. The other hand should be placed across the small of your back to help balance the body. From there, lower yourself down and breathe out as you push up.
It is important to note that this push-up places a significant strain on the elbow, so use your head and keep things reasonable if you attempt a one-handed push-up.
Benefits Of Push-ups
Toning Your Back
While pushups don’t increase the amount of weight on your back through the use of external weights, the muscles in your back will be gently toned as you work to keep it straight during the exercise. If you can’t keep your legs even with your back at first, you can bend your knees and do a modified push-up to keep your back straight.
This modified pushup will still help tone your back without causing injury. As your fitness level improves, you may want to go back to a more traditional form of pushup to increase the strength of your back.
Building Shoulder Strength
Pushups are well known for improving shoulder strength and mass. When you do pushups, you’re leveraging most of your body weight on your shoulders. Because the shoulders are working together, you’ll strengthen the muscles that cross your chest and upper back.
In most cases – unless you’re interested in bodybuilding – pushups combined with other simple exercises should be enough for your everyday fitness routine. Even if you want to go beyond this level, pushups should always be a part of your home fitness routine.
Strengthening Your Arms
In addition to your shoulders, your upper arms and forearms also derive benefit from pushups. As you push your body up off the floor and lower it back down, the muscles in your arms are forced to expand and contract with the added resistance of the weight of your body.
As you might expect, when your whole arm is involved in the exercise, you have a better chance of exercising each muscle group. If you do pushups on a regular basis, you may find that your arms will gain tone and muscle definition more quickly than with exercises that work only one group. And – perhaps best of all – you won’t have to spend any money on weights or other forms of equipment.
As with any other exercise, you should check with your doctor to make sure that it’s safe for you to do pushups. If you have shoulder, back, elbow, or wrist issues, you may want to make sure that these exercises will not add to your problems.
When done properly and with safety in mind, push-ups serve a vital role in toning and strengthening your back, upper body, and arms. Without a question, they have served this vital purpose for millions of people in a way that is easy and cost-effective.
Use Push-ups To Settle Bets
I discovered an article about famous online poker player Tom “Durrrr” Dwan and a unique way in which he goes about settling debts. Although he and most of his friends have won hundreds of thousands of dollars from gambling, they choose a healthier way to settle debts amongst one another.
Dwan and his friends like to bet on anything and everything, including when the lights will come back on following a power outage. The stakes? Not very high. The loser has to do ten pushups.
While this might seem like nothing more than a quirky story, I there’s more to it than that. Since reading that article, I decided to start making pushups more than just something I begrudgingly force myself to do each day. I discovered that using pushups as a social tool leads to not only pushups being more enjoyable, but also to doing a higher number of pushups!
For example, my friend and I recently watched a speech delivered by Barack Obama. I got the idea that every time Obama said the word “change”, I would do five pushups and every time he said the word “hope”, my friend would do five pushups.
Well, if you’ve been following politics at all this year, you might be thinking, “you guys should have picked some different words!” By the end of that speech, we were exhausted!! My body was so tired that I would have sworn it felt like he was just saying “change, hope, change, hope, change, hope,” over and over again just to spite us!
The purpose of this example is to plant a seed of creativity regarding your pushup regimen. Pushups don’t have to be something you arbitrarily force yourself to do! By incorporating them into your life in a fun, competitive way, you can do more pushups and have more fun doing them.
Some ideas on how to incorporate pushups into your daily routine:
- Use them to settle small disputes amongst friends (ie: whoever is wrong does 20 pushups).
- Do a pushup for every point the opposing team scores on your favorite football team.
- Force yourself to “pay” the penalty of 20 pushups each time you can’t say no to dessert.
- Stop and do 10 quick pushups every 10 minutes during your walk or jog.
- Every time you’re late for a date or an appointment, force yourself to do a pushup for each minute you were late (advice: wait till you get home to settle a pushup date for being 6 minutes late to a fine restaurant!)
- If you’re counting calories, force yourself to do a pushup for every 10 calories you ate beyond your daily limit.
You get the idea!
The point is… pushups don’t have to be dreadful or boring. Spice up your pushup routine by adding some fun and uncertainty to the whole thing!