In preparation for one of my workout DVDs a few years ago, I remember scanning the recesses of my brain for worthy and valid upper body exercises that didn’t require weights or resistance bands.

I’ve just been through the same process recently when exclusively developing an arms and upper body workout for the WatchFit app. And it was a welcome reminder of the rich variety of options that are actually available here.

The chin up used to be my all time favourite exercise but that was when I was properly good at them

It was a bit of a party piece in fact! However that was then and this is now, and I’m not quite so good.

And this is why the press up exercise has been revived as my best “on the road do anywhere” all round upper body exercise. But how to spruce up the press up, keep it interesting and keep it varied?

Well, a single leg lift changes the intensity for the mid section, as does a wide foot stance. But how about ways to work the inner and upper chest as, after all, I was selling the idea of sculpting a lifted bust and cleavage to my lady DVD viewers and a solid manly chest to the fellas!

Whilst on my hands and knees polishing a wooden floor one day, it came to me: the chest slide

Just slide the duster sideways and drag it back inwards, and focus on the middle chest. (You have to slide along the wood grain mind you; going across the grain creates an unnecessary challenge!)

Perfect! Keep the knees touching down if needs be and switch sides until your floor is so highly polished that you can see yourself. How’s that for multi-tasking?!

press up exercise_2

I can assure you that is an exercise you’ll remember you did the next day. Admittedly it reached a little further around than the usual sore chest muscles and into the lats but we’ll dismiss that as being my physiology.

As for the upper chest. Well, I can’t take any credit for the invention there. I poached the ‘feet raise on the hotel bed press up’ to cover that. And for the more ambitious and advanced just add the duster slide fly action paper works effectively too, one piece beneath each hand.

Actually, it’s like Pandora’s box was opened up and the press up repertoire was expanding with every square metre of polished pine flooring

Split press ups, one arm press ups, narrow press ups, slide press ups, Spiderman press ups (position yourself like a horizontal Spiderman with a staggered hand and foot stance).

press up exercise_2.2

So you can imagine after this ingenuity and press up overkill, my delight in reading a recent big study on the press up. “The best single way to tone shoulders, chest, arms”. And, if executed properly, the mid section too, next time place your hand across your abs and feel the action.

It is also a simple gauge to an individual’s relative strength. If there’s ever a weak link between the chest, core, arms or shoulders, then there’s no press up but a reasonably quick face plant.

Every correctly performed press up is about 67% of that person’s body weight which, relatively speaking is a respectable weight whether you are 50,70 or 90 kg.

So what happened to the chin ups ranking then? I imagine that since such a small percentage of the population can lift their own bodyweight, despite swinging and kicking their way through the air, that it can’t score as the best single upper body exercise.

What a relief that the classic press up and its extended family gets the stamp of approval from an official study. Good job too, as my DVD’s ‘Cleavage Enhancing’ section was long in the can and immortalized on digital film.

There’s no going back on my promise for a chiselled chest and architectural arms now… Keep pressing for proud pecs and solid shoulders!

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Pollyanna Hale Health and Lifestyle coaches
Lost 13 Kg in Total
Mel, 32y Location: London, United Kingdom Working with Pollyanna changed everything. I lost 13kg, got toned and have more energy than ever! Get same results!


Chriz Zaremba Fitness Consultant
Lost 45 Kg in Total
Chris, 50y Location: London, United Kingdom Lost 45kg after the age of 50 and now competes and wins physique competitions and runs marathons Check our weight loss plans