“Drop and give me 20!”
While you might not be in boot camp – the real kind, or the gym-based one – you’ve no doubt tried to get in shape using push-ups. As one of the most basic types of exercise and one of the easiest to do, push-ups are incredibly beneficial for overall strength building.
In fact, a standard push-up, whether performed on the knees or toes, works more than a half dozen muscles, including the:RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
– Abdominal muscles
– Pectoralis major
– Serratus anterior
– Triceps brachii
In other words, your chest, your back, your arms, your shoulders, your abs, all of them engage when you do a push-up.
Yet, however beneficial they may be, you are doing yourself and your workout a disservice by sticking with the standard push-up alone. In fact, there are many different types of push-ups that allow you to work not only all those major muscle groups, but to gradually build-up strength, target muscles and reshape your body in a more natural way.
Here are five of my favourite push-up variations and how to do them:
This is a great variation on the standard push-up that is really helpful for those who aren’t quite ready to get down on the floor. By remaining upright and using a wall, yet still mimicking the push-up motion, you gradually build up strength without overdoing it.
Start standing with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart. Your body should be in perfect alignment throughout. Stand several steps away from the wall.
Lower yourself by bending your elbows out to the side until your arms reach 90 degrees. At the end of the movement your nose, chest and hips should all be centimetres from the wall. Squeeze your pecs (chest muscles) as you push up and straighten your arms out.
Slightly more challenging than the wall, but still easier than getting down on the floor, couch push-ups are an obvious next-step for those building strength. In addition, this is one of those easy exercises you can build into your day. Do a few couch push-ups during a commercial break on television or while waiting for the kettle to boil for example.
Start standing with your hands and feet shoulder width apart. Your body should be in perfect alignment throughout. Stand several steps away from the couch (or kitchen bench—something about that height).
Lower yourself by bending your elbows out to the side until your arms reach 90 degrees. At the end of the movement your nipples should be almost touching the couch/bench. Squeeze your pecs (chest muscles) as you push up and straighten your arms out.
Although standard push-ups work the tricep muscles just fine, targeting them more specifically is a great way to work on your arm shape and vary your routine.
Start in a normal push up position, facing the ground with your stomach drawn in to support your body. Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders.
When you lower yourself down, point your elbows backwards and not out to the side, and allow them to “rub” against your sides as you go down. Once you reach 90 degrees, rise back up to the starting position until your arms are straight. Make sure your elbows stay close to your body throughout the movement.
duraDiscs are a versatile and inexpensive addition to any home gym. About 33cm in diameter, these small rubber discs have a balancing ball in the centre which you place on top of a coordinating balancing plate. Placing your hands or feet on a duraDisc during an exercise forces you to engage more muscles in order to keep your body stable and balanced.
Start in a normal push up position, either up on your toes or on your knees. Place your hands on top of two duraDiscs that are each on top of a balance plate.
Perform a normal push up, making sure you focus on stabilising your arms as you progress through the movement.
Swiss Ball Push-ups
Swiss balls come in a variety of sizes and represent another great balance mechanism. In addition, the large size and relatively light weight of the Swiss ball makes it the perfect object to use to easily and permanently alter your stance or positioning during an exercise, such as with this push-up variation: push-ups on ball
Start in a push up position, then place the Swiss ball between your arms, making sure your hands are slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Make sure you can squeeze the ball with both arms.
While squeezing the ball to maintain your stability, bend your elbows out to the side, lower your chest to the ball and then push up by straightening your arms.
Make Your Push-up Work for You
When it comes to push-ups, or any type of exercise really, I always emphasise to my clients the physical and psychological benefits of variation.
Physically, varying your exercises allows you to work muscles and muscle groups in different ways. This challenges your body and forces you to focus harder on your workout. Ultimately, this builds more strength and burns more calories.
Variety is critical
Variety is also critical when it comes to long-term fitness success because it combats one of the top reasons people stop working out – BOREDOM.
Adding in different types of push-ups, as well as adding in different varieties of other exercises is a foundational strategy of my Love Your Weight Loss system because so many of my clients come to me hating exercise. Variety adds fun and fun means coming back for more.
So, are you ready to shake up your strength training routine with some fantastic push-up variations? Try one today and let me know how you go!
Connect With WatchFit Expert Sally Symonds