Push-ups are an equipment-free way to strengthen your chest and a number of other muscle groups in your body, including your shoulders, arms and core. If you aren't quite athletic enough to perform a regular push-up, don't shrug off this valuable exercise. Several easy push-up variations can help you get the strength-building benefits of this simple exercise as you work toward your goal of performing regular push-ups.
Find a sturdy object at a height between your knees and chest and perform incline push-ups. Incline push-ups target your chest, but are easier to perform because of the angle of your body. If you exercise at a gym, find a horizontal bar and stand in front of it. Grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, hold your arms straight and step your feet backward until your body is at about a 45-degree angle. Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the bar, and then push off the bar to return to the starting position.
Perform knee push-ups on the floor, in which you rest your lower body on your knees instead of your toes. Knee push-ups are easier to execute than regular push-ups, because you don't lift as much weight with each repetition. Spectrum Fitness Consulting reports you lift 71 percent of your weight during regular push-ups. When you perform the exercise off your knees, you lift only about 53 percent of your weight, according to researchers from the Department of Sport Medicine and Biology of Physical Activity at the University of Athens.
Include incline or knee push-ups in your workout at least twice a week, if possible. If you aren't sore from an earlier workout, perform these exercises more frequently to gain strength and help you work toward your goal of performing regular push-ups. Three sets of eight to 12 repetitions is generally sufficient for strength training -- overtraining can lead to muscle strain.
Tips & Warnings
- You don't necessarily need formal exercise equipment, such as a horizontal bar, to perform an incline push-up. At home, use a sturdy piece of furniture, such as your bed, a bench or a coffee table, to perform this exercise.
- Always work out all your major muscle groups during strength-training sessions. Even if you're tempted to solely perform push-ups to strengthen your chest, a variety of exercises for all major muscle groups will ensure your body is balanced.
- Speak to your doctor before increasing the amount that you exercise.
- ExRx.net: Push-Up
- American Council on Exercise: Push-Up
- ExRx.net: Incline Push-Up (on Bar)
- ExRx.net: Push-Up (on Knees)
- Spectrum Fitness Consulting: How Much Weight Do You Lift Performing Pushups?
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Dynamic and Electromyographical Analysis in Variants of Push-Up Exercise
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Photo Credit Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images