The Effectiveness of Pushups


Pushups often get a bad reputation when used as punishment. For example, the phrase "drop and give me 20" can cause fear in many people. Pushups are an effective exercise that uses only body weight as resistance, so you can perform them anywhere. Over time, you see the benefits of pushups, but if you still don't believe, perform a pushup test for concrete results.

Pushup Execution

  • Proper execution of a pushup increases the effectiveness of the exercise. A traditional pushup is performed with your hands on the floor at a position slightly wider than your shoulders. Your arms are straight. Your legs are straight behind you. Your toes rest on the floor. Keep your body in a straight line by tightening your stomach and flattening your spine. Look down between your hands to protect your neck. As you inhale, bend your elbows and lower toward the floor until you are approximately three inches off the floor. As you exhale, straighten your arms and return to the starting position.


  • The traditional pushup is an effective upper-body strengthening exercise, but that position is modifiable depending on your fitness level. One way to modify a pushup is to rest your knees on the floor, instead of your toes. You may also perform it in a standing position with your hands against a wall. Your feet are approximately two feet from the base of the wall as you bend and straighten your arms in an upright pushup. You'll notice the effectiveness of the wall pushup for improving strength when you are able to perform a modified floor pushup. The effectiveness of the modified pushup will be apparent when you are able to do a traditional pushup.

Muscles Worked

  • A pushup strengthens the muscles of your upper body, specifically your chest, shoulders and the backs of the upper arms. Also known as your pectorals, deltoids and triceps, these upper-body muscles work together as you bend and flex your elbows during the pushup. The pushup is also an effective core-strengthening exercise. Your stomach is pulled in tight to maintain a straight back and plank position throughout the lifting and lowering phase of the pushup.


  • A way to confirm the effectiveness of pushups on upper-body strength is with a pushup test. Males perform traditional pushups with toes on the floor. Females perform modified pushups with knees on the floor. Perform as many pushups as you can until you reach muscle failure. Females in their twenties, on average, perform 14 to 20 pushups, while males of the same age perform 24 to 30. Females in their thirties should aim to complete at least 12 to 17, while males ages 30 to 39 should try to complete 16 to 21 pushups. If you are a female in your forties, complete 10 to 14 pushups for average strength. Males in their forties on an average finish 12 to 16 pushups. Females in their 50's and 60's complete an average of four to 10 pushups. Males in their 50's and 60's, on average complete seven to 12 pushups.

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