For many of us the push up is the first exercise we ever do. From then on it’s with us for life. When we can’t get to the gym, are on holiday, or just feel like doing something physical when we’ve been on the couch for too long, it’s available. It’s been called the king of bodyweight exercises and for good reason.
In this article, we highlight the muscle and health benefits push ups.
Push Ups are Convenient
Push Ups can be done anywhere, even without home gyms. You don’t need to lug around any equipment or have a large amount of space. Just jump down on the floor and start pumping them out. No excuses and no hassles!
Push Ups Target the Chest
Push ups build muscles, especially in our upper bodies. When most people think of working the chest muscles, their mind goes to the bench press. Well, the push up is nothing but a push up without the bar. Your body is the resistance and instead of bringing the weight down to your body, you are bringing that resistance (you) down to the floor and back up again.
The push up will directly stimulate your pectoral muscles through their complete up and down the range of motion, similar to a bench press. However, it actually has an advantage over the barbell bench press.
When you bench with a bar, your hands are fixed. You cannot bring them in toward each other. However, the biomechanical movement of the chest is to move the arms forward and in toward each other. You can’t do that with a traditional push up. But there is a push up variation that does allow you to, unlike the bench press.
Do your push ups on a polished floor and place a couple of cloths under your palms and you will be able to bring your hands in together as you come down on the push up. Then take them back to shoulder width distance on the way back up.
Push Ups Work the Entire Body
Push ups do a whole lot more than work the chest. In fact, they work the entire body. Not only that but they work the body as a unit. The human body was never designed to have individual muscles work in isolation, the way you do on exercise machines in the gym. It is meant to work as a complete, functional unit.
When you do a push up, your muscles are forced to work together to get stronger in relation to one another. That prevents the uneven development that often happens when people do isolation exercises.
Push ups work the chest, shoulders, and triceps directly. But they also activate the core, the quads and the glutes – truly an all over body developer!
Push Ups are Concententric, Eccentric and Isometric
In order to achieve optimized muscular development, you need to be doing all three of the following forms of resistance training . . .
Push Ups allow you to do all three of these in the one movement. The concentric part of the push up is the actual push up from the floor where force is applied to generate movement. The eccentric part is when you lower down to the ground. And the isometric part of the push up is when you hold the top position of the exercise (this is similar to the plank position).
Working all three of these elements will allow you to get stronger and more muscular faster.
Push Up Improve Proprioception
Proprioception is all about your awareness of balance and muscle awareness. Push ups stimulate what are known as your proprioceptive muscle fibers. This is especially the case in the top position of the push up, where your tiny muscles have to balance your body.
Push Ups Promote Blood Circulation
Push ups are an exercise that you can quickly build up to doing high rep sets on. While being great for muscular endurance, strength and muscle development, these are also good for helping to increase your blood circulation. Push ups in excess of 20 reps per set will increase blood flow around the body. This promotes better cardiovascular health.
In fact, doing a super high set of push ups (in the 50+ range) will get you puffing, providing an extra cardiovascular benefit.
Push Ups Promote Core Stability
We all know how important the core is to body balance, strength, and agility. When you are in the push up position, you will be working all of the muscles of your core, including the abs, the intercostals, the transverse abdominis, and the erector spinae. All these muscles are having to work in order to provide the stability and balance that your body needs while you are performing this exercise.
Push Ups are Super Versatile
Push ups are an amazingly versatile exercise. Beyond the standard push up, there are dozens of variations that will either make the exercise easier, harder to allow you to target specific muscles of the body. For example, diamond push ups allow you to put emphasis on your triceps while handstand push ups hit the deltoids.
If you are a beginner and can’t do a full push up, you can start by doing standing push ups against the wall. Then progress to push ups on your knees before stepping up to the full push ups. If you can pump out sets of 50 reps of push ups, you can step it up to explosive push ups, clap push ups or one arm push ups.
There is no doubt about it, push ups are an excellent body weight exercise that has a ton of benefits. Do push ups every day, even if you are already doing a weights workout (throw them in as a finisher exercise after your last set on chest day).