The push-up is the most well known, accessible exercise on the planet.
It is a move that has stood the test of time, being a favorite of the Spartan warriors of Ancient Greece and a key part of the training arsenal of every person who has been interested in building their body ever since.
The push-up is an excellent exercise to target your pectoral (chest) muscles. It also works the triceps and front deltoids (shoulders) beautifully.
But, to be honest, there are a couple of things that can make them a challenge motivationally.
For one thing, they can be quite time consuming. That’s because you need quite a high volume in terms of repetitions to keep making progressive improvements in your strength and muscle size.
Pumping out hundreds of reps of push-ups every day not only takes time, it can also become quite boring.
Lack of motivation to keep consistency is the number one reason that people do not stick to a push-up workout routine.
If you are doing push-ups at least 2-3 times per week, good for you!
If not, we encourage you to get started.
This article will give you the motivation boost you need to get, and stay, on track with your push-up routine.
8 Incredible Health & Fitness Benefits of Push-Ups
We know it’s hard work, but push-ups are worth the effort.
1. Push-Ups Work the Entire Body
Many people consider the push up to be a chest exercise.
While it’s true that the primary muscle that is targeted by this body weight exercise is the chest, the push up is far more than that. In fact, this exercise works your entire body.
The exercise forces your muscles to work together and become stronger in relation to each other.
That contrasts with most weight training exercises, which often end up with balanced strength through the muscles of the body.
As an example, if your triceps are relatively weak compared to your chest and shoulders when you do a push up, it is your triceps that will have to work harder when you do the exercise.
This will eventually balance out your strength through the muscles of your upper body.
When your muscles are evenly balanced strength wise, you will be far less likely to get injured.
2. Push-Ups Use the 3 Key Resistance Phases
The 3 key phases of muscle building resistance are the:
- and isometric phases.
The eccentric phase is when a muscle elongates due to the contraction of another muscle. In the push up, this happens when you power your body to the floor.
The concentric phase involves a muscle being stimulated to contract. This happens during the pushing back to the start position phase of the push up exercise.
The isometric phase is when the muscles attempt to contract but does not actually change its position. This position is the pause phase at the top of the exercise.
The incorporation of these three phases makes push ups an excellent exercise for both muscle and strength enhancement.
3. Push-Ups Improve Your Reaction Time
Push ups will improve your reaction time. This is because they train what are known as your proprioceptive muscle fibers. These fibers are the microscopic nerves that keep your body balanced.
These are especially activated when you hold the top isometric push up position.
This is because they need to keep firing in order to keep your body stabilized.
In this way, the proprioceptive muscle fibers are trained to react faster to stimulation which will improve both your balance and your speed.
4. Push-Ups Increase Blood Flow
When you do high repetition push ups, your heart will be working hard to pump more blood around your body.
This increased blood flow will fast track the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles of your body as well as removing such waste products as lactic acid.
5. Push-Ups Are Effective Muscle Stretchers
We often think of the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps when it comes to push ups.
That makes sense because these are the main muscles worked.
But push ups also affect the other key muscles of your upper body – the back and biceps.
They provide an excellent stretch to these muscles. The improved flexibility that results will make you less injury prone.
6. Push-Ups are Cardiovascular
The combination of their being a whole body movement and the fact that you normally do quite high reps on them makes push ups an effective cardiovascular exercise.
The effort of your different muscle groups having to work in coordination to both provide the strength to do the exercise and to keep you balanced means that your heart has to work harder to push blood around your body.
The end result of this is that you will have a healthier cardiovascular system and it will help you to burn off excess calories in the form of stored body fat.
7. Push-Ups Help Prevent Injury
As a general concept, body weight training is safer than exercising with weights. When it comes to the push up, choosing this move can prevent you from some serious shoulder and pec pain.
The push up and the bench press are essentially the same movement in reverse.
When you do a push up you are lowering the weight (your body) to the floor. With the bench press, you are lowering the weight (the bar and plates on it) to your body.
The movement in both exercises is exactly the same. However, there are some distinct differences.
When you do the bench press, your grip on the bar and the position of the bar in relation to your torso puts the rotator cuff at your shoulders in a compromising position. Over time, it will almost inevitable lead to complications.
When you do push ups, you work the same muscles as a bench press but without the rotator cuff issues.
With the push up, there is also no danger of the weight coming crushing down on your body (around 15 people die each year from being crushed by a bench press bar!).
8. Push-Ups Are User Friendly
The push up is probably the most accessible exercise that exists.
You don’t need any equipment to perform it – simply drop to the floor and start pumping them out.
That means that all of the traditional barriers to exercise that many people face – not enough time, too expensive, too cumbersome and difficult – are wiped aside when you do push ups.
You don’t need any special gear, clothing or expertise to do the exercise.
Nearly every adult has done push ups before and most people can do at least one – if not, there are a number of adaptations that can be done allowing people to work up to a full push up.
Push-up quotes to get you motivated
Read these over and over and over, they can really make a difference!
A reporter once asked Muhammad Ali how many push ups he could do. Ali replied 8 or 9. The reporter was not very impressed, to which Ali responded . . .
I only start counting when I can’t do any more.
On one of my birthdays I did 1,000 chin-ups and 1,000 push-ups.
For my 70th birthday I towed 70 boats with 70 people in it, my feet and hands tied-my hands were in handcuffs, my feet were tied together-and I towed these boats a mile-and-a-half in Long Beach Harbor.
For my 93rd birthday I’m going to tow my wife across the bathtub.
Working your core always, your foot speed, jumping rope, push-ups and sit-ups – things like that are really important. Those things will pay off more than just doing what a bench press will.
Push-ups are seriously the best way to tone your arms – and they tone your abs at the same time! I like to do them when I’m home watching TV or listening to music.
By the time I was 4 or 5, I was doing 250 push-ups and sit-ups a day.
When I was 6, we bumped it up to about 500 push-ups and sit-ups a day. Some days it could even be 750 or 1,000.
If push-ups get boring, try these motivational tips
Doing endless reps of pushups can get stale over time, and you may find yourself hitting a strength and conditioning plateau.
Try these tricks to mix things up.
4 Push-Up Variations
Shoulder Tap Push-Ups
Position yourself on the floor in a traditional push up position. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
Maintain a straight line from head to toe. Straighten your arms to be in the top push up position at the start of the movement.
Perform a push up by lower until your chest touches the floor and then push back to the start position. Now bring your right hand up and across to tap your left shoulder. Lower and repeat with the left hand.
That is one rep.
Push Up + Squat Hold
Stand with your feet together and hands clasped together in front of your chest.
Now, descend down into a full squat position. From there march your hands out on the floor to get into a push up position.
Perform a push up and then march your hands back and come back up to a squat hold position.
That is one rep. Start the next rep by marching your hands back into a push up position.
Hover Push Ups
Position yourself face down on an exercise mat with your hands in line with your shoulders and slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
Maintain a straight line from your head to your toes. Straighten your arms to assume the push up start position.
Now lower to bring your chest down to touch the floor.
From here hover to bring your body up around six inches and back down again. Perform your reps between this range to intensively target the chest muscles.
Plank to Push Up
Position yourself on the floor in a traditional plank position, with just your forearms and toes touching the floor. Maintain a straight line from head to toe.
Now lift your right forearm off the ground and reposition to a palm contact position. Repeat with the left side. This will put you in a push up position. Now reverse the action to return to the start position. That is one rep.
Goal Push Ups
Set a goal for your push ups and get there in as few sets as possible.
Let’s say that your target is 100 push ups. Maybe you get 43 on the first set. You’ve now got 57 to go.
Rest for 2 minutes and then go against. You might get 32 on the next set.That’s a total of 75 – 25 to go!
Rest for another 2 minutes and then push hard to get that last 25 in your 3rd set.
Ladder Push Ups
Start with a designated number of push ups, depending on the current number of push ups you can perform in one set. If you can do less than 10, start with one rep. If your max is between 10 and 25, start at 5. If you can do more than 25 in a set, start with 10 reps.
Do a set then rest for 10 seconds. Now do one more rep than last time. Rest another 10 seconds and do another set, again adding one rep. Do this until you have gone up by 5 reps (i.e. from 10-15 reps over six sets).
Now start working back down the ladder until you get back to your starting number. This will see you doing a total of 11 sets.
You can even work your way up to a one arm push up for a bigger challenge!
The push up is the most popular and effective full body calisthenic exercise that exists.
If you’re not doing them on a daily basis, we strongly recommend doing just that.
Start your day with 3 sets of push ups, along with some body weight squats and crunches and you’ll be set for an awesome 24 hours.
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Hope this helps!