Rethinking Pushups

by Bobby Rock

Traditional pushups remain one of the best anytime, anywhere, total conditioning exercises. They're great for developing your chest, shoulders and triceps, and can even strengthen your back and core when performed with strict form.  And while they don't tend to build muscle size and super strength in the same way certain free-weight movements will, they can be an excellent addition to your training regimen.

Consider pushups for any of the following circumstances:

  • You are looking for a convenient way to integrate some resistance exercise into your workout routine, but you're not into weight training or joining a gym.
  • Your normal facilities aren't available, but you still need to grab a workout, and pushups can be done anywhere... even in jail!
  • You find yourself training in a facility that only has lighter weights (like many hotel workout rooms, for example), so you do a set of pushups right before each set with the lighter weights and—presto—the lighter weights suddenly don't feel so light! (And you can actually get in a decent workout.)
  • You are looking for more intensity out of your current routine, so you add a few sets of pushups at the end of your usual workout for even greater levels of deep muscle burn and conditioning.

The Form

1. Get down on your knees, place both hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart on the floor, then raise yourself up so that you’re balancing on your palms and toes.  This is your starting position.

2. With your back and legs in a straight line like a board, lower yourself face-down to within a few inches of the floor, then push yourself back up to the starting position.  This is one rep.

Option One: If this classic form is especially difficult for you, try balancing on your knees, instead of your toes.

Option Two: When available, use dumbbells as “hand rests.” (Easier on the wrists.)

More Tips

A) A set of pushups is basically however many reps you can do while maintaining proper form; anywhere from ten to 35, on average.  But don’t get hung up on the numbers at the expense of your form.

B) You can perform pushups daily, or even throughout a given day, if you like. Just be careful not to over-train if you’re feeling sore from them.

C) You can adjust which muscles are emphasized in a pushup by varying your hand placement.  Go wider for more chest, and narrower for more triceps.

Enjoy the burn!


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