If you were forced to do just one exercise for your upper body, the push-up would be the one to choose. They are a simple exercise that has been used effectively by the military as both punishment and training. They are used by physical education teachers to for the same reasons.
Not looking to enlist? Did you hate PE? Listed below are ten other reasons they are the single best exercise for your upper body.
1.) You can increase muscle strength, power and size in your upper body with one exercise. They work a large group of muscles including pectoral (chest) and triceps muscles along with the deltoids. Additionally, they will affect your shoulder, back, stomach, gluteus and even quadriceps muscles.
2.) You can do them anywhere. You have to walk or drive to your gym. You may have a few weights in one of your converted bedrooms or on the patio. But push-ups can be done anywhere any time. In fact, unless you are reading this in a closet or in your car (not advisable), you can do them right now.
3.) It doesn’t cost anything. People pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars on exercise equipment, videos and trainers. But you can do perfectly effective ones without spending a dime.
4.) You can vary the difficulty by changing hand positions. A wider than normal hand position is slightly easier than a standard one and a narrower hand position is harder. Placing the hands toward the torso is easier on the triceps muscles and more difficult on the chest muscles.(1)
5.) You can vary the pace or change the angle of them and change the workout. Slow down for greater time until failure and more muscle activation. Go faster to achieve more repetitions.(2) Elevate your feet and increase the difficulty or elevate your hands and make it easier.
6.) Even beginners will benefit from them. You can decrease the difficulty by doing less strenuous ones. Start with wall push-ups, elevated hand push-ups or do them on your knees. You can use a bar as a grip if standard ones hurt your wrists.
7.) They remain effective once you are in shape. You can do advanced ones when you tire of standard ones or need a challenge. Try Plyometric, one-armed, clapping, or finger tip push-ups. A quick search on the internet and you will find tens if not hundreds of challenging variations.
8.) Make them a part of your cardio workout. Jump-squats, high knees, and leap frogs are used in aerobic style workouts to increase heart and breathing rates. If you want to really elevate them, throw in a few push-ups or burpees and see your breathing and heart rates skyrocket.
9.) You can use them as a core workout. Proper technique requires you to engage your core muscles. Want a little extra, try staying in the bottom position, chest about three inches from the floor for ten, twenty, thirty seconds or even a minute. You can also do them with your hands on an uneven surface such as an exercise ball to activate your core muscles.
10.) They will increase your muscle mass and in turn your Resting Metabolic Rate. Your resting metabolic rate is tied to your fat-free mass. Building muscles will increase the rate at which you burn calories while at rest. It’s almost like getting something for free.
Marina K. Gouvali and Konstantinos Boudolos, Dynamic and Electromyographical Analysis in Variants of Push-up Exercise, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2005, 19(1), 146-151
Hsiu-Hao, You-Li Chou, et al., Effect of Push-up Speed on Upper Extremity Training until Fatigue, Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering, 31(4): 289-293
Gregg Ghelfi is founder and contributor to http://fitinthemiddle.com. Fit in the Middle is dedicated to providing information and resources on nutrition, fitness and weight loss. We invite you to read our blog at http://fitinthemiddle.com/blog/ and comment on the various articles. We also welcome you to submit guest blogs to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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