Muscles Used • Exercise Type • Form Instruction • Tips and Techniques • Recommended Reps • Common Variations • Substitutions • Equipment Needed
See all the exercises at the:
Weight Training Exercises Database
– Standard Push Ups –
Compound Exercise, Push Movement
Fingers going forward with palms on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder width and directly underneath the shoulders, toes on floor and with your body balanced in this way, lower your body until the chest nearly touches the floor and then push yourself back up again until arms are nearly locked.
Tips and Techniques:
Keep the body flat and rigid from the shoulders on down to the feet, the body goes up and down as one unit.
Bad form usually starts with the hips sagging which results in not going to full depth. Another common mistake is letting the head droop – the head should be relaxed but straight with the body (so you are staring down at the floor before you) or slightly looking forward.
To keep the focus on the pectorals, like with the Bench Press, at the bottom of the exercise your upper arms should forming a 45 to 90 degree angle with your upper torso. The 90 degree angle may best help keep the focus on the pectorals but can cause shoulder strain for some – if you feel pain lessen the angle.
Increasing Resistance: Building muscle requires increasing resistance (progressive overload). It isn’t easy to increase resistance with push ups which limits their muscle building value. Ways to increase resistance on the basic push up include placing weights of some sort on the back (either through a back-pack or a partner applying pressure).
Though you most often see Push Ups done at a rapid pace, when your goal is building muscle (hypertrophy) you’d be wise to slow the tempo down. Instead of making your primary goal increasing the number of reps done, make it increasing your time under tension for quality reps. For example slowly lowering your body to a count of 3 or 4 seconds and raising it to a count of 1 or 2 can greatly increase the difficulty level.
Push Up Handles – Handles can be a a solid way of decreasing the stress placed on your hands. They can also increase your range of motion (you can take your body lower) which can be a positive. And, thanks to infomercials and the Perfect Push Up, they are more popular than ever. Hexagon dumbbells also make great push up handles.
Recommended Reps For Muscle Building:
10-12 the majority of the time, trying higher or lower reps on occasion.
There are an endless amount of minor variations and styles for the push up, from hand placement to arm angles to adding stability balls – and then moving on to even more creative levels. Some variations are:
- Close-Grip Push Ups
- Incline Push Up – Done with the legs inclined (on a chair, stability ball or other object), works the upper chest (as the standard push up is the bench press turned upside down, the incline push up is the Incline Bench Press turned over).
- Atlas Push Up – Hands and feet are placed on chairs allowing you to take the push up to a greater depth.
- Hindu Push Up (Band) – From the standard push up position, feet are spread out more and brought in closer to the hands so that your butt is sticking up in the air. The you bend the arms and swoop the body forward with your nose just above the floor and then moving up as the arms straighten. At the bottom back is bent and butt is just off the floor. Then, keeping your arms straight, you move your butt back to the starting position.
- Dive Bomber Push Up – This variation is commonly used in the military and is vary similar to the Hindu or band push up. You start the same way but instead of moving the body back with your arms straight, you bend them again and go back the way you came.
The best substitute would be your Flat Bench Press or Dumbbell Flat Bench Press. Another bodyweight exercise that can build the chest effectively is Bar Dips.
Push-Up Handles (optional)
Couple more articles you may like…
Building Muscles… How Training Stimulates Muscle Growth
Find out about the different muscle fiber types and how to target and use progressive overload to force them to grow.
Whey Protein: The Best Protein For Building Muscle
Find out what whey is, why it is so good for muscle building and how to effectively supplement with it.