What Are Push-Ups Good For?
Push-ups can be done anywhere, with little room and no specialized equipment, and they can be modified for all levels of fitness -- from beginners to advanced athletes. Incorporating push-ups into your fitness routine will tone and strengthen your upper body and help you reach your fitness goals.
Strengthen Your Chest
The pectoral muscles, in your chest, function to pull your arms forward, so they are heavily targeted in push-ups. Get into a plank position, with your weight supported by your hands and your toes. For a regular push-up, your hands should be slightly outside your shoulders as you keep your torso in line with your legs and your abdominals engaged. Lower yourself to the floor, then push back up to the starting position. To target your chest more, move your hands farther outside, extending twice the width of your shoulders. With your hands placed wide, your chest muscles provide most of the force as you push yourself back to the starting position.
Tone Your Triceps
Your triceps muscle runs along the back of your upper arms and functions to straighten your arms at the elbows. When doing push-ups, you can target the triceps by keeping your hands close to your body. Place your hands more to the inside, a few inches less than shoulder-distance apart, and keep your elbows at your sides. For an extra challenge, try pulsing at the bottom of each push-up, moving your body 2 inches up and down a few times, with your body close to the floor and your elbows at your sides, before you push back up to the starting position.
Strengthen Your Core
All push-ups strengthen your abdominals and back muscles, which keep your torso stable as you move. While doing push-ups, keep your belly button pulled in toward your spine to engage your abdominals and support your back. To further tone your abs and target your obliques during push-ups, bring your right knee to the side of your body and try to touch your right elbow, then repeat on the left side.
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist.