The Best Pushups for Chest Muscles

As an exercise, the pushup has been around for a long time. Although research aims to keep exercise and fitness on the cutting edge of what we know about the human body, and how we can better achieve the results we desire, the pushup always seems to hang around -- and with good reason. Modifications to the pushup exercise can give the chest an incredible workout, one as good as, or even better than, the newest machines or programs on the market.

Traditional Pushup

The traditional version of the pushup is a good way to train and develop the chest, or pectoral, muscles. While lowering your body to the floor, your chest muscles are lengthening, or stretching. During the lift part of the pushup, when you raise your upper body back to the starting position, your chest muscles are contracting, or shortening. It is during the contraction that muscle strength develops. By varying the speed at which you raise and lower your upper body, you can also increase the difficulty of the exercise.

Diamond Pushups

The key difference between this exercise and the traditional pushup is where you place your hands. For a standard pushup, your hands should be at shoulder level, just outside the shoulders. With a diamond pushup, your hands should be placed under your chest, with index fingers and thumbs touching to form a diamond shape. When lowering your upper body toward the ground, your chest should either touch, or come close to touching, your hands. While raising your body back to the starting position, your chest should stay directly over your hands.

Four-Count Pushups

This variation uses the same starting position as a traditional pushup, but does not raise and lower your body by extending and bending at the elbows. Start by assuming the standard push-up position. On the first count, drop your right forearm to the floor. On the second count, drop your left forearm to the floor. At this point, your weight is fully supported by your forearms and toes. On the third count, lift your right forearm back to the up position; on the fourth count, return the left to the up position. Vary the speed at which you progress through the four counts to make the exercise more challenging.

About the Author

Brian Bowden began writing professionally in 2008 for "American Football Monthly" and "Gridiron Strategies." He is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a certified strength and conditioning specialist. He holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise and sport science from Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Education in elementary education from Widener University.