Exercise of the Day – The Push-up

The push-up is another one of my favorite exercises. It only requires a floor/wall/table, and some bodyweight (which I have plenty of). The push-up is a great exercise because it challenges muscles of the chest, back, core, and hips. You can also more specifically challenge certain muscle groups just by changing the positions of your hands, or the angle of your body.


Muscles Used

The push-up, like the pull-up, uses a lot of different muscles throughout the exercise, so I will not list out every single muscle, but just the biggest contributors. 

  • Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, anterior deltoid, serratus anterior, triceps brachii, coracobrachialis, gluteus maximus, transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus, obliques


Phases of the push-up

The first phase, which starts while lying on your belly with feet together and hands starting just outside of the chest, is the pushing phase. This is the concentric phase of the push-up. The major joint motions involved are elbow extension, shoulder horizontal adduction and flexion, and scapular abduction and protraction. The core and hip muscles must work to make the rest of the body a stable lever.

The lowering phase is when the body is slowly lowered back down towards the floor. The opposite joint motions occur, with elbow flexion, shoulder horizontal abduction and extension, and scapular adduction and retraction.

Benefits of the push-up

As discussed earlier, the push-up works several large muscle groups of the body. This is another exercise that will allow for proximal stability of the shoulder girdle while allowing multidirectional motions and multiple muscular contractions, which is important for athletic activities. Performers can increase strength, endurance, and power, depending on type of push-up performed.

Push-up variations

There are several different ways to alter a push-up. It can be quite a challenging exercise for beginners, so if this is the case, instead of starting out with hands the floor, the hands can start elevated on a wall of counter. This will take a little bit of gravity out of the equation. Also, instead of starting with the body weight on the toes, trying bending the legs putting the weight on the knees


Conversely, if the push-up on the floor is too easy, methods of increase the challenge could include wearing a weighted vest, putting a weight on the upper back with the assist of a workout buddy, or by elevating the feet.

Another way of changing the push-up to target different muscle groups, is to change the hand position. There are several different styles to choose from overall. One method to more specifically target the triceps is to start with the hands placed closer together. A method to more specifically target the chest, start with a wider stance. For the real fitness buffs, go for the one handed push-up.


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