The push-up is one of the oldest and probably most well-known strength exercises there is. There’s a simple reason – it requires no equipment, can be done anywhere and works a lot of muscle groups.
If I tell you to work some push-ups into your daily routine you can’t throw me that “I have no time to exercise” excuse. And nor can you whine about expensive gym fees.
All you need is a space on the floor, a couple of minutes and the drive and discipline to keep going until you can go no more.
To be the best you can be, you need to work on all aspects of your lifestyle. Read. Study history. Learn how to be self-sufficient. Eat properly. And keep yourself in the best physical shape you can.
Stay hungry. Stay curious.
Everything you do in your daily life should be a step towards this better version of yourself.
The problem with all this is that it takes time. And when you factor in family, work commitments and socialising with friends, the time pressure becomes even greater.
So we have to be efficient and get the most bang from our buck.
That’s why I love the push-up. It’s simple and effective. And it can absolutely be a fundamental part of a daily routine to keep you – or get you – in solid physical shape.
There’s a reason the push-up is a staple of military fitness regimes as well as boxing and MMA classes around the world.
Maybe you want to challenge Arnold’s Mr Olympia legacy. Maybe you want to become the next Georges St Pierre. Or maybe it’s as simple as not wanting to be a ‘disgusting fat body’, to quote Full Metal Jacket’s Gunnery Sgt Hartman.
Working press-ups into your daily routine will help build a solid base-level of fitness. Regardless of your goals.
It will also bring you one step closer to looking like a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody
So you want a breakdown of why push-ups are so good right?
Push-ups can be classed as a full-body exercise in that they work multiple muscle groups in your body. An effective push-up routine will work your chest, shoulders, triceps and your entire midsection – basically your entire upper body. In fact, pretty much every muscle in your body gets involved in the push-up party. Your lower back, legs and glutes are called into action to keep your hips from sagging or rising too high.
And all you fiends for chiseled abs and 6-packs can relax – your abs along with your lats and traps will be engaged to stabilise your body when you’re pushing your body back up.
And much like many calisthenics and bodyweight exercises, push-ups teach your muscles to work in harmony with one another.
It will also help with balance, coordination and stability, giving you a solid platform to build your regular weights routine on.
How to do them
- Start on your hands and toes in the ‘plank’ position – i.e. your body is aligned from head to toe
- keep your back straight and lower yourself until your chest is about 2-3 inches from the floor
- Press back up to the original position
- Repeat until you can no longer do the previous step
If you can’t do the traditional version, you can also try the modified push-up where you start on your knees rather than your toes. And if you feel that you’ve mastered the push-up, there are a load of variations you can get your teeth into. All you need to do is adjust the position of your hands or feet, change the elevation or add in some equipment and you have a comprehensive exercise regime.
Variations include the incline, diamond, plyometric and one-arm push-ups. In fact, future Man of the Month Bruce Lee (spoiler alert) was famous for doing a two-finger version.
A word of warning:
Don’t get caught in the ego trap of banging out high volume / low quality press-ups. You’re better off doing 10 modified push-ups with perfect form than five full push-ups with hunched shoulders or a drooping neck or hips. Perfect form means you will be working more muscles.
Innovation and progress is a good thing. But…
We can get caught in a vicious cycle of innovation for innovation’s sake. Think about all these fitness fads – spinning classes; zumba; Insanity. The concept is the same: do some activity at a high intensity and get your sweat on. You can call it whatever you want, but underneath the name, that’s all it will be.
Sometimes the old ways are the best.
You don’t need an expensive gym membership or a personal trainer to tell you this. Just like you don’t need anyone to create a customised lifting routine that requires lots of equipment.
No. Just lie on the floor and push your body weight until you can’t push no more. At the very least, push-ups will remind your muscles what they are supposed to be doing.
The push-up is about as pure and basic as it gets. And it works.
Many thanks to Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple for his permission to use one of the articles from his site as inspiration for this post.