When it comes to the upper body, the push up is the last kid picked for a game of dodge ball of the exercise world, far behind the reigning king since the beginning of time, the bench press. I don’t want this to turn into a “the bench press sucks” post, because it doesn’t – if done correctly, which many people don’t – but more of a celebration of the awesomeness that is the push up.
1. It’s shoulder friendly
Shoulder pain is a frequent complaint of those who often sacrifice themselves upon the bench press alter. Now this could be due to a breakdown in form, lifting with their ego instead of their head, or a host of other reasons, but suffice to say there is a lot going on in the bench press, and thus there are more things that can possibly go wrong during the lift.
With the push up, the opposite is true for most. With the reduced load, there is a lot less stress on the shoulder joint than during the bench press. Also, because you’re able to move your shoulder blades freely through space instead of having them pinned down against the bench, you get a lot better stabilization of the shoulder which translates to a much safer exercise.
2. It’s a full body exercise
If you’re looking for a full body exercise , then look no further. Have you ever noticed that as someone starts to fatigue (or if their strength levels aren’t up to par), their push up starts to resemble more of a candy cane? They push their upper body up, but their lower back and legs hardly move at all. That’s because the push up, on top of being a fantastic strength exercise, is actually one of the best core exercises out there because it gives you immediate feedback – if your core is weak, you won’t be able to keep your spine stable while you’re pushing through the ground and your form will suffer because of it.
3. Anywhere, anytime
Pushing yourself up from the ground is one of the simplest movements that there is and there are so many different variations to choose from that there is no reason (aside from having lost both of your arms in an epic ninja battle) to not do them. You don’t need any fancy equipment to have a great workout, and there are enough challenging variations out there to keep you busy for a very long time.
- Squeeze your butt cheeks and keep your entire body tight.
- Don’t let your elbows flaring out at 90 degrees; Turn your hands out & keep your elbows tucked in fairly close so that your upper body resembles a “W”.
- Only go down as far as you can without letting your hips & lower back sag.
Here are few variations that I recorded that require almost no equipment to get you started. Keep in mind that this is just the beginning, and once you master the basic push up a whole wide world of pushing opens up to you.
What say you, faithful readers? Do you have a love/hate relationship with push ups? How do they fit into your program? Once I get at least 10 comments below, I’ll post some more advanced push up variations that you can use to build some serious strength & muscle.
Photo Credit: 100 Pushups