The push-up is a fast and effective exercise that engages the chest, triceps, biceps, shoulders, back, and core. Executing the standard push-up requires a certain amount of base strength and flexibility, but there are numerous variations available to individuals of all ages and fitness levels.
Starting with a modified version of the push-up, such as the wall push-up or kneeling push-up, reduces risk of injury and establishes a clear path of progression. As you get more comfortable with the push-up motion, you can make adjustments to the form that will target different muscle groups and make the exercise more challenging. For example, placing your hands close together will target your biceps and triceps, while placing them far apart puts more strain on the chest and pectorals.
As you add more sets and variations to your weekly push-up routine, you’ll notice more toned and tighter muscles. Start your push-up journey this Monday, and experience firsthand the benefits of push-up progression.
Beginner: Wall Push-up
Wall push-ups focus on the shoulders and chest, without putting too much strain on your joints and back. To do a standard wall push-up:
- Start with your legs and feet together, standing about 2 feet away from the wall (the farther your feet, the harder the movement). Extend your arms straight out so that you palms rest flat on the wall at a shoulder-height with fingers pointed upwards. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart.
- Bend at the elbows and slowly lower your body towards the wall till your nose is a few inches away. Do your best to make sure your back and hips stay straight and aligned.
- Push back to starting position and repeat. Aim for 3-4 sets of 15 reps.
Intermediate: Kneeling Push-up
The kneeling push-up targets the chest and upper arms like the top of the shoulders (deltoids) and the triceps. By having your knees on the ground, you aren’t pushing up your full weight, which makes this exercise a good precursor to the standard push-up. To do a kneeling push-up:
- Get on your knees and place your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart. Tighten your core, and make sure your legs and knees form a straight line.
- Bend your elbows until your chest is a couple inches off of the floor.
- Pause for a second, return to starting position, and repeat. Aim for 3-4 sets of 20 reps.
Advanced: Classic Push-up
Why is the classic push-up considered advanced? Because, with proper form, doing a classic push-up correctly hits nearly every muscle from the waist up. To do the classic push-up:
- Start in a plank position: both hands on the floor shoulder-width apart, arms locked at the elbow, back straight and aligned with hips, and feet shoulder-width apart. Basically, try to think of the body as one giant line.
- Your chest/nipple should be directly over your thumb nail. Fingers should be splayed, and hands should be in a comfortable position on the floor.
- Inhale as you slowly lower your chest down to the floor, and exhale as you push the palms of your hands into the floor, bringing your torso, thighs, and chest off the ground.
- Return to starting plank position and pause a second before the next repetition. Aim for 3-4 sets of 15 reps.
Expert: Alligator Push-up
This version of the standard push-up requires a significant amount of core and arm strength. The alligator push-up (AKA croc crawl) differs from the standard push-up by targeting your core and shoulders, but it’s really a whole-body exercise. To do the alligator push-up:
- Start in a push-up position with arms and legs shoulder-width apart.
- Lower yourself until your chest and torso are as low as to the floor as they would be when doing a normal push-up. Brace your core and glutes to keep your posture flat and stable.
- Begin the exercise by bringing one knee up towards the elbow, while moving the opposite arm forward (the motion should feel like you’re crawling). Then repeat on the other side. Aim for 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps.