Every day, millions of people hit the floor to do their daily dose of push-ups, and it’s easy to see why. As an exercise, standard push-ups are, well, pretty awesome. A basic calisthenics movement, they effectively burn fat and build muscle, honing the triceps, deltoids, pectorals, coracobrachialis and your core all at once. The military, martial arts dojos, school athletic programs, professional athletes and hardworking civilians all rely on push-ups for keeping fit.
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There many variations of the standard push-up the require balance and strength, but here are six tips to make sure you’re maximizing your push-ups.
1. Check Your Form
This one is easy if you’re a push-up connoisseur, but for newbies, it’s essential for mastering the perfect push-up. Posture and motion is very important, and for maximum results, elbows need to be packed into your sides; place elbows under your shoulders. Stack joints for a better range of motion and to increase lat and tricep movement. Avoid flaring your elbows out and wide. Flaring can lead to rotator cuff and shoulder injuries. Enlist the help of a personal trainer to make sure your form is on point.
2. Brace Yourself
Flex and brace your core to maximize push-ups. Pulling and tucking abdominal muscles decreases the risk of injury by creating a neutral spine, engaging your core. Just remember to avoid arching your spine. Bracing creates greater resistance, invoking more muscle groups.
3. Adjust Your Grip
When you reposition your hands, you modify the tension and target of the push-up. A regular push-up requires you to place your fingers together and point them forward. To maximize your push up, open your fingers, extend your thumbs so that they are facing each other, then grip the floor. You will extend and tighten triceps and lats, which engage more muscle groups.
4. Really Push
Rethink how you perform a push-up. Usually, you push your body off the floor. Instead, push the floor. This reversal requires focus and intentional movement. When you “push” towards the floor, you are inviting more muscles to work. The response results in a full body workout, creating tension, extension and a solid core.
5. Squeeze Your Core
The almighty squeeze. It’s important to most workouts if you want a ripped core, but you should also be slightly squeezing your glutes and your abdominals to maximize your workout. Isometrics enlist your own muscle groups to provide resistance, creating dynamic results. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.
6. Get A Rhythm Down
Once you’ve got the perfect technique downpat, the next step is to see how many perfect push-ups you can complete in a sequence (the more, the better!). Part of executing many push-ups in a row successfully is to focus on your breathing — make sure you’re always exhaling as you push up and breathing as you rest at the height of your push-up. It also helps a lot of people to work out to a beat, so turn up the volume and choose a song that you can do your push-ups to.
7. Try Some Variations
To really maximize your push-ups, try some push-up variations. Use resistance bands, ankle weights, kettle balls, etc., to spice it up. Here is a list of push up variations to spice up your workout.
- Aztec – Very difficult. Enough said.
- Back-Handed – Instead of using palms, use the back of your hands.
- Diamond – Palms down with thumb and pointer fingers touching.
- Dive-Bomber – A Bruce Lee maneuver, not for Ninja’s only.
- Renegade – This push up is all about elevation. Experts only.
- Judo – Also known as the Hindu push up; a total workout.
- Knuckle Push – Use your knuckles (boxers use boxing gloves) to push off the floor.
- Maltese – Used by gymnasts to build strength and stamina. Not easy.
- One Arm – Requires strength; use only one arm to push and move.
- Superman – Labeled the hardest push-up in the world; insane.
There are many more variations, but this will get your started to maximize your push-ups. Remember to consult with a professional fitness trainer for form and technique to avoid injury.