Get ready to pull a Salt-N-Pepa: we’re gonna push it real good to get the body we want. Men and women alike strive for similar goals or end results when it comes to fitness: both want lean body frames, both wouldn’t mind some visible resemblance of abs and both would like toned arms that don’t include that little flap of flab. Well, if you’re a member of a gym or workout with a group, you probably see a lot of people flocking to miracle machines that they load up with weights and grunt and sweat as they struggle to lift it. For some, yes, they do have V-shaped bodies as a result with rippling muscles. For others, it seems as if they’ve done nothing. I’m not a fan of gyms – if you’ve read my other posts on fitness, you’ll know why. They’re just a waste of money in my opinion and not to mention packed full of germs and annoying people. What if I told you that you could have abs, toned arms and slash through body fat … without a gym membership? Sound intriguing? What if I added that you didn’t need any special exercise machines or products. Now, are you even more curious? What if I teased you further that it really only takes one move and you could touch on all of your fitness goals? Okay, now you’re interested, I’m sure.
I’m talking about the ancient move known as the push-up. The more our society seems to evolve, the more we seem to venture away from these classic moves that got results for those who came before us. We think moves and exercises like the push-up are out dated, old, ineffective and that we must use machines, heavy weights, barbells and do one hundred repetitions of an exercise to get one little ab or muscle to pop out. People, give it a rest. What makes the push-up the ultimate move is that it’s far more versatile than you’d ever imagine. When I first started working out and getting more into fitness, I thought to get abs you had to do crunches, to get lean you had to run for hours or do tons of yoga. Then I read about the push-up in Men’s Health magazine and Men’s Fitness. Turns out the push-up is more complex than we thought.
The push-up is a full-body move. It works your chest as you lower your body and the muscles in your pecs constrict and move. It works your arms just as if you were lifting a barbell or dumbbells except you’re using your body as the weight; it burns through fat and calories because you’re mixing in resistance to your training and challenging your muscles to take on different obstacles and tasks. If you’re not doing the push-up, you’re really missing out on the ultimate workout. Think of just the position alone: it resembles plank, an exercise known for toning your midsection. It also resembles the judo pushup or moves in yoga, toning your arms and stretching out your body. Combine all of that into one move and you’re working your entire body.
Most people think there’s only one way to do a pushup. Again, that’s wrong. Here are some ways you can vary up the push-up:
1. Standard: Lie down on your stomach on the floor or a mat. Place your hands flat on the floor and push your torso up (hands should be underneath your shoulders). Get up on your tip-toes (you’re now in plank position). Fingers should be kept spread apart as you lower your body. Push yourself back up.
2. Diamond Push-up: Get in standard push-up position. Place your fingers together underneath your chest on the floor; place thumbs together and fingers next to thumb to form a diamond shape. Lower yourself and push-up. This move not only works your chest but puts more emphasis on your arms.
3. Wide Push-up: Get in standard push-up position but rather than placing your hands underneath your shoulders, place them slightly outwards so that they’re somewhat out at your sides. Perform a push-up. This works your chest more.
4. Walking Push-up: Get in standard push-up position. Keep feet planted on the floor/mat but move or set your right hand out to the right. Follow by moving your left hand slightly to the left. Your body is now at an angle. Perform a push-up and walk hands back to the middle. Repeat on the left side. This move helps work your arms, burns more calories and works your torso more.
5. Elevated Push-up: Place your hands on the floor in standard push-up position. Have a box or stool behind you and prop/set your feet up on it. Do a push-up. With your body angled downward, you’ll work your shoulders and chest more. **Bonus: Reverse this move. Place your hands on a box or elevated surface, feet kept on the floor.
6. Swiss-Ball Push-Up: Similar to an elevated push-up but place your feet on an exercise ball (sometimes called a Swiss ball).
7. Medicine-Ball Push-Up: Place your hands firmly on a medicine ball. Set feet out on the floor in push-up position. Perform a push-up while your hands are on the ball. This takes a bit of stability or balance but the unsteady surface works your muscles more and calls for better stability, meaning it’s a great core exercise that’ll help develop the abs and trim fat around the mid-section.
8. Staggered Push-Up: Get in standard push-up position. Place one hand straight outward on the floor as if you’re climbing or reaching for something. Place the other hand slightly inward. Your hands should now have some distance between them. Perform a push-up. The move stretches your torso muscles and calls for them to work harder, meaning you’ll see more definition with continuing moves.
9. Dumbbell or Barbbell Push-up: Do any variation of the push-up but instead of having your hands flat on the floor, grip dumbbells or a barbbell loaded with weights. A firm grip recruits more muscle meaning you’ll add another level of difficulty to any push-up.
10. Push-up with a Row: Get in push-up position, gripping dumbbells in each hand. Lower yourself to the ground, push back up and pull one dumbbell toward the ceiling, keeping your elbow tucked in at your side. This move burns more calories, works the chest and shoulder muscles.
11. Plyo Pushup: This is an explosive move. Place a weight plate underneath you. If you don’t have one, don’t worry, the floor is fine. Place your hands on the plate or floor. Lower yourself and as you rise back up, forcefully push your torso up into the air. Your hands should leave the floor. For a challenge, try to clap in the air before you return your hands to the floor. This is a great strength-increasing exercise and will help speed your metabolism, burn through calories and build muscle quickly. **Bonus Move: I call this ‘hit the books’. Instead of using a weight plate, get a thick textbook or phone book and place it under you. Perform a plyo pushup from this elevated surface.
So you see, there’s a lot more to the push-up than you probably imagined. By changing the position of your hands, your grip, or elevation and angle of your body, you can indeed work your entire body with this one simple move. Best yet, it doesn’t call for any special equipment, gym membership and can be done anytime, any place. Now you have no excuse not to squeeze in a workout and show off your toned and ripped upper body this spring.