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Can I Build Muscle Mass with Push-ups?

Whenever you build muscle mass, you not only become stronger, but you also give a slight boost to your resting metabolic rate. Push-ups are body weight exercises that require nothing more than some open floor space. Although push ups will tone your upper body, if you are trying to drastically increase your muscle mass you should know how effective push ups are before starting a program.

The Target Muscles

Push-ups require you to move more than one joint and work more than one muscle simultaneously. These are called multi-joint or compound exercises which can tone and build muscle mass. The main muscles that get worked in a push up are the pectorals, deltoids, triceps, rhomboids, rectus abdominis and quadriceps. The pecs are the chest muscles, the delts are on the shoulders, the rhomboids are in the upper back and the rectus abdominis is in the stomach.

A Different Angle

The basic push-up is effective at building muscle, but to maximize your results, perform push-ups with your body at different angles. By doing decline push-ups, for example, you will place more emphasis on your upper chest and shoulders. Perform these by placing your feet on a chair, bench or stability ball with your hands on the floor. Incline push-ups are performed the opposite way with your hands on the bench or ball and your feet on the floor. Inclined push ups place more emphasis on your lower chest. To really increase the muscle recruitment and challenge, perform handstand push-ups with your heels propped up against a wall. Have an assistant to help you get into position when you do these.

Building Size

The weight of your body gives you an adequate enough resistance to make progress with push-ups, but you can increase the muscle building potential of the exercise by adding extra weight to your upper body. As you get stronger, slowly add extra weight by wearing a weighted vest, wearing a backpack filled with books or having a training partner kneel on the floor next to you and lightly hold a weight plate on your back. With all of your push-ups, lower yourself slowly and push yourself up steadily.

Your Hands Matter

When you do push-ups, your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. By changing your hand position, you can shift the emphasis of your push-ups and specifically target certain areas. If you place your hands close together, for example, you will shift the emphasis to your triceps. By lifting one leg in the air with regular push-ups, you can recruit more muscles on the back of your body, such as the glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors. The spinal erectors run up the center of the back, the glutes are the butt muscles and the hamstrings are on the back of the thighs.

Make Your Diet Work

Any time you want to build muscle, you have to pay strict attention to your diet. Eat foods that are quality sources of protein, carbs and fat like lean beef, chicken breasts, fish, eggs, whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy. Protein helps rebuild muscle, carbs are used for energy, and fat helps release testosterone which is a muscle-building hormone.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.