Contrary to popular belief, pushups don’t only work your arms. The prime movers in the pushup movement are actually your pectoral (chest) muscles, although you may feel a burn in your triceps (back of arm) muscles which contribute powerfully to the movement as well. Pushups are ideal for both beginners and advanced exercisers alike because they can be modified to your fitness level, and you don’t need any special equipment beyond a flat, level surface on which to do them, since your own body weight provides the resistance.
Come down on all fours, and then extend your legs behind you so you're supporting your weight on your hands and toes. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, in line with your shoulders -- not far out, underneath your face, nor back beneath your belly button -- and your arms should be straight but not locked out at your elbows. This is the “up” position.
Tighten your core -- abdomen and back -- muscles to keep your body in a straight line. Your head should continue the line of your spine. Look down at the floor, so that your neck isn’t bent at an awkward angle.
Bend your elbows out and slowly lower your chest toward the ground with a smooth, controlled movement. Keep your back straight as you do this -- resist the urge to pike up or down at the hips. Keep going until your shoulders are level with your elbows. This is the “down” position. Inhale as your body lowers.
Hold the “down” position for a moment -- this ensures you’re not using momentum to boost yourself back up -- then squeeze your pectoral and triceps muscles to press your body back up. Maintain your spine in a straight line -- don’t pike -- and exhale as you return to the "up" position. You’ve just completed one pushup.
- If you're not strong enough to keep your body in a straight line when you do pushups on your hands and toes, try dropping to your knees. The exact same form guidelines apply as for full-body pushups, except that instead of maintaining your body in a straight line from head to toe you'll be keeping yourself in a straight line from head to knees.
- Vary your pushup workout, once you're strong enough to do at least 12 to 15 full-body pushups with good form, by placing your hands wider apart -- to emphasize the pectoral muscles -- or bringing your hands in closer to your body and allowing your elbows to point back, lined up against the side of your body, instead of out, as you lower your body to the "down" position.
- Consult a doctor before taking on a new exercise routine, especially if you've been inactive or have an injury or health condition.
- push ups image by Steve Lovegrove from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.