Push ups, in some way shape or form employ every major muscle in your body. Unlike a bench or chest machine your scapula are free to move, so make sure you mobilise them unlock them at the top of the movement. This provides both stretching and strengthening benefits throughout the entire upper body that being locked in on a bench simply don't. Rotator cuff, back, biceps, chest, triceps all get stretched & strengthened at some point throughout the full range of motion.
It’s a more natural movement for the body to perform than a machine or bench press, as the body is supporting its own movement, not guided or pressed against a rigid surface. This will correctly employ rotator cuff and minor stabilising muscle groups to give you all over better stability and functionality through your upper body. Ultimately this will help you lift heavier with more safety when you jump on the bench, lat pulldown, row, shoulder press, etc.
Your core is required to work to maintain correct form, from your abs & obliques through to all of your lumbar and lower back muscles to maintain support of your spine. Glutes, quads, hip flexors, they are all employed to maintain form and stability through the movement
Cardiovascular benefits are also apparent. To do a correct push up, your whole body must contribute in some way shape or form, the more muscles you use in an exercise, the greater the cardiovascular demand, it’s that simple.
For those of you that aren’t at the strength level to perform a correct push up (on your toes) a common suggestion is to go to your knees. I advise against this, as later on you will have to retrain your neuromuscular connections for the exercise.
Instead, elevate the starting point of your upper body and perform the same push up movement. A smith machine is great for this as you can set the bar at a height that challenges you and lower the bar over the weeks as you progress in strength. The elevation will make the movement easier to perform with correct technique and allow you to build towards the goal of doing them on your toes on the ground.
For those of you at a solid strength level, try adding them in after a pulling exercise as a super set, this is something I feel a lot of benefit from in my training. Another great application is to use them as a finisher on chest exercises. Super-set them.. straight off the bench onto the floor to failure
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