5 Simple push-ups

What was I thinking?

I slowly got down to my knees, lowering myself belly flat on the ground. “I bet I can do twenty.” At times my mouth operates slightly before my brain. He replied, “I was going to suggest ten, but you’re on smart guy.” That didn’t help much.

I planted my hands slightly wider than my shoulders, and began to push myself up. What I had gotten myself into? Slowly I reached the top, and heard, “one”. I muttered to myself, “Heh, only nineteen to go.” I was in trouble.

In the beginning

The push up is arguably the most basic exercise—lay on the ground. Push yourself up. Simple. Difficult. At least if lacking the strength required.

If the push up has never been your thing, it doesn’t take long to build up the strength to do them. The concept is simple—start with as many as you can do. As an example, let’s say that you can do two. The next time that you do them, add another rep. Keep trying, every day until you can get them. Once you can do three reps, add a fourth.

One of the keys to doing push ups is to keep your back straight. When your back is not straight, you’re only cheating yourself.

When you are starting out, if you absolutely have to, put your knees on the ground. Another idea is to start with doing wall push ups.

Variations on a theme

When you’re able to do 20-25 reps of the classic push-up, it may be time to add some variety to the routine.

  • Hand placement – The easy place to start is by moving your hands wider, or narrower. This will effectively change the arm muscles required to lift your body. Another popular method is to stagger the hands by placing one further forward than the other, or one placed on a book, etc. to change the height.
  • Decline – By putting your feet on something like a bench, stair, or block of wood, you change the angle of the push up. This change adds difficulty by hitting the muscles in a different way.
  • Plyometric push up – You’ve probably seen a push up with a clap of the hands at the top. That’s an example of a plyo push up. Push up with enough force to bring your hands a few inches off of the ground. This builds an explosive strength by stimulating the fast twitch muscle fibers.
  • One arm – This is another oldie. The idea is to move your feet further apart, giving you a wider base. Then, with one hand behind the back, use one arm to perform the exercise. From personal experience, this puts a lot of stress on the shoulder.
  • Ball balance – Performing push ups with your hands on a medicine or basketball, two things are achieved. The first is that your hands are brought in at a different angle, while also closer together. The second feature is that by balancing on the ball, many other muscles are being called upon.

These are just a few examples of how you can modify the classic push up to further develop your chest and arms. With a little research, you should be able to find more.

Start small, and build your way up. Before you know it, you’ll be cranking out 100 without breaking a sweat.

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12 Responses to “5 Simple push-ups”

  1. I loathe push-ups and sit-ups. That’s about all I have to say on that one.

  2. Tim says:

    I’ve never been a big push-up fan either. Loath is a good word for sit-ups. It’s probably like basketball; I’m not good at it, so I don’t play.

  3. Todd says:

    Most peeps don’t like doing them, but they are AWESOME. :) I was never good at push ups. Now I can do 3 sets of 50. That’s not meant as a brag, but it shows the progress that I’ve made by adding them into my training.

    As for sit ups, I have no use for them. Crunches are another story, but not sit ups. Blech!

  4. mike says:

    push up can really give you a pump there were days when i pull off 300-500. not at one time…but a day when i would be home not wanting to go out i would just knock out 50 during commercials while watching a movie….its strange once you start doing them after about a month they do become an easy way to get a pump before leaving the house…seriously try 2 x 50 reps first thing in the AM right out of bed…then do the same right before laying in bed for the nite for 4 weeks and get back at me….lol

  5. Todd says:

    That right there is a great challenge! I’ve found that if I exercise before bed, I don’t fall asleep easily. The morning challenge is a good one though.

  6. becca says:

    I have found that push-ups are definitely one of the most hated basic exercises around (followed by sit-ups, at least with sit ups you can keep your butt on the ground). I have to admit that if you like to lay down on the floor and watch tv, it is a great time to get a few in. Plus, when it is time to get up off the floor, you can sneak a few in.

  7. anna says:

    i can barely get off the floor to do ONE push up UGH! i hate them!

  8. Todd says:

    That seems like a good starting point. Come on, you can pull off one… you can do it.

  9. Jean Sampson says:

    When I quit the gym after 10 years of working out hard, I wanted to keep the strength I had built. Cardio was easy but without the equipment, I had to figure some stuff out. I wasn’t about to get too out of shape, so I do sometimes 100 push-ups in combo with 100 of those nasty ab wheels. I mix all that in with weight stuff—I really need heavier weights but the things cost more as they go up in lbs. I have a great Total Gym which works the Devil out of you if you do it fast and continuously, also bands to wring out the last bit of juice. I try to go non-stop, so I am breathing pretty hard most of the time.

    I have to say I am a gym rat so leaving the gym was traumatic and I still miss it. At some point, when life allows, I will probably go back, but for now, I am doing ok.
    I am 63 and have worked out since I was 20. I have to work around some arthritis in my hands, but all the hard work has been worth it and I hope to keep going until I drop.

  10. Todd says:

    @Jean – The important thing is that you’re keeping at it. There are plenty of awesome ways to train without being “at the gym”. You’re right about the cost of weights. I picked up mine used, along with our bench.

  11. The push up is one of the greatest exercises ever. Great core – great upper body – great BENCHMARK exercise to track our progress. Heck, I did the CrossFit Cindy workout and in 20 minutes, I did 180 pushups! If you would have asked me if I could do that, I would have stared in confusion. But little by little, I’ve gotten stronger.
    One of my new favorite variations is doing pushup to side plank – alternating sides. It’s one of those “harder than it looks” moves and is a lovely twist on an old favorite.
    Thanks again!

  12. Todd says:

    I agree. While I’ve worked out for many years, the push up was not a norm in my routine. I found that I had a difficult time doing them.

    When I started my powerlifting routine earlier this year, I was doing them to failure. A funny thing happened–I started cranking out 50 or so per set.

    P90X has me doing a lot of variations, but my favorite is the classic.

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