That word alone daunts many people. And to a lot of other people, they disrespect or disregard it because it is "too easy."
In either case though, pushups seem to be put on the back burner, due to either believing they could never do pushups or due to believing they are too easy to get any benefit out
Well I am here to tell you that you can do pushups and you can get a huge amount of benefit from including one of the longest existing strength exercises in your routine.
Why Do Pushups?
Besides the obvious, they build upper body pressing strength, pushups offer many other benefits.
People often compare to bench press to pushups in that they are both horizontal upper body pressing movements. But, actually, their is no contest in which exercise can offer more overall benefits. Sure, the bench press can ultimately allow for more strength gain, but..that is about it. Let me tell you why.
Pushups are a dynamic exercise. With that being said, they are able to challenge the core more than compared to the bench press. While doing pushups,
your core is actively engaged throughout the entire motion (or at least is should be). Think about it, you are basically holding a plank while moving your body through the full range of
Pushups offer way more variety. Who does not like variety? There are literally hundreds of ways to perform pushups. From beginner to advanced to loaded pushup variations, you will never get bored and there is always a way to make pushups harder.
Take this variation for example. You won't find pushups too easy after this.
How else are they better?
The pushup is a closed chain exercise. What does that mean?
It means your hands and feet are fixed to the ground and your body moves.
The bench press is an open chain exercise, which means your body is fixed to the ground (or bench) and your hands move.
Why does this matter?
With pushups, your scapula (shoulder blades) are able to move freely as you lower and push yourself up. With the bench press, your scapula are fixed to the bench and do not move as you press the weight up. This places a much larger stress on the shoulder joint then compared to when your scapula are able to move. This can be painful for someone who already has shoulder health issues or if overused, can lead to shoulder injuries.
Do you want to get some real benefit out of doing pushups? Just like any other exercise, form plays a big role.
When performing pushups, try to remember these cues.
Feet: Can be together or slightly apart
Core: Squeeze glutes, tighten abs, flat back
Shoulders/upper back: Engage and actively press the ground away from you
Hands: Underneath body, palms at nipple line, at shoulder width or slightly wider than shoulder width.
Head: Looking straight down at ground, make a double chin
How to Instantly Be Better at Pushups
While performing the pushup, try to imagine you have a tennis ball in each of your armpits and you have to squeeze them so they don't fall out.
On your way down, think of pulling yourself to the ground instead of lowering yourself or just relaxing.
Squeeze your glutes and drive your toes as hard as you can into the ground throughout the entire pushup.
All of these will help create more tension specifically in your lats, shoulders, core, and quads. Greater tension in these areas during a pushup means better pushups. Better pushups means more pushups. So create tension!
You will see your ability to perform more sets, reps, etc. of pushups improve immediately.
How to Work Your Way to Doing Pushups on the Ground
So you've tried everything I just mentioned, your form is in check, and you still can not do pushups on the ground?
How do you go about getting there?
Rather than doing pushups on your knees - which enforces bad habits and does not have much of a carry over to regular pushups - give pin pushups a try.
Pin pushups allow you to train the movement pattern as similar as possible to regular pushups.
They are performed on a power rack with adjustable pins (the spotter bar).
Set the pins at a height that you feel you could perform 6-10 reps. Place your hands on the pin and your toes on the ground, just as you would for a pushup on the ground. You should be at an incline. Using the same cues as a regular pushups, lower yourself to the bar and then push yourself back to the starting position.
The great thing about the pin pushup is that it makes it easy for you to focus on progressing from week to week. As the pushups become easier, lower the pin to decrease your angle from the ground. For example, if you able to do pushups from the 12th hole the first week and then from the 6th hole 4 weeks later, then that means you got better at pushups (and will soon be on your way to do pushups on the ground).
If you do not have access to a power rack, then a smith machine, bench, or any elevated surface will work. Just focus on progression and working your way closer to the ground.
Advanced Pushup Variations
As previously mentioned, there are literally hundreds of ways to make pushups harder. You can add weight through the use of chains, vests, or plates. You can add resistance through the use of bands. You can pre-exhaust. Or you can just use your bodyweight and gravity against you.
Below, I have supplied videos on some of my favorite variations of pushups. These are mostly just using your body weight, but do not worry, these variations will challenge you in a whole new
Feet Elevated Pushups
Single Leg Pushups
Band Resisted Pushups
Pushups offer a TON of benefits. If they are not in your program right now, stop neglecting them, include them, and reap the benefits.
Till next time,