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The Push-up: A Strength Training Classic

How much can you bench? Oh, really. That’s quite a lot. Think you have to bench press to build a bigger chest? Nope.

Now, how many proper push-ups could you do at this moment? Don’t know? Step away from your computer, hit the floor and give it all you’ve got.

Do them right!

Push-ups, when executed with proper form, can be an intensely effective chest exercise. Unlike the bench press, a pushup puts your shoulder blades through their full range of motion. A good push-up also targets the serratus anterior. There’s a reason why these old-school movements are still kicking: they work. Unfortunately for the exercise industry, they’re not much of a moneymaker. You don’t have to invest in large weights or expensive machines to execute a proper push-up. Just like crunches, push-ups are free and totally effective.

You can do 100 push-ups, huh? How do you do them? Is your ass in the air or nearly touching the ground? If so, you’re not executing a real push-up. In order to actually build your upper body, you need to keep your entire body in line. Your body should be straight from your shoulders down to your feet. If you’re having trouble with this, try doing the movement in front of a mirror and/or asking somebody to scream obscenities at you every time you break form.

If you don’t already know this, you should probably refrain from doing push-ups on shag carpet and/or sand. Find a firm, flat surface like a floor or mat. Your feet or hands should not sink in. Unfortunately, pushing your hands down on hard, flat surfaces can be uncomfortable and might even lead to injury. If possible, form fists with your hands or hold a pair of octagonal weights. Push-up bars are also great for maintaining proper form and keeping your hands from harm.

So, you can do 60 push-ups in a minute? Congratulations, you’re in a big hurry to zero results. Push-ups are not about speed. Sure, you don’t want to take 10 seconds to perform one, but you should take a few. In order to actually see results from a push-up, you need to really feel the movement in your chest. Blasting through a set like Tony Montana after a yayo binge is not going to give you the results you’re looking for. Take about two seconds to go down and two to come up and you’ll start seeing results a lot sooner.

If you need some pointers on proper push-up form, check out this YouTube video. The instructor, Scooby Werkstatt, knows what he’s talking about. Check out his other videos while you’re at it.

I used to do 100 push-ups a day before I started working out at the gym. Despite executing more “advanced” strength training the past few years, I have a hard time hitting that number today. I’m going to get back to that place and I encourage you to challenge yourself. It might not seem as effective as lifting weights, but a good push-up never fails to build muscle. Now, drop and give me twenty.

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About John Brhel John Brhel is a freelance writer from upstate New York that enjoys picking apart life's idiosyncrasies and listening to Huey Lewis & the News.

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