How to Improve Your Pushups!

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Many individuals under-estimate the power that push ups wield in building upper body strength and chest muscles. On the surface, pushups are plain and almost boring: up down, up down, up down -- that's it. However, most people, outside of physical fitness enthusiasts, only know about the military-style push ups that they endured in their Phys Ed class back in high school. Just as there is more than one way to climb a mountain and more than one way to skin a cat -- there is more than one way to do a pushup.

Here are six types of pushups that you can do from home -- routines that will help you to build upper body strength and target your chest muscles.

  • "Wide" pushups - Traditionally, pushups are performed with your hands being placed at shoulder width. Wide push ups, sometimes called "wide-stance pushups", require you to extend your hands beyond the width of your shoulders. Wide-stance pushups work your chest muscles more heavily than military-style pushups, so if chest definition is what you are looking for -- wide pushups are one exercise that will help you meet your goals.
  • "Diamond" pushups - Diamond pushups, sometimes called "pyramid" pushups, require you to place your index fingers and thumbs together in the shape of a diamond during your push up workout. While diamond push ups tend to work your triceps more than your chest muscles, the benefits of modifying your hand placement during pushups, even if only a tiny bit, are undeniable.
  • "Fist" pushups - Sometimes referred to as "knuckle" pushups, require the use of your fists, instead of the palms of your hands, to bear your body weight during the pushup. Fist pushups are beneficial because they target different areas of your body than traditional pushups, and may actually increase the effectiveness of your workout.
  • Decline pushups - Instead of placing your feet on the floor, or using your knees, place your feet on a platform so that your head is lower than your feet. You can use a chair, a stepstool, or a bench -- pretty much anything that will allow you to raise your feet up so that they are higher than your head. These types of pushups work your upper chest muscles.
  • Incline pushups - Incline pushups are the exact opposite of decline pushups -- instead of placing your feet higher than your head, your head should be higher than your feet for this exercise. Any sturdy surface that will allow you to perform the pushups unencumbered can be used. Incline pushups work your lower pectoral muscles. "Off the floor" pushups - If you are working out at home, you can perform raised pushups with the help of three sturdy chairs. By placing each of your hands on an opposite chair, and your feet on the third chair, you can increase the depth of your pushup and thereby increase the effectiveness of your workout routine.

Tips to increase the effectiveness of your push up workouts:

  • Add weight during your pushups - If you are already strong, you can add weight to your back to work on increasing your muscle mass. However, this tip is only recommended for individuals who are already physically strong and can bear it.
  • Mix and match hand positions - Using the incline, decline, off-the-floor, or fist pushup positions, you can reposition your arms to target different chest and upper body muscles.

Push ups are a great way to strengthen your upper body and build chest muscle at the same time. By mixing up your hand positions, and trying a few different styles of pushups -- you can increase the effectiveness of your at-home exercising and add a little bit of variation to your workout routine as well.

Push-ups along with a few other simple body exercises such as (body squats and sit-ups/crunches) could keep you looking buff in almost any situation (yes, even on a deserted island)

Here's some basic push-up information to get you going:

Performing The Basic Push-Up:

1. Lie face down with your body parallel to the floor.
2. Place your hands palm down slightly beyond shoulder-width apart. Make sure your arms are positioned next to your shoulders and not too low next to your belly button or too high next to your head.
3. Look up and ahead rather than down to the ground.
4. Slowly raise yourself up keeping your body straight from the back of your heels to your head.
5. Exhale on the way up.
6. Once your arms are very close to being fully extended pause just slightly, this constitutes 1 repetition.
7. Begin lowering your body back to the floor while inhaling.
8. Once your chin touches the floor (remember your head is looking ahead not down!) begin raising your body back up to repeat the process.

Key Points:

  • It's very important to do the motion correctly for maximum benefit. Keeping your body straight is essential. Tighten your abs throughout the entire movement to prevent your butt from raising too high or lowering too low. If you have access to a ground level mirror (or even a reflection from a glass door) try watching your body position a few times until you get it right. Don't waste your time doing push-ups the wrong way.
  • Use slow, controlled movements. Going fast may allow you to do more push-ups in a set amount of time however, you will receive less benefit from each individual push up. Many times people who go really fast don't work their muscles through their full range of motion. Remember the goal is to build muscle not your ego. 10 well-formed, controlled movement push-ups are better than doing 25 sloppy, incomplete push-ups.

When To Do Push-ups:

Push-ups can be used as one of your primary upper body exercises or as a replacement when you can't do your regular workout routine.

Personally, I love to do push-up workouts when I'm traveling or don't have access to a gym for a particular reason. I generally use a push-up routine to replace any missed Chest/Shoulder/Tricep weight-lifting workouts.

Push-Up Workouts:

There are probably thousands of push-up workouts out there to choose from. One of my favorites is what I refer to as "countdowns."

The idea is to progressively lower the amount of reps performed for each set as your muscles become more fatigued. This allows you to achieve maximum benefit for each set with out sacrificing form and technique.

Here's an example: We'll start with 20 push-ups for our first set. Each set we will reduce the number of push-ups attempted by 2 until we get to 0. We'll rest only moderately (15 seconds to 30 seconds) between sets.

So in this case it would look like this:

* Set 01 - 20 reps
* Set 02 - 18 reps
* Set 03 - 16 reps
* Set 04 - 14 reps
* Set 05 - 12 reps
* Set 06 - 10 reps
* Set 07 - 08 reps
* Set 08 - 06 reps
* Set 09 - 04 reps
* Set 10 - 02 reps

Note: This workout can be adapted to suit your needs. If this seems too hard try starting at 10 reps and counting down 1 each set (10,9,8,7 etc).

If a 20 rep starting point is too easy you could always increase the starting count to 40 or 80 reps and count down 4 or 8 reps respectively (40, 36, 32 etc or 80, 72, 64 etc).

Final Thoughts

Push-ups are a tremendous tool for muscle building when done properly. They can be used as a primary workout or just to keep fit while on the road.

Practice perfect push-ups and you'll find that they are one of the most useful tools in your fitness arsenal.

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People in this conversation

  • Guest (danilo)

    Is correct to bend their backs on the bench to raise the bar?

  • Guest (Reuben Bajada)

    [quote=danilo]Is correct to bend their backs on the bench to raise the bar?[/quote]

    Hi Danilo,

    This is a powerlifting technique which recruits your pelvic and core muscles on heavy lifts. It is correct when done safely yes.


  • Guest (Louis)

    In a couple weeks I will be helping my friend who wants to join the ROTC army get fit for the physical requirements. One of those requirements is x amount of pushups in 2 minutes. I want to make sure I will be feeding him the right information. To gain more endurance or be able to do more pushups at in one set, i shouldn\'t have him doing any pushups with added weight, correct? If you could answer that and if you have any other tips that could help me and him, I would surely appreciate it.

  • Guest (Krys)

    Hi Reubes,
    The countdown exercise sounds great I would like to do one lot of military style and one lot of wide hand style. Is it best to do one lot (military) right after the other or do one at the start of my workout and one at the end (wide hand)?


  • Guest (Reuben Bajada)

    [quote=Krys]Hi Reubes,
    The countdown exercise sounds great I would like to do one lot of military style and one lot of wide hand style. Is it best to do one lot (military) right after the other or do one at the start of my workout and one at the end (wide hand)?


    Hi Krys,

    It is really up to yourself here mate, I often use 2 exercise supersets in my pushup workouts to help stimulate different sections of the pecs.


  • Guest (Ausi319)

    That sounds really great.
    How do you think it would work if I started up doing each one of them for 30reps each a day?

    "Wide" pushups - 30 reps
    "Diamond" pushups - 30 reps
    "Fist" pushups - 30 reps
    Decline pushups - 30 reps
    Incline pushups - 30 reps

    Do you think that would be an effective Chest workout?

  • Guest (tarun)

    is doing push-ups really fast but with the right posture, with your back, neck and ass straight OK. Because i don't want to do any plyometric exercises as of now, but want to do strength and power training for speed and power.

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