The dreaded pushup. Worst part of arm day!
But relax! You’re going to learn how to master the pushup and never dread it again.
Table of Contents
What is a Pushup?
Lay on the ground and use your arms to push your body up off the ground. You’ve done a pushup.
What Muscles do Pushups Work?
Pushups are one of the best known exercises for a reason. They work your body, hard.
Pectorals: Also known as Pecs or Chest. The chest is the primary muscle used in pushups, which is why pushups are considered a chest exercise.
Deltoids: Also known as Shoulders. Your shoulders will assist in the performance of a pushup.
Core: Your abs and lower back work to stabilize your body during pushups.
Triceps, Biceps & Forearms: Also known as Arms. Your arms aren’t directly involved in pushups. They’re working indirectly but they’ll still benefit a lot.
What are the Benefits of Pushups?
The benefits of pushups extend far past developing muscles. The top 6 benefits of pushups: functional, prevention, posture, convenience, balance, bone density.
Benefits of Pushups #1 – Pushups are a functional exercise
Pushing is one of the basic functional movements. A functional exercise is one that works your body in ways like real life.
Pushups are the ideal push exercise.
Real Life Example:
I bet I’m not the only bitch who’s had to push away a handsy asshole in a bar. Imagine how much harder I could push if I did pushups. Food for thought.
Benefits of Pushups #2 – Injury Prevention
Pushups are one of the most effective ways to prevent injuries to your shoulders. Pushups use the stabilizing muscles which surround your rotator cuff (most common injury in older adults). This use simultaneously strengthens the muscles.
Pushups can also help prevent lower back injuries. Pushups use your core for stabilization which in turn strengthens it and increases flexibility. Which results in a reduced risk of injury.
Benefits of Pushups #3 – Posture
Improved posture isn’t just good for your health (although it totally is), it will also make you look taller and slimmer. As someone who’s 5’3 (160cm) the idea of looking taller is extremely appealing.
Your core is what provides the strength to support your upper back, shoulders and neck in a proper vertical position. Pushups strengthen your core. Furthermore, pushups use a similar posture (albeit in a more prone position) which helps train you to use proper posture.
Benefits of Pushups #4 – Cheap, Easy, Convenient
Convenience can’t be overstated as a benefit. The number one reason people give for not exercising is a lack of time. Everyone can bust out some pushups though. They require no special equipment, minimal space and willpower.
You can do pushups on vacation. You can do pushups during TV commercials. You can do pushups in the bathroom before you hop in the shower.
Benefits of Pushups #5 – Balance & Stability
Wanna fall over? No, me neither. Pushups can help with that.
Pushups will basically help with your reaction time. So, if you get out of balance, you’ll recover quicker. Less likely to fall all the way over. Win!
Benefits of Pushups #6 – Bone Density
Do you have bones? Do you know what happens to them?
If you’re a woman – From birth until about the age of 30, your bone density will increase (your bones get stronger). They’ll stay about the same density until menopause when they’ll weaken rapidly. Once menopause is over, your bones will continue to weaken but much slower.
If you’re a man – you’re also going to lose bone density as you age. However, you won’t experience the rapid lose that women do. By age 65, men and women will be experiencing bone density loss at the same speed.
Less bone density (weaker bones) is the leading cause of osteoporosis.
Pushups are a weight-bearing exercise and can increase bone density. Stronger bones are less likely to break and less likely to develop osteoporosis.
Should I Do Pushups Every Day?
You can but I wouldn’t regularly do pushups everyday.
Daily pushups are great during short challenges. Otherwise, you’re better off incorporating some variety into your workout. This will help prevent plateauing (when you stop benefitting from a workout).
How to do a Pushup
Doing a pushup isn’t that difficult – but it does require a lot of upper body strength.
Instructions for Strict Pushups
- Get into a high plank position – hands under shoulders but slightly wider.
- Contract & tighten your body
- Slowly lower yourself by bending your elbows until your chest is nearly touching the floor.
- Push up back to starting position.
This is a great pushup video.
Knee pushups are commonly recommended – especially to women. Some assholes actually call them girl pushups. Fuck that.
Don’t do knee pushups.
It’s not that knee pushups are bad, it’s that they’re easy to cheat at. It takes a lot of knowledge and discipline to do proper knee pushups. What happens to most people who do knee pushups is they shift their weight around. They never actually strengthen their pushup muscles therefor they never wind up doing “real” pushups.
Don’t do knee pushups. You’re going to benefit much, much more from a progression of incline pushups.
Incline Pushup Progression
Start high up and as you get better at it, lower the incline. Eventually, you’ll lower yourself flat into a regular pushup.
Here’s a great video demonstrating an incline pushup on a bench.
Yeah, I’m not recommending any.
If you have injuries that prevent you from doing pushups, try to can’t modify the pushup to accommodate.
For example, I have a bad wrist. I modify pushups by holding pushup bars. This means I can still reap all the benefits of pushups without aggravating my injury.
The Pushup Challenge
The point of the pushup challenge is not to make you a dramatically different person. Your body is not going to change much because of 30 days of pushups.
Anyone who tries to tell you that you can make big, healthy, long-lasting changes to your body in 30 days is full of shit. They are not a trustworthy source of information. There are no shortcuts to health. Stop thinking there are.
Anyways, the point of the pushup challenge for most of you will be to master pushup form. If you’re a beginner, you’re probably still going to be a beginner at the end of 30 days but you’ll be much closer to intermediate.
Think about 30-day fitness challenges as more of a “practice makes perfect” opportunity. You’re going to focus on practicing pushups for these 30 days.
Beginner – I can do 0 to 5 Pushups
You are not alone. Most everyone started here. You, however, are ahead of all those lazy people not trying to do any pushups. Congrats. Be proud of yourself for starting.
Every day, you’re going to do 10 pushups. Your goal is to get down to doing at least 2 pushups on the floor at the end of 30 days.
Start at whatever angle makes you feel comfortable. If you’re really scared, stand straight and do pushups against a wall.
Do 8 pushups and then decrease your angle (get flatter) and do the last two there.
*Note: You do not have to get A LOT flatter. The angle decrease can be just a few inches.
Switch it up. Do 4+ pushups at a ‘harder’ angle. Then switch to the comfortable angle for the last 6 (or less).
Do harder pushups first – aim for at least 6 – and finish with (hopefully no more than 4) comfortable pushups.
Do all 10 pushups at the harder angle. Guess what? This is now your comfortable angle! Congrats!
Follow this pattern – once you can do 10 pushups at a certain angle, start the pattern again! By day 30 you should be trying to do a couple on the floor.
Intermediate – I can do 5+ Pushups
I’m going to suggest you try the 50 pushup challenge from Health.com
Tracking Your Challenge
You should be tracking all the exercise you do. This will help keep you organized. It will help you see your progress. It will help you.
I recommend the app JeFit. It’s available on the web, for Android and iOS. There’s a fantastic free version or a paid version.
Share Your Successes
Pushups are hard. Don’t go it alone! Find a friend (or comment on This Bitch) and share your successes. Bitch about your struggles. Get it out!
You’ll be more likely to succeed in the long-term if you’re not going it alone.
What’s stopping you from adding pushups to your workout?
Yes, pushups can be hard. But the benefits of pushups stretch across your entire life.
You don’t have to be perfect. You won’t start with strict pushups. But starting somewhere (even if it’s straight against a wall), is starting.
Start pushups today!
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