Bodyweight exercises are a great way to stay in shape and the beauty of most of them is that you can do them anywhere.
I personally don’t think you can go past the push-up for a better bodyweight exercise.
Push-ups work a lot of muscles at once and you can vary them in many ways to make them tougher or easier.
When performing the push-up you are targeting the upper body, in particular your chest, triceps and shoulders.
The push-up is performed in the prone position (that’s face down) where you start with your arms supporting your body then lower yourself towards the ground before returning to the start position.
Your body should stay level throughout the movement – no sagging or harbour-bridging.
The wider your hands the more you are working your chest, and the closer together your hands are the more emphasis is placed on your arms.
But the great thing about push-ups is they also work your core and you even use your leg muscles, so it’s a great exercise to have as part of your strength training.
Using lots of muscles at once also means you are generally going to be working hard and this hopefully translates to an increased metabolic rate which in turn means you will burn more fat.
The main thing is to make sure you do them right. And do the appropriate variation of push-up to suit your fitness and strength levels or to take into account any injuries or illnesses which may affect your training.
An easier version of the push-up would be to do them against a wall with your hands level with your midchest. Or do them in an elevated position (using a rail or table) or with your knees on the ground.
To make them harder you could elevate your feet. Or you could do side-to-side push-ups, which is where you move your hands to the side in between each push-up. You could add a dumbbell row in between each push-up for an added core workout, or perform a plank hold.
If you’re feeling really hardcore you can pump out some one-armed push-ups – think Rocky getting in shape to take on Apollo Creed – or handstand push-ups, which are part of the CrossFit program and sound quite scary if you ask me as I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even perform a handstand these days without hurting myself.
But generally, the thing I love most about push-ups is the fact that you can work hard by doing a pretty simple exercise – which is probably why the military and cranky sporting coaches use them so much.
Make sure if you are doing lots of push-ups that you counteract them by also performing plenty of exercises for your back and biceps, such as rows or pull-ups.
If you are looking for ideas for some cross training, here is a session guide you can modify to suit your individual needs and goals:
Perform 20 squats followed by 10 push-ups then walk/run a series of shuttles. You can make this harder by alternating easy and higher intensity runs. Repeat 2-3 times.
Then perform 20 lunges and 10 pull-ups followed by similar running/walking. Repeat 2-3 times.
Finish with core work and make sure you have a warm-up and cool-down.
Now, get moving!