Health Benefits of Push-Ups

Push-ups may seem like a basic exercise that works only your upper arms and chest, but when you do them the right way, they use muscles all over your body. You can do them just about anywhere, they can be adjusted to fit any ability level -- and they’re free!

About Push-Ups

Push-ups work many muscles in your body, including your:

  • Chest 
  • Arms
  • Stomach muscles (abdominals)
  • Hips‌
  • Legs

Push-ups are a convenient exercise that you can do anywhere. They don’t need equipment or a gym membership. You can also adjust them to meet your own physical ability or to target specific muscles.

Push-ups offer many health benefits, including:

  • Burning calories
  • Protecting your shoulders and lower back from injuries
  • Improving your balance and posture
  • Improving your flexibility
  • Improving your performance in sports and athletic activities

How to Do a Push-Up

If you don’t know how to do a push-up, it may feel a little awkward at first, but it will get easier. As with any exercise, form is the key to getting the most benefits:

  • Start in a plank position, face-down with your body straight. Put your palms flat on the ground with your arms straight, in line with your shoulders. 
  • Keep your feet together or about 12 inches apart, with your weight on the balls of your feet. 
  • Make sure your back is straight and your weight is evenly spread out. 
  • Look down as you do your push-ups to make sure your spine is in line from your neck all the way down. 
  • Lower your body toward the ground, using controlled movement, until your elbows are at 90-degree angles. Then push back up to a plank position. 
  • For best results, lower slowly and push up quickly. When you begin, try taking 2 seconds to lower and then 1 second to push up.

Remember that form is more important than speed or the number of push-ups you do. If it helps, take a video of yourself to see how you can improve your form.

Push-Up Variations

Push-ups for beginners. If a regular push-up is too difficult, you can make changes so you can build up your strength. Try leaning against a wall to do push-ups. Place your hands on the wall with your feet on the floor a little bit away from it. This uses less of your body weight.

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If wall push-ups are too easy, try leaning at a 45-degree angle by putting your hands on a couch or a chair. These push-ups use around 36% to 45% of your body weight, instead of the 50% to 75% of standard push-ups.

More challenging push-ups. Once you build up the strength, you can move to the floor. Start by doing push-ups with your knees on the ground, instead of your feet. 

The final step is to do push-ups in the standard plank form. At first, your elbows may not reach a 90-degree angle, but you can try to go a little lower each time. 

Once you’re able to do a plank push-up, challenge yourself to do more of them at a time. ‌Add intensity by slowing down as you lower yourself to the ground and raise up. To burn more calories, you can speed up your push-ups.

Push-ups to target different muscles. By changing your position, you can focus on different muscles. For example, if you put your hands closer together, you’ll work your chest muscles. If your hands are farther apart, you’ll work your triceps more. Switching between the two gives a full-body workout.

No matter how you do push-ups, always tighten your core muscles and pay attention to your form.

Safety Considerations for Push-Ups

Remember that all exercises come with some risk of injury. Listen to your body and know your limits. If you’re injured and push-ups hurt, take a break until you feel better. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor before adding push-ups to your exercise regimen.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jabeen Begum on June 22, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Allina Health: “An old reliable exercise: The push-up.”

Harvard Health Blog: “The rise of push-ups: A classic exercise that can help you get stronger.”

Journal of Physical Therapy Science: “Effect of the push-up exercise at different palmar width on muscle activities.”

Mayo Clinic: “Video: Modified pushup.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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