The story of push-ups is a sorry one. In this age of fancy equipment and the gym culture, the
humble push-up is a much-neglected form of exercise in spite of its simplicity and effectiveness.
It is hard to imagine how an exercise that develops several muscles, can be ignored by so many
people. Push-ups just require a willingness of mind and good form, and the potential variations
make them perfect for beginners as well as fitness veterans.
Technicalities: Push-ups are one of the most thorough exercises when it comes to upper body development. They are best known to develop the shoulder-joint region. Here push-ups tone and develop: the anterior deltoid, upper pectorals and the coracobrachialis, a small muscle deep beneath the deltoid and upper pectorals. Push-ups also recruit the lower pectorals, serratus anterior (outer surface of the ribs at the sides) and the trapezius. Certain push-up variants like the wide incline push-ups can also help develop the triceps.
The push, jab, thrust and swing and several other movements that are required in various sports like tennis, track-and-field, basketball, boxing etc., all involve the muscles and the related movements that are sharpened by the simple, unpretentious push-ups.
Form: It is very important to perform push-ups in the right form. You have to lay down in a semi-prone position, placing your hands a little than shoulder-width apart with your fingers pointing forward and elbows close to your body at all times. You should keep your body straight from head to feet and the balls of your feet as well as your toes firmly on the floor. Tighten your abs, glutes and lower back as well as contract your thigh muscles to keep your legs in line. In order to keep your back, and with it your spine, in a safe position, inhale a little more deeply than ordinarily as you go down. Descend till your chest almost touches the floor. Then quickly go back up by pushing your body off the ground while exhaling. Hold your body up till you are ready to go back down for more repetitions.
Variations: While the above explanation is for the basic push-up, you have no need to restrict yourself to this one variation. For example, if you place your hands closer than usual to each other, you will end up working your triceps even harder. By doing wide push-ups with your hands farther than shoulder-width apart, you will put a greater load on your upper chest and shoulder joint and also work your triceps. For those who have gained a lot of strength with the help of the standard push-ups, a tough variant that can be tried is the one-handed push-ups.
It is advised that you first master the basic push-ups before you attempt these variations. You could also raise your legs on a height, which will add a greater resistance to the movement. Also you can place your arms on two high objects while doing push-ups to give an even bigger load on the chest, ticeps and upper delts. Once you have mastered the basic variations, you can go on to experiment further. For example you can push off the floor as hard as you can while rising so that you propel your body into the air or you can support your body entirely on your fingertips which will all go to give you a greater resistance and thus more benefits.
Thus with a little variety and good form you can give yourself a very good upper body workout without any weights or a gym and special equipment. The push-up is a simple exercise that will stand you in good stead; so go ahead and push.