There’s so much fitness advice around these days – barbell training, dumbbells, kettlebells, and circuits, to name a few, that it may be tough for you to figure out what works best for you. But the funny truth about fitness is that there’s no one size fits all (pun intended).
When it comes to muscle building, resistance machines and free weights like dumbbells or barbells are great. However, using your own body weight by doing push-ups can be just as effective, especially if you cannot afford expensive gym memberships.
Push-Ups Can Help Build Muscles
Push-ups are body-weight exercises that specifically target the shoulders, triceps, and chest muscles. Your core, glutes, and legs also do plenty of work while they provide stability to your body during the workout.
What makes push-ups so great is that there are so many variations you can try out to keep your workout challenging enough to build your muscles. Even if you’re on a tight budget or have limited space and no equipment, just doing push-ups can help you transform your body.
Follow The Right Push-Up Technique
Whether you’ve been unsuccessful at performing push-ups in the past or just want to better your form, here is a lowdown on the basics so you can master a perfect push-up.
1. Get Into A High Plank Position
- Put your hands firmly on the ground, right under your shoulders.
- Push your toes firmly into the floor so as to stabilize the lower half of your body.
- Tighten your core, engage your hamstrings and glutes, and flatten your back properly so that your entire body is neutral and aligned with the floor.
2. Lower Yourself
- Start lowering your body slowly, keeping your back straight and flat until your chest just about grazes the floor.
- Focus your eyes at a point in front to maintain a neutral neck position.
- Don’t let your bottom dip or stick out while doing this move; your body should stay in a straight line right from your head to toe.
- Draw your shoulder blades back and down, keeping your elbows close to your body. Don’t make a T shape with your arms.
3. Push Yourself Upward
Now once again, keeping your core engaged, exhale powerfully as you push your body back to the starting position.
Do about 10 to 20 reps or as many as can be performed by maintaining a good form.
Make Your Muscle Workouts More Challenging
It’s not very easy to gain muscle mass. Not only does this involve stressing the muscle enough the right way, it also involves eating the right nutrients to help it grow. This seems easy enough at first, but over time, your body adapts itself to the workout and makes it harder for you to grow your muscles. This is why it is important to progressively make your muscle workouts more challenging.
You can perform your push-ups from a standard plank, from the knees, with a weight placed on your back, or by raising yourself with just one arm. The best way to pick the right type of push-up is to judge it by the number of repetitions that you can do. The fewer you can manage, the more challenging it is for you.
You can also change the intensity of your push-ups by using different surfaces for your workout.
Push-Up Variations Can Give Better Results
Each push-up exercise will engage different muscle groups in your upper body; some may focus more on your shoulders or arms as opposed to your chest, while others may do the opposite. Choose a variety of push-up exercises depending on what muscle group you’d like to target, to make your workout more exciting.
Here are 5 push-up variations to spice up your push-up workout when you think you’re plateauing or just getting a little bored.
1. Decline Push-Up
For this push-up, all you need is something higher up than the floor for you to rest your feet on. You may use a chair or a sofa. Place your feet on the elevated area, align yourself to the floor, and perform the push-ups as you would, normally.
This push-up applies most of your body weight on your arms, thereby effectively increasing the amount of weight that your chest needs to push up. This means that you are really lifting something much heavier.
2. Weighted Push-Up
For this, you need to have a weight on your back. Fill a backpack with anything that’s heavy, like textbooks, bags of rice, or free-weights, and wear it on your back. Do your push-ups as usual. This way, you will have a heavier weight to push up with your chest.
Ensure that the shoulder straps of your bag are tight, and the objects are not loose in the bag. Try using extra padding around these objects by using some clothes or a towel so that the weight doesn’t shift around. This way, it will be much more comfortable for you to do weighted push-ups.
A weight vest is also a good alternative for a backpack, as it is more secure.
3. One-Hand Push-Up
This one is a little more advanced that the variations mentioned above and also effectively doubles the weight for your chest to push. In this way, it also strengthens your core.
Move your feet slightly little further apart than how you’d normally place them during a regular push-up. Now move the hand that you will be using to push yourself more toward the center of your body and fold the other hand behind against your back. Carry on with your push-ups as usual.
4. Plyometric Push-Up
The term “Plyometric” means an exercise involving jumps. In this type of a push-up, you apply explosive energy to push up from the floor, so that your hands “jump” or leave the ground. Once you do this, you have a number of options to choose from depending on how high you can jump. You can:
- Simply lower yourself back to the ground and repeat (if you don’t get too high)
- Keep a slightly raised platform on either side of your arms which you can jump to, perform a push-up, and then jump back onto the floor
- Jump up, clap your hands, and land your body back on the ground.
- Push your entire body off the ground or try to bring your hands to clap your hands behind your back.
5. Free Style
If you’re tired of being bound by too many guides, feel free to combine any two of the above push-ups – for instance a plyometric push-up with a weight on your back – or experiment with different objects for weights or surfaces around your house.
Measure The Gain In Muscle Mass
If you’re a beginner, start your push-up workouts by making your muscles do as little work as possible while still generating decent results. Measure and maintain a record of how much muscle mass you body is gaining by using a tape to get a concrete number for the size of your shoulders, arms, and chest.
After a few weeks, you may realize that you aren’t gaining any more muscle. This means you need to either of these 3 options:
- Increase the number of reps that you do each workout
- Increase the number of days in a week that you work out
- Increase the intensity of your push-ups workout.
Don’t get frustrated if you don’t see immediate results, for increasing muscle mass can take up to 3 weeks of training.
Combine Push-Ups With The Right Nutrition
It’s not just enough to do the right exercises for muscle mass building. You will also need to consume good amounts of protein to repair and rebuild the muscles that you wear out while working out. Your body needs about 12 to 15 percent of your daily calories to come from protein in order to get the most out of your muscle-building workout. Combining your push-up workout with the right kind of nutrition will help you build strong, powerful muscles in the main areas of your push-ups, the shoulders, triceps, or chest.