Centuries before gyms even cropped up, simple body weight exercises and physical activity kept humans healthy and fit. Today, hi-tech gyms located on every street are full of exercise equipment that are designed to cater to specific parts of the body. With sophisticated gym equipment taking the place of conventional free hand exercises, we have neglected the good old push-ups. Push-ups are body weight exercises and do not require any equipment to perform them. Though you may not end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger anytime soon, push-ups can definitely improve the chest muscles with regular practice.
1. Then And Now
Push-ups have a special place in physical education class in schools and even find importance in military drills. From shaping boy scouts to military personnel, push-ups are even ordered as punishment to discipline the personnel. Once upon a time, the push-up was largely regarded as a measure of a man’s strength and fitness. Chest measurements were directly proportional to the number of push-ups. Today, much of this reputation has been passed on to the bench press with the advent of gyms.1
2. Men Vs. Women
Today, fitness is on everyone’s mind. Men and women hit the gym alike and are more focused on fitness than ever before. Push-ups are a basic form of exercise that strengthens the arms, shoulders, abdomen and most importantly, the chest. However, the strength levels are different between men and women. Upper body strength in men is greater than in women.2 Also, most women possess a higher proportion of lower body muscle mass relative to upper body muscle mass compared to men. So, the number of push-ups, stamina, and the repetitions differ among the two sexes.
3. Pectoral Muscles AKA Pecs
In anatomical terminology, the chest muscles are known as the pectorals, often called as ‘pecs’. These pectoral muscles move the upper arms toward the center of the body and to shrug the shoulders forward. As push-ups involve these movements, the chest muscles also expand and gain mass.3 The proteins and fats are converted into muscles and the muscles increase in volume. Regular practice of push-ups makes the chest muscles bigger.
4. Push-Ups Vs. Bench Press
Push-ups are performed using the body weight of the person, whereas bench press utilizes lifting weights. Bench press exercises are easier to scale and program. But both forms improve the mass in the chest muscles. The trick is to first begin with push-ups, strengthen the chest and arm muscles, and then move on to lifting weights. Due to the absence of external weights, push-ups are much safer and cause less strain to the shoulders. Lifting weights unscientifically, especially without the supervision of a fitness expert can result in permanent physical damage. In short, begin with push-ups to get the basics right and then slowly graduate to bench press under a qualified trainer.
5. Different Strokes For Different Folks
Normally, push-ups are performed on a level ground. Push-ups are meant to strengthen the upper torso, which includes all the muscles of the arms, chest, and shoulders. However, push-ups come in various forms and specifically cater to particular muscle development. While decline push-ups strengthen upper chest muscles, the incline push-ups target the lower chest muscles. The position of the arms and the body differs depending on which muscles you want to beef up.
6. Starting Trouble
For a beginner, regular push-ups may seem difficult. But, with practice, your body will adapt to more rigorous training sessions. Don’t expect to do push-ups like pros when you have just started off. It may take you a while to understand the capacity of your body and to know your limitations. Your chest and arm muscles may ache and resist free movement. Over time, you can improve your endurance and increase the number of push-ups. But remember – while pushing your limits, ensure that your posture does not change and cause strain or muscle tear. As a beginner, concentrate on maintaining the correct push-up posture.
7. Make Steady Progress
Just as you scale up with everything else, progress steadily with your push-up regime too. On day one, you probably stopped after five push-ups. But, that number will increase with regular practice. While maintaining the correct posture for push-ups, slowly increase the count and improve your endurance. This is crucial if you want to build mass and attain the desired shape. The harder you exercise the more you will develop the chest muscles. Increased muscular endurance attained through push-ups will assist in other muscle building exercises such as barbell bench presses and dumbbell flies.
8. Consider Variations
The arms can be positioned at various angles from the body and chest to exercise the various muscles. Besides arm position, even the incline matters. Performing push-ups with different suspension devices have also known to increase chest muscle mass. Choose an optimal suspension training device. All push-up suspension techniques strengthen the abdominal muscles. Compared with standard push-ups on the ground, suspended push-ups increase core muscle activation. Standard push-up or a parallel band system provide greater increases in deltoid and pectoral muscle activation.4
|↑1||Glassman Greg. The Push-Up. CrossFit Journal Articles.|
|↑2||Allen, Caroline C., Katie A. Dean, Alan P. Jung, and John K. Petrella. “Upper Body Muscular Activation during Variations of Push-Ups in Healthy Men.” International Journal of Exercise Science 6, no. 4 (2013): 3.|
|↑3||Allen, Caroline C., Katie A. Dean, Alan P. Jung, and John K. Petrella. “Upper Body Muscular Activation during Variations of Push-Ups in Healthy Men.” International Journal of Exercise Science 6, no. 4 (2013): 3.|
|↑4||Calatayud, Joaquin, Sebastien Borreani, Juan C. Colado, Fernando F. Martín, Michael E. Rogers, David G. Behm, and Lars L. Andersen. “Muscle activation during push-ups with different suspension training systems.” Journal of sports science & medicine 13, no. 3 (2014): 502.|