Push-ups are the ultimate core exercise. I include push-ups in the fitness classes that I teach and in my own personal workouts. I don't enjoy doing push-ups (who does really) but I like the challenge of getting to a place where I'm consistent with push-ups, in my form and in the number of reps I can pound out.
Push-ups primarily work your chest muscles but your back muscles, core and shoulders are also involved in the push-up movement.
As with most exercises, you can increase or decrease the difficulty by doing things such as: adding weight, increasing or decreasing the length of your levers, adding momentum, changing the range of motion, or performing the exercise on an unstable surface (e.g. a bosu) etc...When it comes to increasing or decreasing the difficulty of push-ups, all of these options apply.
One way I like to level-up my push-up game is by doing a push up with a side knee raise. I do this by lifting one knee (let's say the right knee) to meet my right elbow during the eccentric movement (lowering down) of the pushup. "Say what?" I know, I know...let me break it down for you a bit more:
- Start by placing your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on your mat, make sure your hands are under your shoulders
-Stay on your knees or lift up on to your toes, keep your body nice and straight
-Embrace your core as you lower yourself down to the ground ( go as low as you can go while maintaining your form, as you get stronger you will be able to get closer to the ground)
-While lowering yourself down, bring your right knee towards your right elbow
-Push yourself away from the ground, as you are doing this your right leg returns beside your left leg
-Repeat on the other side, this time your left knee is moving toward your left elbow
By adding the knee raises you are working the sides of your abs (obliques) and seriously increasing the difficulty of the push-up because you remove one anchor point (either your left or right foot) during the movement.
Push-ups aren't only for intermediate or advanced fitness levels. There are many variations available to meet different fitness needs or levels. If you're just starting out, the variation I just described may be a bit much. This video quickly goes through how to do a standard push-up, the demonstrator is on his toes, hand on the ground. But you can do push-ups on your knees, against the wall or on a raised surface (e.g., hands on a bench) to decrease the level of difficulty.
I hope I've provided you with some practical ways to level-up your push-ups, or if needed, level-down your push up, until you feel confident in doing more advanced moves.
By the way, if you're looking for a class where you can increase your strength and get your groove on, I've got you! Stay tuned for my next bodyweight bootcamp or bootdance classes. The best way to learn more about my classes is to sign up for my email. When you do you will get a break-down of one of my favourite exercise to do when I'm short on time. This is your girl signing off...