Whether you visit the gym several times a week or strive to build a strong body by working out at home, push-ups are an ideal exercise to include in your fitness routine. This body-weight exercise doesn't target your arms but can tone arm muscles and a number of other muscles in your body. Performing the exercise daily, however, doesn't allow enough recovery time for your muscles.
Push-ups for Strength
Push-ups target the pectoralis major muscles located in your chest and are an effective way to build strong pecs without the use of weights. They also require the involvement of other muscles, including the biceps and triceps, found in the front and rear, respectively, of your upper arms. As such, performing this exercise can tone and strengthen your arms over time. The exact length of time before you'll see signs of muscle development depend on how frequently you perform push-ups and the length and intensity of the workout.
Daily Is Too Much
It's easy to think that performing push-ups daily will lead to faster muscle growth, but the American Council on Exercise, or ACE, warns against strength training too frequently. For your muscles to reap the rewards of exercise, they must have time to recover between workouts. ACE recommends at least two strength-training sessions every week but advises taking two days of recovery time between workouts. Your strength training shouldn't just include push-ups; always strengthen every muscle group.
Be Careful of Overtraining
Given that it's not ideal to perform push-ups daily, tailor your workout to be as beneficial as possible. ACE suggests eight to 12 reps of any exercise in which you work your muscles to fatigue. Instead of trying to increase your reps, concentrate on using proper form. To perform this exercise correctly, lie on your front on the floor, bend your arms and press your palms against the floor beside your shoulders. Tighten your core muscles and straighten your arms until your weight sits on your hands and toes. Slowly bend your arms to lower your chest to the floor to complete your first rep. Repeat the exercise for three sets of 10 reps. Joint and muscle pain are signs that you're overtraining. If your body is sore, take more than two days to recover.
Kicking it Up a Notch
If you begin to find push-ups don't pose the same challenge they once did, it's easy to increase the resistance of the exercise to further strengthen your muscles. Challenging variations include weighted push-ups, during which you place a weight plate on your back, and decline push-ups, which you perform with your feet elevated on a bench. Variations allow you to maximize each rep, rather than performing more reps of standard push-ups. Eventually, you can build up to challenging plyometric variations, such as clap push-ups.