Want to Age Well? Do This While You're Waiting for the Microwave

plus-size woman in workout gear leaning over kitchen countertop
Kitchen counter push-ups help improve shoulder stability and posture while building core strength.
Image Credit: JLco - Julia Amaral/iStock/GettyImages

They say a watched pot never boils. We're pretty sure it's the same for the microwave as any hungry person who's stood impatiently waiting for their food to warm up can tell you.

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But instead of idly counting down the seconds, you can put the time to good use with kitchen counter push-ups.

These modified push-ups — which involve performing the move on an incline with your hands on the counter — come with a heap of benefits for healthy aging, such as better posture, improved core stability and a stronger heart, among many more.

Plus, since you probably nuke several times daily (we're not judging!), these micro exercise breaks will add up at the end of the day.

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The best part? Push-ups on a kitchen counter are accessible for all ability levels. Whether you're older and want to build upper-body strength, a beginner who struggles with standard push-ups, or someone who has trouble getting down to the floor, these incline push-ups are the perfect push-up variation for you.

How to Do the Kitchen Counter Push-Up

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Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Full Body
  1. Stand facing the kitchen counter.
  2. Open your arms beyond your shoulder line and place your hands on the edge of the counter.
  3. Walk your feet backward one at a time until you’re slightly on the balls of your feet and your heels are lifted.
  4. Brace your abs, tuck your pelvis, squeeze your glutes and lean your body forward without moving your feet.
  5. Slowly lower your chest to the counter, then push away, returning to the starting position.

Why the Kitchen Counter Push-Up Is the Best Exercise You Can Do for Healthy Aging

1. It Builds Upper-Body Strength

Think you can't build major upper body muscle by doing this modified push-up? Think again. Kitchen counter push-ups target your chest muscles as well as your biceps, triceps and anterior deltoids (front shoulder muscles), says Rosalind Frydberg, a group fitness instructor and active aging specialist at Life Time ARORA.

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Upper-body strength is so crucial for performing everyday activities, from carrying groceries to pulling yourself off the floor. So, building a strong upper body can help you maintain independence in daily life as you age.

2. It Enhances Shoulder Mobility and Stability

With age, it's common to lose strength and mobility in the shoulders. And the weaker and creakier your shoulders get, the higher the odds of pain and injury.

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Fortunately, kitchen counter push-ups can help ​counter​balance these effects.

Here's why: Incline push-ups put your shoulders in a more relaxed, balanced position, where they're less likely to draw up, Frydberg says. And this is ideal because "equalizing your body weight and spatial balance between the shoulders will assist in increasing shoulder stability," she explains.

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3. It Can Improve Core Strength and Stability

When you perform kitchen counter push-ups, your body needs to remain in a straight line from head to toe. And this takes a lot of might from your midsection.

Indeed, bracing your abs while pushing away and lowering increases core stability and strength, Frydberg says. Your core is your center of balance, so making sure it's sturdy is essential for keeping you steady on your feet in older age.

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4. It Promotes Heart Health

While incline push-ups are low impact, they're certainly not low intensity. Yep, kitchen counter push-ups get the blood pumping as they activate every major muscle of your body from your biceps, triceps and anterior deltoids to your core and lower-body muscle groups, Frydberg says.

"By engaging all these muscles, you boost your cardiovascular system and improve your heart health," she says. And, as we know, a healthy ticker is vital for a long, happy life.

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5. It’s Good for Your Posture

It's common for your posture to become more stooped with age. But physical activity can help offset this increased spinal curvature since it bolsters bone and muscle function, according to the Medical University of South Carolina.

Kitchen push-ups are particularly useful for maintaining good posture as they help to "align the thoracic (upper to mid back) and lumbar (lower back) region, holding your back in a vertical position," Frydberg says.

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And by practicing good posture and strengthening these muscles, "you're protecting your lower back from injuries," she adds.

Here's why that matters: Low back pain is considered an especially disabling health issue in older adults aged 60 years or over, according to an April 2017 narrative review published in Scoliosis and Spinal Disorders.

6. It’s Easy on the Wrists

Often, wrist pain or discomfort deters people from doing push-ups. And as we grow older, our joints — like those in our wrists — tend to become crankier, making moves like push-ups even more challenging.

But with kitchen counter push-ups, you can get all the body benefits minus the pressure on your wrists. That's because "using the kitchen counter as your lever/plane puts less stress on your wrists (and shoulders) than in a prone position," Frydberg says.

In this slanted stance, you don't need to support ​all​ your body weight (like in a traditional push-up), so your wrists carry a lighter load.

Tip

To make kitchen counter push-ups even more wrist-friendly, push through the palm of your hand rather than your fingers, Frydberg says.

Want a Challenge? Try These Kitchen Counter Push-Up Progressions

Once you've mastered push-ups on a kitchen counter, work your way up to these advanced versions, courtesy of Frydberg:.

  • Hand release kitchen counter push-up​: Similar to plyo push-ups, this variation adds an element of explosiveness to the move, helping you improve strength, endurance and speed. After you lower your body toward the counter, push off the surface with enough force to thrust your body up and clap your hands together, keeping your body as stiff as a board. Then quickly spread your arms apart and gently "land" your hands back onto the counter's edge.
  • Tempo kitchen counter push-up​: Slow down your speed: two counts down and two counts up. This means your muscles have more time under tension (read: makes you stronger).
  • Narrow grip kitchen counter push-up​: When you narrow your grip (placing your hands in line with your shoulders), you target and tax your triceps muscles in a whole new way.
  • Single-leg kitchen counter push-up​: Doing incline push-ups with one foot lifted off the ground tests your balance and strength and activates your glutes and quads. You can make this move even tougher by alternating legs or bringing the knee in (while you lower your body).

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