Push-ups are a favorite exercise both inside and outside of the gym. This movement, which requires no equipment and only your body weight, is a key marker in physical fitness tests — the West Point admission requirements include a timed two-minute push-up test — and upper-body strength development.
While push-ups train both your strength and endurance, it's their versatility as a compound exercise, or multi-joint exercise, that makes them so valuable in a fitness routine, says ACE Fitness.
By simply moving around your hand position, such as in a wide push-up or a close grip or narrow push-up, you can achieve a taxing upper-body workout that challenges both your strength and your endurance, not to mention building some serious muscle.
Perform a Wide Push-Up
- Place your hands wider than shoulder-distance apart (about one and a half times as wide); keep your fingers pointing forward.
- Extend your legs fully behind you and tuck the balls of your feet into the floor.
- Tighten your core, keep your back flat and your buttocks squeezed.
- Slowly lower down until your chest touches the floor, keep your elbows straight above your wrists.
- As soon as your chest touches the floor, push away from the floor and return to the starting position with your elbows fully extended.
Perform a Narrow Push-Up
A narrow or close-grip push-up looks like a regular push-up too, except that your hands are placed closer than shoulder-width apart. Other tips help you execute this move:
- To make this an intense triceps exercise, place your hands together in a diamond position with your pointer fingers touching and your thumbs touching underneath your chest.
- Place your feet behind you with your legs fully extended. Your feet can be wider than normal since your balance will be affected by the narrow stance of your hands.
- Tighten your core, keep your back flat, and your butt squeezed as you slowly lower down until your chest touches your hands.
- As soon as your chest touches your hands, push away from the floor and return to the starting position with your elbows fully extended.
Benefits of Each Push-Up
The wide push-up recruits more of your pectoral muscles while a regular push-up shares the burden with your triceps muscles. Make sure to upwardly rotate your scapulae —none of that pushing your shoulders down your back — so there is no pinching in your shoulders. Keep telling yourself "wide shoulders" before you begin the wide-grip push-up as a cue to keep those shoulders up.
The close-grip push-up is all about the triceps. This version can be made easier by placing your knees on the floor and your hands on an elevated surface or around an elevated, horizontal bar, says ExRx.net. If you're up for it —meaning strong and fit enough —you can increase the difficulty by elevating your feet on a stair riser or bench.