Pushups are a highly diverse strength-training exercise that can be performed practically anywhere. Although the standard pushup position offers an intense workout to the chest, shoulders and arm muscles, alternative pushup positions have become increasingly popular. For best results, decide which muscles you want to tone the most and select the type of pushup position that offers consistent results for your body.
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Standard Pushup Position
The standard pushup contracts several muscles, from your thighs to your abs, and can be used as a general barometer for gauging your upper body strength. Adopt the standard pushup position by pushing yourself off the floor with your hands directly under your shoulders and your fingers facing forward. Maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your heels and lower yourself each time until your chest is just 1 inch from the ground.
The Military Fitness Center recommends wide pushups for maximizing the effect of the exercise on your chest and pectoral muscles. Adopt the standard pushup position and place your hands on the floor so that they are double the width of your shoulders. You will notice an immediate effect on your pectorals and elbow flexors as you begin lowering your chest toward the floor, making this position the best for building those muscles.
This pushup position is a favorite for strength-trainers looking to develop the triceps and shoulder muscles. Instead of widening your grip on the floor, bring your hands together so that they are nearly touching directly under your chest. Keep your pace slow during this one to prevent straining your triceps muscles, and always keep your back in a straight line. If you start to find these pushups too easy, form a diamond with your hands by connecting the tips of your thumbs and pointer fingers as you lower and lift your body. Just as the wide pushups offer the best option for training your pectoral muscles, these pushups offer an optimal position for training the triceps.
Selecting the best pushup for your body means accepting your physical fitness limitations. The modified pushup is an easier take on the standard pushup that allows you to kneel while dipping your chest toward the ground. This is the best position for exercisers who cannot complete a standard pushup, or feel exhausted and discouraged after completing two or three repetitions. Modified pushups provide a workout for arms, shoulders and chest muscles, preparing your body to eventually perform standard pushups.