If you don't have time to squeeze a gym visit into your day, drop to the floor and perform a set of pushups. This strength-building exercise doesn't require any equipment and can play a role in building muscle. Pushups can bulk you up, but only if you approach them with the correct strategy.
The human body has the ability to adapt in many ways. For example, the brain can reroute specific neurological pathways to bypass damaged areas. Another way the body adapts is through building muscle. When you lift something heavy, the muscles become stressed. If you continue to lift, the tissue will be damaged. In response, your body will break down the muscle mass and rebuild it. When it does, it will restore stronger as a response to stress. This is why weightlifting builds bulk. When you first start doing pushups, you are essentially weightlifting. The exercise is difficult and stresses the muscles. You will see the same result as if you were lifting free weights.
The body needs to be stressed in order to build muscle. The simplest way to accomplish this is to keep increasing the weight you lift. When you do pushups, they might be hard at first. Over time, your muscles will bulk up to the point you can handle the stress of lifting your body weight. Once you reach that place, you are no longer increasing the resistance. You must add more weight to add more muscle. That will not happen with pushups alone.
Continuing a Pushup Routine
Pushups will give you a certain amount of muscle mass and allow you to keep tone. Once you stop, you will lose what muscle you have gained if you do not compensate. In other words, if you start doing pushups and switch to weightlifting, you will keep the muscle and maybe add to it. If you just stop, you will lose that muscle.
Adding Resistance to Your Pushups
You can continue to build muscle with a pushup if that is your goal. You need to create muscle fatigue, which is the sign that the muscles are stressed. One method would be to increase the weight load. For example, you could wear a weight belt. As long as you keep increasing the weight, you will keep increasing the bulk. You could also change the way to do the pushup. For instance, raise your toes off the ground with a step unit. This will increase the resistance.
- Better Health Channel: Resistance Training -- Health Benefits
- Indiana University: Walking: Weight Training; 2008
- Barton Training; The Push-Up: The Ultimate Foundational Movement; Kyle Brown, CSCS
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths How Much Do You Really Know? (Pg. 4); 2004