If any single exercise draws universal applause, it's the push-up. While it would be somewhat misleading to call it the complete exercise, it comes pretty close. How do we love push-ups? Let us count the ways by visiting the benefits that a routine of 30 push-ups a day might bestow upon the doer.
1. You'll Gain Upper-Body Strength
While your arms do the actual pushing when you lift your body off the ground, in doing so they set off a chain reaction of muscle activation. In addition to your biceps and triceps this includes your shoulder and chest muscles.
Thirty push-ups a day will flatten your chest, add definition to your arms and increase your muscle mass. It's real-life upper body strength, too, facilitating movements that range from carrying in the groceries to pushing a lawn mower.
2. You'll Strengthen Your Core
While push-ups do activate the rectus abdominus — the sheath of abdominal muscle where the much-desired "six-pack abs" live — they can do even more for true core strength and stability by stimulating the transverse abdominus.
That's the most deep-set of the abdominal muscles, and one, that when weak, can cause gait problems, lack of balance and lower back pain. To maximize this benefit, be sure to "brace" your abdominal area as if somebody who doesn't like you is about to punch you in the stomach. Hold that tension throughout the push-up.
3. Your Posture Will Improve
Thirty push-ups a day are likely to do wonders for poor posture by stabilizing and strengthening the muscles that attach to the clavicle. This includes the big kahuna of them all, the pectoralis major. Push-ups correct weakness and offset shortening of the pectoralis minor that leads to rounded shoulders.
However, lots of push-ups without exercise to strengthen the upper back muscles could be counter-productive. So it's important to strengthen and stretch the upper back muscles with exercises, such as Prone Cobra and a chest-opening stretch and others offered in this article: Exercises to Strengthen the Posture and Back Muscles.
4. Back Problems May Resolve
In addition to stabilizing the scapulae by working the muscles that attach to the shoulder blades and clavicle, your 30 daily push-ups will activate the erector spinae muscles in your lumbar spine region.
These are the muscles that keep your hips from sagging and when weak contribute to lower back pain. Keeping your glutes engaged and your legs active from your thighs down to your toes will further stabilize your lower back.
5. Protection from Falls
The pushing motion that is the essence of the push-up mimics what we do when we're trying to break a fall. Having the strength to reach out and push back from walls, doors or floors is great insurance against injury, particularly for seniors.
6. You Will Plateau
Muscle development requires that progressively greater stress be put on the muscle during exercise. In other words, once your muscles respond to a certain level of activation, they put themselves on cruise control.
Keep doing your 30 push-ups and you'll maintain the strength you've gained, but at a certain point the curve flattens out. The solution? One of the great things about push-ups is that they're highly adaptable. So do more push-ups and try these 10 Push-Up Variations for a Stronger Body.
- International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: Upper Body Push and Pull Strength Ratio in Recreationally Active Adults
- North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy: Differences in Transverse Abdominis Activation with Stable and Unstable Bridging Exercises in Individuals with Low Back Pain
- Neurokinetic Therapy: The Pectoralis Minor, King of Compensation
- ExRx: Push-Up