Kenneth R. Hirsch
Doing pushups may give you not-so-pleasant flashbacks of high school physical education class or military boot camp, but they are an excellent exercise for developing the pectoral muscles while engaging the core and arms. Pushups alone are not enough to get pecs. The pecs, or pectoral muscles, are made up of two muscles, the pectoralis minor and pectoralis major. Developing the pectorals involves exercising each section of the muscle. Incorporating a variety of pushups into your chest workouts will help you increase size and shape in the pecs.
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Engaging in chest-focused workouts twice per week will help you develop the pectoral muscles. Use a variety of exercises that work the upper, middle and lower sections of the pectorals. Perform exercises such as the incline barbell chest press, bench press, decline dumbbell press and chest fly. Execute each exercise for four sets of eight to 10 repetitions. Train with heavy resistance to stimulate muscle growth. Your muscles should be failing by the last few reps of each set.
Pushups are a compound exercise that use your body weight as resistance to develop your chest muscles. You can perform pushup variations to stimulate each angle of the pectoral muscles. Decline pushups work the lower section of the chest, incline pushups target the upper portion of the chest and military-style pushups recruit the middle of the chest. Perform each pushup variation for three sets of 20 repetitions one to two times per week. Do pushups at the end of your chest workouts to push the muscles to failure and encourage muscle development.
To build muscle, you need a nutrition plan that supports muscle growth. Consume foods with a high nutritional value to improve workout performance and aid in muscle repair. Follow a nutrition plan that includes foods such as low-fat dairy, lean cuts of beef, chicken, white fish, tuna, seafood, vegetables and fruits. Try to limit foods with very few nutrients such as fast foods, fried foods and processed food items.
Resist the urge to do pushups every day to improve your results. This can result in overtraining, which increases your risk for injury and limits muscle development. Make sure you get enough rest to allow enough time for your muscles to recover and grow. Getting six to eight hours of sleep each night encourages the release of growth hormones that help increase muscle mass, notes the Harvard School of Medicine.
- "Personal Fitness Trainer Manual: Fundamentals"; National Federation of Professional Trainers; 2008
- American Council on Exercise: Chest Exercises
- Harvard Medical School; Healthy Sleep; December 2007